Parker White didn’t lie; he was thinking about it. Maybe not a lot, but those missed kicks and the boos the fans threw down at the end of the first half were still somewhere in the back of his mind.
It’s hard for a 19-year-old not to think about it. But, when he trotted out to the 21-yard line to attempt the game winning field goal, it was his job to forget and focus on the biggest kick of his life so far.
“It’s tough. We don’t have the Men in Black little thing to erase our memory. It’s going to be in the back of your head. You just have to do your best to forget. I had people come up to me on the sideline after the second kick just telling me to forget about it,” he said. “That helped a lot.”
White nailed the kick, giving the Gamecocks a 17-16 win over Louisiana Tech Saturday, sending the remaining crowd at Williams-Brice into a frenzy and igniting a special teams celebration near midfield.
Saturday’s kick was a long time coming for White, who watched the Gamecocks from the same student section he celebrated his first career game-winning kick with once the clock hit zero.
He walked onto the team this fall, waiting his turn behind Elliott Fry and working his way into the placekicker competition. Despite having never made a field goal in college, he officially won the full starting job right after the Gamecocks lost to Kentucky.
He missed two against the Wildcats and another pair in the first half against the Bulldogs. He shanked one right before halftime Saturday with the Gamecocks trailing by six and jogged off the field to a chorus of boos.
It was then when head coach Will Muschamp stepped in.
“I’m not going to lie. My head was down a little bit. I missed two kicks. I wasn’t doing great,” White said. “But when he said it lit a spark in me coming from the head coach. I was just in my locker and he came up and told me that it was going to come down to me. He was right.”
While White sat dejected at his locker during halftime, Muschamp sauntered over to offer his words of encouragement. What he said evidently worked.
“I told Parker at halftime, ‘You’re going the distance. I’m not pulling you out. We’re going to put you back in there to kick the ball, and you need to make that kick. And you’ll probably win the game for us,”’ Muschamp said. “It just turned out that’s the way it worked out. I reminded him of it before the final kick, and he laughed. He’s a confident young man.”
White’s kick was set up by two explosive plays, a 24-yard scramble by quarterback Jake Bentley followed by a juggling 42-yard catch by Bryan Edwards to put the Gamecocks in prime field goal real estate.
The rest was up to White, whose ego was renewed after halftime, and he handled the pressure in the first big test of his young career.
It was a long week for White, who had to live with those two misses against Kentucky and see the angry tweets from fans and live with the guilt of missing those field goals.
Bentley, his roommate, stepped up to encourage him and tell the redshirt freshman the team needed him. Bentley turned out to be right and White delivered, blocking out the noise as best he could.
White said it was hard to live with himself after knowing he could have played better, but he’s hoping this game-winner will be a launching point to a poignant career at South Carolina.
“I knew I missed my two kicks, and I’m pretty hard on myself. And the fans booing (Alexander) Woznick, it was tough,” White said. “I saw some tweets and some things like that. it really comes down to just doing my job. I just need to do better. Hopefully I can get some kicks in this week.”