COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) – Nothing had gone right in Parker White’s college career. He missed two field goals last week in a South Carolina loss and two more as the Gamecocks looked on their way to an embarrassing loss to Louisiana Tech.
Oh-for-four, booed on his home field and torn apart all last week on Twitter, the freshman kicker finally hit a kick true, the 31-yarder sailing through the uprights with seven seconds left as the Gamecocks (3-1) beat the Bulldogs 17-16 on Saturday.
White danced around the field waving his arms at the student section after the first game-winning field goal in his life. And after the Bulldogs (2-2) failed to return the kickoff, he ran and jumped into the student section.
“Biggest thing as a kicker is you have to forget about your previous kicks,” White said.
The winning was an immediate balm for South Carolina. But there were still problems. Sophomore quarterback Jake Bentley had several overthrows and an ugly interception that required a tackle from him to prevent a touchdown the other way. There was a defense that put little pressure on Louisiana Tech and allowed 6-of-13 conversions on third down – with the meat of the Southeastern Conference schedule starting next week at Texas A&M.
“We all take the blame together – starting with me,” coach Will Muschamp said.
The Gamecocks (3-1) trailed 13-0 before a wild fourth quarter that saw South Carolina take a 14-13 lead and Louisiana Tech (2-2) answer with a 10-play, 84-yard drive that ended with what appeared to be the game winning 25-yard field goal by Jonathan Barnes with 55 seconds left.
Bentley knew he had to get the ball down the field so his roommate could win it. “You’re going to have to step up and make one for us,” Bentley told White during the week.
And Muschamp said he went to White at halftime and told his kicker that he had a feeling he would have to win this game. Muschamp then sent his kicker out with a big smile and a high five right before his prediction came true.
“I’m very proud of Parker White, who stood tall in a week of negativity.” Muschamp said.
Bentley was 22-of-34 for 295 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Ty’Son Williams ran 13 times for 95 yards after getting no carries for South Carolina in last week’s loss to Kentucky.
For Louisiana Tech coach Skip Holtz, it was another shot at a big win that slipped away. The Bulldogs led Arkansas midway through the fourth quarter last year before losing 21-20 and lost to Kansas State 39-33 in triple overtime in 2015.
“We’ve been close,” Holtz said. “There’s no moral victory in close.”
Louisiana Tech: Holtz is now 0-8 coaching against Southeastern Conference teams. Barnes, a senior, has made all eight field goals he has tried in the final two minutes of regulation and overtime. J’Mar Smith was 23-of-33 for 281 yards, a touchdown and an interception for Louisiana Tech. Teddy Veal caught 10 passes for 110 yards.
South Carolina: Bryan Edwards had six catches for 122 yards. This was the first game for South Carolina since Deebo Samuel broke his leg. Samuels had six touchdowns in three games, including two on kick returns.
Facing a third-and-10 with about 30 seconds to go, no timeouts and the pocket collapsing, Bentley made a bold choice, taking off instead of throwing the ball away.
“Honestly, I was just running as fast as I could,: Bentley said after being asked to break down the play.
With the clock running, Bentley then ran a play instead of spiking the ball. He threw a pass into three Bulldog defenders, and Edwards somehow came down with the 31-yard catch with seven seconds to go.
Holtz was an assistant for his father, Lou, at South Carolina for six seasons and was initially promised the Gamecocks job when his dad retired. But South Carolina hired Steve Spurrier instead. It was his first game at Williams-Brice Stadium since all the drama 13 years ago.
Holtz said he enjoyed seeing old friends and catching up with people like the guy who cuts the grass at the stadium, but he made he didn’t turn it into anything more.
“This game wasn’t about me. It was about our football players,” Holtz said.
Louisiana Tech: The Bulldogs host South Alabama on Saturday in their final non-conference game of the year.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks head to Texas A&M as they play six SEC games in a row.