Every good NFL game has a touch of the bizarre, and that was provided Sunday when Carolina Panthers kicker Graham Gano wound up in the middle of the Bethune-Cookman marching band at halftime.
An NFL halftime is only 12 minutes long. For reasons that were unclear Sunday night, the 300-strong Bethune-Cookman marching band didn’t take the field until about 3 1/2 minutes remained on the clock Sunday.
By then, kickers for both teams were lined up on the field – they routinely practice during halftime. Gano decided to keep kicking even while the band danced and played around him, which led to some priceless footage of Gano shoving a trombone player out of the way so he could attempt another field goal. That whole scene quickly went viral on social media.
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Gano said he was disconcerted by the band being out there at that time (it turned out to be a two-minute performance by the band, which rushed off the field with 90 seconds left on the halftime clock). The Panthers kicker was so surrounded that it was like “Where’s Waldo,” except it was “Where’s Gano?”
Gano felt bad for shoving the college band member after the game, however. “I want to apologize to him,” he said. “It’s just that is the only time we have to practice. But I never should have done that, and I feel bad about it.”
In fact, Gano felt bad enough that he enlisted me to find the trombone player in question so he could say he was sorry directly. I’m on the case, but if you have a lead on this already, email me at email@example.com.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera said the incident “flustered” Gano, who later missed a 48-yard field-goal attempt but did convert on two others during Carolina’s 20-14 win.
• Middle linebacker Luke Kuechly was fantastic, especially on a third-down sack that took Tampa Bay out of field-goal range and then the winning forced fumble when Tampa Bay had a chance to tie or win on its final possession.
The Panthers defense did give up some late fourth-quarter yardage that made it far more interesting than it should have been, but overall had a winning performance that included three takeaways. Rivera thought the defense played too “soft” in the final quarter, though, and he’s right.
• It was good to see the return of “Riverboat Ron,” as coach Rivera who went for it on a critical fourth-and-1 inside the 10 in the second quarter and got it on a Derek Anderson keeper, eventually leading to Anderson’s touchdown pass to Greg Olsen.
• Rookie Kelvin Benjamin’s impact was predictably enormous, and not just on his ridiculously good, 26-yard touchdown catch over an overmatched Tampa Bay defensive back. Olsen’s 5-yard touchdown catch was in part because of the safety shading over to try to double-cover Benjamin.