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What if Kaelin Clay doesn’t drop the ball before scoring against Oregon in 2014?

This moment was brought by @scotty_sloan and @corey_cheech on our Twitter feed. I honestly didn’t even consider this moment when thinking of this series for the summer; I think it’s largely because I just wanted to wipe it from my memory completely. In 2014 the Utes hosted the #5 Oregon Ducks in a PAC 12 after-dark special. The Ducks were led by eventual Heisman Trophy winner Marcu Mariota at quarterback and Royce Freeman at running back. In this game, Oregon was 8-1, with their only loss coming home to Arizona. The Utes entered with a 6-2 record with losses against Washington State at home and a loss at Tempe against Arizona State. This was also the season when Utah beat Michigan in Ann Arbor, and Kaelin Clay struck the Heisman pose after a punt return for a touchdown.

Rice Eccles was amped up for this game and eager to pull off a massive upset. Kendal Thompson (transfer from OU) started this game in place of Travis Wilson, and early in the First Quarter, Bubba Poole scored to give the Utes a 7-0 lead. The Utes carried that lead into the Second Quarter when Travis Wilson (who came in for the injured Thompson) hit Kaelin Clay for what looked to be a 79-yard touchdown pass that would give Utah a 14-0 lead. However, the play was still alive because just before Kaelin Clay crossed the goal line, he dropped the ball while celebrating the touchdown. The Ducks immediately noticed the fumble, picked it up, and returned it 100 yards to tie the game at 7-7. This play was ultimately a huge momentum killer as Oregon outscored Utah 24-3 in the second quarter and ran away with a big win, 51-27 in Salt Lake City.

What if Kaelin Clay doesn’t drop the ball and scores that 79-yard touchdown to give Utah a 14-0 lead? I’ll preface that my opinion may be wildly unpopular, but I think the only thing that changes is the score and not the outcome. We have to remember that despite Utah taking a 14-0 lead in this game they are still playing the Oregon Ducks, who were ultimately runners-up in the national championship game and led by an eventual Heisman Trophy winner. The Ducks were capable of scoring in bunches and were very much a veteran team capable of playing in hostile environments.

After Kaelin Clay scores, I think Oregon comes back to tie the game with Utah getting a field goal before halftime to take the lead 17-14 going into the locker room. Oregon then outscores the Utes 17-7 in the 3rd quarter to take a 34-24 lead. Despite the Utes scoring to close the gap to 34-31 the Ducks have an answer and score in the middle of the 4th quarter to lead 41-31. The Utes score a late touchdown but cannot recover the onside kick, and the Ducks survive a close game 41-38.

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section. What do you think would have happened if Kaelin Clay doesn’t drop the ball short of the endzone?