Swag. Smooth. Cool. Regrettable. Disastrous. Surreal.
Sometimes trying to be cool leads the the exact opposite.
First of all, I want to say I am a huge fan of Kaelin Clay. He is unbelievably talented as a returner, and quality receiver. Seems like a nice kid too. He’s helped the Utes more than he’s hurt them this year, for certain.
His almost-TD will go down in the anals of Utah football history as a painful and awkward ‘never-again’ alongside the Kaneshiro doink. Ute fans will forever cringe at the memory of him pulling a DeSean Jackson and letting up 2 steps too early; dropping the ball and allowing a true 14 point swing on the ensuing 100-yd Oregon TD. More importantly, the gaffe robbed the Utes of all the momentum they had built in a strong start against the nation’s hottest offense.
The play is impossible to understand, impossible to justify. And causes the fiercest kind of fontrum (second hand embarrassment) that a person can feel. There’s NO reason to drop a ball at or near the goal line. In college ball, there’s NO reason to drop it ever. The ball should transfer from the carrier’s hands directly into the referees hands, for an assortment of reasons (not the least of which is to ensure that it doesn’t get dropped in stupid celebrations BEFORE it crosses the goal line) . Clay doesn’t strike me as a huge showboat, but he made this same mistake on a TD kick return against Idaho State. The refs missed it in that game.
Nobody in America missed it on Saturday night vs. Oregon.
Leon Lett, Chris Webber, that high school QB from Spanish Fork; those guys know how Kaelin feels.
I can’t imagine how Clay feels today, or felt the moment he realized his mistake. I don’t WANT to know how he felt when he finally looked at Twitter and Instagram and whatever other merciless social media news feed he is privy to. In real life a mistake like that shouldn’t haunt you forever, but it likely will for Clay. I can point out that his first kick return after the boneheaded fumble was a good one, and that he had the biggest catch of the game for Utah later on in the 4th quarter. He kept playing his ass off and helped make it a game long after I thought it was over for the Utes. He was resilient on Saturday night. So was his team. It’s impossible to say that Clay’s fumble proved to be the ultimate difference in the eventual smack-down Oregon put on the Utes. A fourteen point lead is no guaranteed against the Ducks. It’s also impossible to say that it WASN’T the difference. Either way, it’s the play that Utes fans will remember. So the actual effect doesn’t matter much in the court of public opinion.
Brutal, brutal game for Utah.
There is something to be said for a team that can battle back into contention after a mistake like that, after such a total robbery of momentum.
This team is good. But not great.
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