To you ever wonder what Clemson football might be like today had Aaron Kelly caught that Cullen Harper pass against Boston College in the 2007 classic in Death Valley?
It’s a crazy thing to think about. I admit I did not think about it until I heard the hosts on WCCP “The Roar” in Clemson talking about it this afternoon.
Clemson lost that game that night to Boston College thanks to a Matt Ryan touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter. But the Tigers, then coached by Tommy Bowden, moved the football past midfield when Harper found Kelly streaking wide open down the far sideline. Trying not to overthrow the tall wide receiver, Harper lofted the ball out in front, but Kelly still had to make a diving attempt as he stretched out for the football while falling into the end zone.
At first it appeared Kelly, who ended his career as the ACC’s all-time reception leader, had corralled the pass, but as he was going down the ball went through his arms and hit the ground. The Tigers later attempted a 50-plus yard field goal as time expired but it was short and the Tigers lost by three points.
With the win, Boston College won the ACC Atlantic Division and ultimately lost to Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship Game two weeks later. Clemson went on to beat South Carolina with a Mark Buchholz field goal as time expired to finish the regular season 9-3.
The Tigers lost to Auburn in the Chick-fil-A Bowl on New Year’s Eve and the next month Bowden was given a new deal which included a nice buyout clause, which Bowden received halfway through the 2008 season after his last Clemson team failed to live up to hype from the previous years. They stumbled out of the gate and were 3-3 when he and Clemson decided to part ways.
We all know the rest of the story. In steps Dabo Swinney, who is able to sign players like Deandre Hopkins, Tajh Boyd, Sammy Watkins, Stephone Anthony, Vic Beasley and Grady Jarrett to help turn the program around. Three ACC Championships and 89 wins later, Clemson is lifting the College Football Playoff Championship Trophy.
So how different would things be if Kelly caught that football? Would Bowden still be at Clemson? Where would Dabo Swinney be coaching at or would he be a head coach at all? It is all kind of crazy to think about, but when looking back, Kelly dropping that pass turned out to be the best thing to ever happen to Clemson.
I wonder if Swinney sent Aaron Kelly a national championship ring.