The Great Debate: Did Clay’s fumble cost Utah the game against Oregon?

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Clay’s “selfish and immature” play cost Utah the game


It’s all anyone is talking about ­— Kaelin Clay’s premature celebration on a deep ball after “fumbling” at the one-yard line before crossing the plane. The question isn’t whether he actually committed such an error or not, but whether it played an instrumental part in the game’s outcome. Looking at the grand scheme of things, that rare and boneheaded play absolutely cost Utah the game.
It was a game where everyone had to be clutch, and, on the easiest play, Clay wasn’t. All of the Utes’ momentum was lost in that one play, not to mention their drive and determination. There were some big plays that helped the Utes make it a close game again, but there wouldn’t have to be any big plays made if they had a two-touchdown lead early in the game.
Marcus Mariota is a current Heisman trophy prospect and an incredibly dangerous quarterback. Utah seemed to shake him a little after scoring on its first drive by sacking him a few times on defense. To go up 14 points with the first play in the second quarter would have scared the Duck defense to its core.
Mariota was going to make some serious plays for his team, whether they were down by 14 points or not. I think the Oregon defensive players would have struggled to get the deficit out of their heads. The Utes would have had a chance to play with more composure and realize that the Ducks are mortal.
Instead of having that mental advantage over Oregon, Utah struggled to find rhythm. Mariota also had a second chance to take over and control the game. He is a high-quality player, and he was handed a golden opportunity to take the game away. Players of his caliber do not miss an opportunity twice.
When Clay returned his first touchdown of the season against Idaho State, everyone was excited to see how his season would play out. He didn’t disappoint against Fresno State, Michigan or in any of the other games. So it would be fair to assume that against Oregon at home, he wouldn’t flinch.
I hate to say it, but what he did was selfish and immature. After the game, he did accept the full responsibility of the loss, and I applaud that. It is hard to realize what you did was wrong and had an enormous effect on the game.
ESPN tweeted out that Clay went to the same high school as DeSean Jackson. The current Redskins receiver made dropping the ball on the one-yard line infamous more than once.
The question now becomes whether or not Clay will repeat his mistake, like Jackson did. I don’t think he will, especially because of the impact it had on the Utes’ season, but who knows.
In the end, I believe that going up by two touchdowns against the Ducks would have been monumental for Utah. It was the second biggest crowd in school history, and the momentum was clearly there to help the Utes get the upset.
Unfortunately, it came down to one mistake to decide a huge game.
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Clay’s blunder just one of team’s mistakes


His play will be remembered for quite some time, but let’s not forget that Kaelin Clay wasn’t the only one who made a critical error in Saturday night’s loss to Oregon.
Will it go down as the worst play in Utah football history? Maybe, but can you say it cost Utah the game? Absolutely not.
When senior wide receiver and return man Clay committed the unforgivable sin of dropping the ball at the one-yard line just before he was about to score, there was a shift in the game. The momentum, the environment in the stands and the scoreboard were all swinging in Utah’s favor up until that point.
But remember, this is the high-flying Ducks we are talking about.
Utah did not lose this game because of Clay. He did everything he could to make up for his mistake. Clay finished with five catches for 152 yards receiving and 179 yards on kickoff returns. As much as people will disagree, Clay may not have scored, but he gave the Utes the best chances he could to keep them in the game.
Utah lost because mistakes were made on all sides. The Utes came within three points with almost 12 minutes left in the game, which could have been made up had the one miss from kicker Andy Phillips that night split the uprights instead of clanging off the post.
Also, the Utah defense let Oregon’s rushing game take its toll. The Ducks had 269 yards rushing, spearheaded by Heisman candidate Marcus Mariota. The Utes have been a tough challenge for opposing teams to run on all season, but they let themselves get beat on the outside edge.
Oregon’s fast-paced offense was not much of a surprise, but as the second half moved on, it started to wear down. Of course, the Ducks couldn’t just leave their starters out there the whole way, so they threw in the reserves to let the best players catch a breather.
Oregon would set up so fast and snap the ball that the not-so-prepared Utah defenders couldn’t even get their hands on the ground.
It certainly did not help when Utah’s quarterback woes continued to spiral. After orchestrating a successful first drive, starting quarterback Kendal Thompson went down and is now out for the rest of the season. Utah is now forced to stick with Travis Wilson and his conservative decision-making.
Additionally, the Utes only gave Devontae Booker 18 carries. He did register 110 yards receiving, but Booker should be carrying the ball at least 25-30 times a game. The Utes would have a more composed and risk-free Wilson otherwise.
So before fans roast Clay and put the blame on him for the loss, remember that football is a team sport. One person makes a mistake early in the game, but that blame should be divided throughout the entire team, coaches and players alike. I can almost guarantee that Kyle Whittingham will make sure his players run through the end zone and hand the ball to the official from here on out.
And don’t forget — Clay helped Utah obtain bowl eligibility. Remember the last catch of the USC game a few short weeks ago? Just a reminder.
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