In 2008, UB had the chance to defeat the two-time defending MAC Championship CMU Chippewas in Michigan. A 46-yard AJ Principe field goal hit the right upright and fell out, and CMU won the game. UB fell to 1-1 in the MAC. Thanks to a miracle hail mary against Temple and a miracle comeback against Bowling Green, UB was able to win the MAC East and the 2008 MAC Championship.
In 2014, UB had the chance to defeat the defending MAC Champion Bowling Green Falcons. Up five points with three minutes remaining, Patrick Clarke missed a 33-yard field goal. BGSU scored on the short field, and held on to a one-point victory.
If the kick sails in, and the rest of the game stays the same, UB wins 38-36. UB moves to 4-2, 2-0 while Bowling Green falls to 3-3, 1-1. The Bulls still lose three in a row, fall to 4-5, 2-3 while Bowling Green rebounds to go 5-4 (3-2).
UB handles Akron to improve to 5-5 (3-3) while BGSU defeats Kent to gain bowl eligibility at 6-4 (4-2).
Kent gets lost on their way to Buffalo, so the Bulls stay at 5-5 (3-3), meanwhile BGSU is shattered at the Glass Bowl and falls to 6-5 (4-3). UB Bull run is on edge as the cancelled game sets up a crazy MAC East Scenario:
BGSU wins the East at 5-3 with a win, if Buffalo beat Kent and UMass, Buffalo at 5-3 would win the East on a tiebreaker, but at 4-3, they would be a half game back of BGSU.
BGSU wins the East with a UB loss: A loss would put Buffalo at 3-4, however had the Kent game played and resulted in a UB victory, Buffalo would've won with a loss and a BGSU loss.
UB wins the East with a win and a BGSU loss. UB would be 4-3, BGSU 4-4. Improbable that the MAC Champs would lose to Ball State, and the UMass passing game would be a severe test to UB.
Of course we know UB routed the Minutemen and Ball State destroyed the Falcons.
Make that kick, and UB wins their second MAC East title. (and no I don't recognize the 2007 tie)
There are many ways you can look back on a season and say "if this than that" but few scenarios provide the two-game division winning swing of that missed field goal.
The kicker once known as 'MVP' could have lived up to the title this year, unfortunately Clarke at times didn't even look like the most valuable placekicker, and he was a definite candidate for goat of the year.
It's shocking because his start was so strong:
In his first 13 games as placekicker, starting with the 2011 Eastern Michigan game and ending with the 2012 Western Michigan game, Clarke hit 17 of 21 (81%) on field goals.
In his next 13 games, between the 2012 UMass game and the 2013 Miami game, Clarke successfully kicked 12 of 19 (63.2%) field goals.
In his last 12 games, between the 2013 BGSU and the 2014 Akron, Clarke successfully kicked 7 of 14 (50%) field goals.
Clarke's field goals went from 81% to 63.2% to 50%.
Of course out of context that means nothing. What if his kicks were more difficult later in his career? That's the weird thing, his kick attempts formed a reverse bell curve over his career: he was great under 24 yards and relatively good over 35 yards, but just dreadful on kicks between 25 and 34. Clarke was 3 of 7 on kicks between 30-34 yards and 9 of 16 (.563) on kicks between 25 and 34 yards. Over 35 yards, he was 21 for 31 (.677).
Special teams was always a challenge under the Quinn era, yet Clarke had been a bright spot for a few years. In 2014, he was a liability, as scoring opportunities turned into good field position for the opponent, which was absolutely devastating for a team that struggled to defend.
Four times (Duquesne, Army, EMU, Ohio) UB needed a field goal to stop an opponents scoring run but failed to convert. 3 of those 4 times, the opponents scored on their subsequent drive. Our opponents in those games went on to score 15 points on average after the missed field goal before UB was able to score again.
Instead of answering a TD allowed with a score of their own, UB wasted a scoring opportunity and then gave up two more TDs before they could recover the momentum. It comes as no surprise then that UB lost 3 of those 4 games, and the case could be made that they would have lost the Duquesne game had the Dukes been FBS level competition.
Clarke was much more of a liability than an asset as a senior, especially considering how lethal the offense was at times, you have to assume the odds of converting on fourth down would have been greater than Clarke's 43% fg success rate.
Clarke ended his kicking career in the 1st quarter of a 0-0 UMass game. UB's first scoring opportunity was Clarke's last opportunity to overcome his biggest failing as a Bull: the 33 yard field goal.
He missed it.