CSU Rams QB Clay Millen only cares about wins and losses, not setting records


FORT COLLINS — Thanksgiving Clay Millen has a word for Labor Day Clay Millen: Chill. Chill, you turkey. Seriously.

“I think the biggest thing was learning how to take disappointment,” the Rams’ freshman quarterback told me with a laugh early Friday night after throwing for two scores in a season-ending 17-0 win over New Mexico.

“And then still be like, ‘OK, we’ve just got to move the ball, keep a calm, level mind and not (think) like the entire world’s just ending.’ Because that was kind of my mentality. The first (home) game against Middle Tennessee, I overreacted.”

So much so, in fact, that Millen actually threw up on the sideline during a 34-19 loss back on Sept. 10, in the middle of what was supposed to be a coming-out party. And not because of the nine sacks he took that day.

“My adrenaline,” Millen recalled, “was just way too high.”

Black Friday Clay was all about zen. Black Friday Clay saw the pressure from the Lobos coming, rolled to his right, and kept his eyes downfield.

Black Friday Clay completed 19 of 24 throws — 79.1% — versus New Mexico, moving his completion percentage for the season to 72.2%, a new FBS single-season freshman record. One that also pushes Kedon Slovis’ 71.9% clip at USC in 2019 down to No. 2 all-time.

“I’ve had quarterbacks that have played when they’re young, and then they get hurt, not seriously hurt, but hurt enough to miss games. And it really helps them,” CSU coach Jay Norvell said after his debut season in FoCo wrapped up at 3-9, 3-5 in Mountain West play.

“I think it helps them to step back and really observe and watch how things operate in their absence. And it happened to Clay, happened to (former Nevada QB) Carson Strong. When you coach over the years, you get all kinds of kids — you get kids that are loosey goosey, your kids that are wired (tight). I mean, (Millen) used to throw up before every game. And when he came back, he didn’t anymore. I know that’s probably not the most kosher thing to say, (but) he didn’t do it anymore. He was more calm, he’s more relaxed, he’s more controlled. And I’m so proud, so proud of how he’s handled himself.”

With 6:04 left, a sparse crowd of 20,107 at Canvas Stadium caught a glimpse of the Rams offense we’d expected from the jump. On third-and-2 from the New Mexico 41, Millen took the shotgun snap, looking off the safeties as he took two steps back, then fired a rainbow up the right boundary. Wideout Tory Horton adjusted for both the wind and his defender, hauling the ball in at the 2 and twisting over the pylon for the game-clinching score.

“(Millen’s) a young guy,” said Horton, the Nevada transfer who finished his first season at CSU with a 10-catch, 131-yard afternoon. “As the course of the season went on, you could see that he learned a lot more. And he’s been smarter and more intelligent reading the defense.”

He’s learning. Learning to stop holding onto the dang ball so long. Learning to stop trying to be a hero. Learning to stop taking everything personally. The sacks. The drops. The incompletions. The losses.


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