The Five Biggest Disappointments in Utah Sports in 2014

By Griffin Adams and Griffin Adams

1. Kaelin Clay drops the ball at the goal line

It’s a play that will live in infamy. Kaelin Clay was walking into the end zone, about to give the Utes a two-touchdown lead over eventual Pac-12 champion Oregon, and then all of a sudden the game was tied. Clay dropped the ball early, and the Ducks picked it up and flew to the other side of the field for a touchdown of their own.

Great Debate

The stadium gasped, reporters tried to figure out what had just occurred and fans stood in a confused daze. Clay made his way back to the bench, as the once-delirious crowd stood in deafening silence.

SPEAKING OF DISAPPOINTMENTS: UTES DISAPPOINTED IN WEEKEND PLAY, LOOK TO MOVE ON

Oregon went on to win in impressive fashion, but there is no denying the effect the play had on the game. Clay took full blame for the loss afterwards, calling himself selfish and apologizing to his coaches, his team and to the fans. Facing what was the worst moment of his short Utah career, and one that could have easily defined him, Clay owned up to his mistake.

Clay has since made light of the play and even taken to social media to poke fun at himself.

Before the National Championship game between Oregon and Ohio State, Clay sent out a simple tweet that read, “Oregon … [You’re] welcome.”

Then during that game, Duck receiver Byron Marshall nearly made the same mistake as Clay did, as he dropped the ball just inches after crossing the goal line. Clay must have had a flashback as he quickly tweeted, “NO BYRON NO,” a tweet that still may be the best of the year.

On the day before Valentine’s Day, Clay offered some advice for a homemade card, tweeting a picture of his infamous play with the caption, “Don’t let go of our love.”

Clay has somehow turned one of the most demoralizing plays in Utah history into something that he can now laugh at. For that he deserves one last round of applause.

 

2. Red Rocks fall short at nationals

In 2014, everything was shaping up to be the year for Utah gymnastics. The Utes boasted one of the best gymnasts in the country in Georgia Dabritz, they won their first Pac-12 Championship in their young history in the conference and went into the National Championships as one of the favorites to win it all.

However, Utah couldn’t capitalize on a great season, failing to qualify for the Super Six for the second straight year. After struggling all season long on beam, the apparatus proved to be the difference yet again at nationals as the Utes registered their lowest score of the round on beam. To make matters worse, the Red Rocks were one wobble away from the Super Six, falling to sixth-place Nebraska by .075 of a point.

 

3. Runnin’ Utes fall in first round of NIT

The 2014-15 Runnin’ Utes may seem like they came out of nowhere, but those paying attention a season ago know differently.

In Delon Wright’s first year in Utah, the program made significant strides. They beat a top-25 UCLA team and had top-10 teams (Oregon and Arizona) on the ropes before suffering crushing defeats. The only reason the Utes weren’t dancing a season ago was because a weak non-conference schedule pretty much sealed their fate before the season began.

Utah would have to settle for the NIT. Before that tournament began, many thought the Utes had the type of team to make a run to Madison Square Garden and play in the tournament’s championship game. Utah got a lower seed than expected (which may have been a result of the Utes not being able to host any game past the opening round because of construction beginning on the Huntsman Center), and then they lost in the first round to St. Mary’s. It was an abrupt and disappointing end to a season that saw the Utes come back to respectability, but not make any real noise.

 

4. Utes crumble against Washington State

Before the 2014 football season, Utah had never won its Pac-12 opener since joining the conference four years ago. However, after impressive performances in the first three games of the season, the likelihood of winning this year’s Pac-12 opener was increasing, especially with the opponent being a subpar Washington State team.

Things looked even better when the Utes jumped out to a quick 21-0 lead in the first quarter, capped by a 76-yard touchdown run by Devontae Booker. But from then on, things turned grim, as the Utes could only muster six points the rest of the game, courtesy of Andy Phillips’ two field goals.

Retrospectively, Cougar quarterback Connor Halliday came through in the clutch, throwing two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, including one on fourth down.

Despite the big plays from Halliday, Ute quarterback Travis Wilson still had a shot to lead his team to the victory down 28-27, but after a pass intended for Dres Anderson fell to the turf, the game was over and the Utes had lost another Pac-12 opener.

 

5. Defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake leaving for OSU

During the football season, Salt Lake City changed its name to Sack Lake City as the Utah football team led the nation in sacks, finishing with 55 sacks on the year. A big reason for the increased defensive intensity was defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake.

Despite having a great season on that side of the ball, Sitake decided to take his talents to Corvallis and become the defensive coordinator for Gary Andersen and Oregon State.

When you crunch the numbers, the loss of Sitake really won’t be felt much when it comes to yards given up. The Utes gave up an average of 393.5 yards per game, which doesn’t scream elite defense.

However, Sitake was a players’ coach. Anyone who played for the defensive coordinator grew to love him, and a lot of players who have played under Sitake have expressed what a great coach he is. Additionally, Sitake was the best recruiter on the Utah coaching staff, making his departure one of the most disappointing moments of the year.

 

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