LSU punter Brad Wing has spent much of the past few days replaying in his mind what could have been his first touchdown, and the momentary, yet premature, expression of joy that led officials to flag him for taunting and take the points off the board.
''I do think there's a large amount of disrespect in taunting and that's not what I'm about,'' Wing said Monday. ''I've never been anywhere near an end zone before. I was so excited and the emotion got the better of me ... and I made a silly mistake.''
Wing was the first player to be flagged under a new NCAA rule aimed at further curbing unsportsmanlike celebrations by disallowing touchdowns if the scoring player celebrates before crossing the goal line.
It happened on Saturday during LSU's 41-11 victory over Florida on a play which, strangely enough, never would have happened if Wing had not shown the good judgment to take off when he saw the Gators retreating prematurely to set up blocking for the punt return.
Coach Les Miles had instructed Wing to always be aware of whether pressure was coming on a punt, and to run if a first down appeared likely. In this case, the whole left side of the field was open and Wing galloped 52 yards to the end zone. Shortly before reaching the goal line, he looked back to see how close his nearest pursuer was and spread his arms out for only a moment.
''When I knew I was about to score a touchdown for the LSU Tigers ... I dream about that every night, to be in your home stadium, running toward the student section, getting a touchdown and the emotion just set in, took over and I honestly don't even remember doing it,'' Wing said. ''It was just crazy.''
Wing grew up in Australia, playing Australian rules football, which requires precision kicking similar to a punt. He came to Baton Rouge as an exchange student, played for a high school football team and wound up staying in Louisiana to play for LSU.
The redshirt freshman has been a superb punter in his first college season, pinning opponents inside their own 10-yard line seven times this season and inside their own 20 10 times. But he had been eager to get his shot to tuck the ball away and take off downfield.
Wing was so pumped up when he reached the end zone that he jumped into the student section, then trotted back to the sideline to find Miles calling him over. Wing thought Miles was going to congratulate him for making the right decision to run instead of punt, but instead the coach pointed to the flag and made Wing watch the replay on the stadium video board.
''If I'm the official, I'm making that exact call,'' Miles said Monday. ''How would you feel if that was your son playing for the opponent when that guy decides to taunt you? In reality, when you look at what Brad Wing did, I don't know if it was more joy than taunting and I'm not certain it was flagrant in any way, but that being said, when you're an official and you have to make the call ... I think he threw the flag at the right time.''
Wing said he understands the logic behind the rule and does not blame the official for throwing the flag.
''It is a rule, so we have to abide by it and I did clearly break it,'' Wing said.
Wing said he has gotten a lot of support from fans who have told him the rule is a bad one and needs to be re-examined. He said that makes him feel a little better, as does the fact that LSU won by 30 points anyway. He only he worries that he may have blown his only chance to score.
''Teams see it now and I'm pretty sure that they're going to be looking out for it,'' Wing lamented. ''I don't want to think that was a once-in-a-lifetime situation, but you know, it would be pretty rare if it happened again. But hopefully I can get into the end zone again. ... To get in and have it count - that would be great.''