What were those players thinking? Clemson’s Ray-Ray McCloud could have had a punt return touchdown. California’s Vic Enwere could have had a clinching TD run. And Oklahoma’s Joe Mixon very nearly cost himself an electrifying kickoff return TD against Ohio State.

Each player inexplicably dropped the ball before crossing the goal line. Guys – crossing the goal line with the ball – that’s the whole point.

Gophers coach Tracy Claeys made sure his players learned from those mistakes. In a meeting this week, he showed replays of the Oklahoma and California miscues, and talked it over with the players.

 “He just said, ‘Make sure you score first,’” running back Rodney Smith said. “And he prefers us to hand the ball to the referee, too, and celebrate with your teammates.”

Smith learned that lesson the hard way as a junior at Mundy’s Mill (Ga.) High School, dropping the ball before he crossed the goal line.

“It cost the team,” Smith said. “When you break the long runs though, it’s exciting. You just react. You think you score, and you throw the ball down a second too early. You just have to train yourself. I try to train myself at least. Now, I give the ball to the referee. I don’t ever drop the ball now.”

Claeys routinely shows players clips from games around the country, as teaching tools.

“I don’t know what the thing is to want to drop [the ball] as close to the goal line as possible,” Claeys said. “It’s turned into a problem that’s hard to explain, it really is.”