Breaking up is hard to do: Goodbye, Utah
As Oregon flies through its final season in the Pac-12, The I-5 Corridor pays respect to the opponents the Ducks face for the final time as conference foes.
The “What if” conversation usually focuses around the negative for the Oregon Ducks.
What if Dennis Dixon didn’t get hurt? What if Mark Helfrich kicked any of those extra points against Nebraska? What if Dan Lanning’s Ducks converted one of those fourth downs?
What we often don’t do when strolling down memory lane is talk about the plays that have left the opposition scratching their heads. For instance, here’s a good one as the No. 8 Oregon Ducks travel to No. 13 Utah for the last time as conference foes:
What if Kaelin Clay didn’t fumble that football?
Bit of a spooky one to think about, isn’t it? In the rearview, that 51-27 win by the Ducks on Nov. 8, 2014 doesn’t read like a classic from the box score. But when Clay caught that slant from Travis Wilson and left Erick Dargan in the dust, the Ducks appeared to be facing a 14-0 hole, on the road, against a team that really knows how to turtle on a lead.
Of course, that’s not how we remember it, because Clay dropped the ball early. Dargan lunged for it, Joe Walker secured it and suddenly there was an Oregon convoy moving the other direction as the Utes celebrated in their own end zone.
“Usually when you score a touchdown they put their hands up and signal and I didn't see it,” Dargan said the next week. “Me and the ref made eye contact. It was an awkward moment like, 'I'm just going to pick the ball up and try to go with it.'"
Instead of 14-0, it was 7-7 seconds into a second quarter that saw the Ducks outscore the Utes 24-3. The Ducks, of course, won that game and eventually became the first team from the Pac-12 to make the College Football Playoff. And it’s a good thing the Walker touchdown return is featured in just about every highlight package from that season, otherwise Ifo Ekpre-Olomu would have never seen it.
The former All-American Oregon defensive back reminded The I-5 Corridor this week that moments before that play, Ekpre-Olomu had left the game with a foot injury.
“I was in the locker room and missed the play live,” he said. “I just remember the whole demeanor of the game changed after that play.”
That, of course, is Oregon/Utah — two of the Pac’s best teams throughout the 12 era, who nearly always produced the unexpected upon meeting each other.
So with that, let’s get to it.