LSU punter Brad Wing was flying high as he raced down the left sideline Saturday en route to a jaw-dropping, 52-yard touchdown run.
Unfortunately, he botched the finish.
Officials flagged Wing for beginning to celebrate as he got inside the 10-yard line, a live-ball foul under the NCAA’s newly revamped rules regarding unsportsmanlike conduct. The Tigers were penalized 15 yards to the Florida 23. The score came off the board.
“I think about it every single day — getting into the end zone,” Wing said. “ It happened today, but I wasn’t exactly prepared for it.”
LSU went on to score a 41-11 rout of Florida after building a 24-point lead by halftime, but Wing’s would-be touchdown late in the first quarter remained a hot topic even as the game got out of hand.
The day’s most memorable play started like so many LSU fourth downs.
Wing, a bespeckled redshirt freshman from Australia who played one season at Parkview Baptist, trotted onto the field with the Tigers needing 15 yards to move the chains and prepared to do the usual damage with his strong left leg. Joey Crappell snapped the ball.
“As I looked up just to see what was going on, there was no one there,” Wing said.
Wing took advantage of Florida’s overzealous punt return unit and made a run at an opening the size of his homeland. He went untouched down the left sideline to pick up a first down and, suddenly, had a clear path to the end zone.
“He’s going to score!” LSU coach Les Miles remembered saying.
But as he closed in on a SportsCenter-worthy highlight, Wing extended his arms and broke into a high step. A flag hit the field as the punter tore through the north end zone and celebrated with fans at the foot of the student section.
Instead of leading 21-0, LSU would have to settle for a Drew Alleman field goal.
“It was very silly on my part,” Wing said. “I apologize to my team. I apologize to the Florida players. My emotions just got me. That’s something we’ll have to control hopefully if I get another shot.”
The negation of Wing’s score was the first in a Southeastern Conference game under the NCAA’s new unsportsmanlike conduct policy.
In previous years, the touchdown would have stood and a 15-yard penalty would have been administered to LSU on the extra point or ensuing kickoff. This year, unsportsmanlike conduct infractions that occur during the play are deemed live-ball fouls and result in a 15-yard penalty from the spot of the infraction.
“Based on what was seen on the television replays, the LSU player turned towards two Florida players and made a taunting gesture. The rule as stated in the rule book (Rule 9, Section 2, Article 1) was accurately applied,” Steve Shaw, the Southeastern Conference’s supervisor of football officials, said in a statement.
Miles said he agreed with the call.
“What a great lesson for our guys,” he said. “In a big game where four points is really important, we don’t want to do that. It’s not something we’re going to do.”
Wing, who punted three times for 117 yards, can take solace in having a 44-yard gain for LSU’s longest rush of the season.
But he’d love to have the ending back.
“I was just so excited being so close to the end zone,” Wing said. “It all got the better of me.”