COLUMBIA — Parker White scooped the ball off the turf and out-ran the Alabama defense to the end zone, scoring a most improbable touchdown. Anyone surprised by the choice from Will Muschamp to call a fake field goal for his gawky 6-foot-5 kicker was even more surprised by the speed White displayed, and the jubilation as he spread both arms wide, ready for a showering of love from the fans in the south end zone.
The only voices and looks he got were incredulous and full of unprintable words, as it dawned on everyone that there was a yellow flag lying on the ground, near where White took off on his Olympian sprint. Tight end Kyle Markway was whistled for holding.
Will Muschamp is no dummy. He knew he’d be asked about it and any complaint he said about the officiating would be met with a public rebuke and a drain of his bank account.
“Really good execution by our players. Outstanding execution by our players,” Muschamp said. “Everyone. All 11.”
The hold looked ticky-tack, at best. Probably could have swallowed the whistle.
But the official didn’t, and the play didn’t count, and a touchdown that would have made it 10-7 South Carolina after the Gamecocks had just sacked Tua Tagovailoa twice in a three-and-out drive became a punt, and an Alabama touchdown in the next four plays.
That play is the epitome of the Muschamp era at USC. The Gamecocks have done some really good things, made a substantial amount of progress, but every time it seems glory is there for the taking, something happens.
It happened again Saturday. Rico Dowdle was ruled down when diving for the goal line. By rule, it was down and officials told Muschamp not to bother calling timeout to ask for a review because it would not be overturned.
Some dreadful play-calling and a fumbled third-down snap left that possession with no points and a 24-10 halftime deficit. Could have been 24-17 and the ball first in the second half.
“It’s tough, getting a big play like that called back,” receiver Bryan Edwards said. “It kind of shifts the momentum back, but it is what it is. We can’t change it.”
They can’t change the result, either. Alabama won, 47-23. Those two touchdowns probably wouldn’t have meant much anyway.