June 17, 2012

November 23, 1963 - Utah at Utah State

HOW IS IT GREAT? This was the golden age of the Utah-Aggie rivalry.

Utah had recently left the Skyline Conference to become a founding member of the WAC, but it was the newly-Independent Aggies who were fielding some of the greatest teams ever produced in the State of Utah.  The Utes surprised the Aggies with an upset three years earlier, but revenge was had the next season as the Aggies won 17-6 en route to a 9-1-1 record and a #10 national ranking.  The Aggies beat the Utes in 1962 as well.

This was the first Utah-Aggie game played in Logan since 1953; and 15,520 fans packed Romney Stadium to see if the Aggies could win their third-straight Battle of the Brothers.  Utah scored first and dominated the first quarter.  But by the time they entered the halftime locker room, they trailed 20-7.

The second half didn't start any better but Utah slowly inched back into the game.  With about 7 minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Aggies had the ball and a 23-20 lead.  But Utah dominated again from that point on -- particularly on defense and special teams.  Utah got the ball back on a Mike Davis interception, but it was a fake punt/direct snap to Andy Ireland on fourth-and-21 that set up the go-ahead touchdown.

Utah State then drove the length of the field in the final minutes to reach the Utah two-yard line.  On the last play of the game, the Aggies decided to win with a touchdown instead of a short field goal.  The final plunge was held just inches short and the Utes escaped Logan with a narrow come-from-behind victory.

It was one of the most exciting comebacks in Utah football history.

  • "We had been going great on the ground and with 25 seconds left and on the two-yard line I felt that we should stay there . . . We had the kicker ready and sent him in once, but decided that inasmuch as he'd missed two kicks earlier and got only one field goal -- that our average was one in three -- that our chances were better from scrimmage . . . It was my election.  We missed it by inches."
--Utah State Coach Tony Knap,
explaining the decision to go for a touchdown instead of a field goal at the end of the game.

  • "You know, that great year of 1964 actually started with the victory over Utah State in the last game of the 1963 season, at Logan.  That was a good Aggie team and the victory gave us a 4-6 season instead of 3-7.  That carried over to the next year when we went 9-2 and won the Liberty Bowl game."
--Utah running back Ron Coleman

Ute Defense Stars in Last Canto
By John Mooney
Salt Lake Tribune
November 24, 1963
LOGAN -- You may scoff at the idealist who contends "a team that won't be beaten can't be beaten," and you may preach that "all gamblers must die broke," but the University of Utah's gallant, gambling football team showed the Aggies a few things Saturday afternoon.

THE UTES upset the dope bucket completely, rallying from a 10-point deficit early in the fourth quarter to snatch a 25-23 victory in the traditional grid classic that drew 15,520 half-frozen fans to Romney Stadium.

And the Utes won it the hard way, getting their two touchdowns after falling behind, 20-7 at the half, and 23-13 at the start of the fourth quarter.

THEN, WITH an Aggie victory within grasp and the climax of the season in the pocket -- almost -- the Utes rose up to hurl the Aggies back twice after a desperation Aggie drive and a penalty had put the ball on Utah's two-yard line with 35 seconds remaining.

Twice the frenzied Aggies surged against the lighter Utah line and twice the Thin Red Line held.
When time ran out after the second plunge the football still was an inch or two short of the goal.
For the Utes this was a victory worth almost a season of frustrations.  It gave them but a 4-6 record for the year against Utah State's flossy 8-2 mark.

But it was a big one for the Redskins who rarely have entered this traditional game such definite underdogs.

AS IT TURNED out, the Utes maintained their record of beating the Aggies at Logan.  Last time the Utes lost here it was 1940.

The Utah victory, while putting a damper for a major bowl bid, also snapped a two-game Aggie winning streak over the Utes and preserved one Utah mark of never having lost three years in a row to a Utah State team in football

THE RECORD appeared doomed, though, Saturday, as the Ags snapped back from a 7-0 Utah lead in the first quarter to dominate the game with a sparkling three-touchdown outburst in the second quarter and 20-7 halftime edge.

And when Chris Pella booted a field goal late in the third quarter for a 23-13 lead, the Aggie partisan's couldn't contain their glee.  The hated rivals from Utah were down and now the fans sat back to watch the big, speedy, versatile Aggies grind the foe into near-frozen turf.
But the Aggies reckoned without Gary Hertsfeldt.
The big senior quarterback for the Utes who had never played in a winning game against the Ags, suddenly became the BIG MAN of the field.

Mixing his plays well and catching the Aggies in the process of congratulating themselves on the victory, Hertz whipped the Utes 69 yards with Allen Jacobs catapulting himself the final seven yards for the score.

THAT PUT the Utes back in ball game, 23-19, with almost seven and a half minutes left.

But the Aggies swarmed Hertzfeldt on his attempted pass for the two points and USU supporters breathed easier with a 23-19 edge.

The Aggies had the ball and figured to live out the clock for the victory.

The Aggies, who lived by the passing sword all season, perished by the same weapon as Bill Munson's first down pass was intercepted by Mike Davis on the Utah 49.

This was only the third interception given up by Munson all year but it was a costly one as the Utes wasted little time in punching over the score.

And the Utes did it the hard way, running on fourth and 21 from punt formation with Andy Ireland gaining 27 yards to the Aggie 35.
Given a life, Hertzfeldt passed to Davis who caught the ball down the middle and battled his way to pay dirt.
Roy Jefferson's kick was smothered and the Utes had a 25-23 lead with 3½ minutes left.

Now Munson and the Aggies had the chance to prove their mettle and they came within inches of pulling victory from the fire.

Munson passed to Larry Campbell for 18, to Larry Bryan for 12, to Campbell for eight, to Roger Foulk for 22, and to Campbell for 6.

THEN TO STOP the clock with the ball on Utah's 15 he threw an incomplete pass out of bounds.  Munson ran for five and a holding penalty (half the distance to the goal line against Utah) put the ball on the two-yard line with 25 seconds to play.

Bryan blasted within inches of the goal and with the time for just one play left and victory in the balance, the Ags hurled Darrell Steele into the line.

The Red Wall stood like a rock.
And when Steele was unearthed from the bottom of the pile, the ball was just a matter of an inch or two from pay dirt.
That ended one of the most amazing football games of the season.

But it was the kind of a game that deserved such an ending.  The Utes scored first and dominated the first quarter.  The Aggies held a convincing margin in the second and third periods and the Utes wound up with a Garrison Finish to nip the Aggies at the wire.

AFTER AN exchange of fumbles, Utah took an Aggie punt on its 32 and drove 68 yards in the first quarter to score with Ron Coleman sweeping end for the tally from the 10.

Jefferson kicked the point and the Ute partisans whooped it up.

It looked like the whooping wouldn't last long as the Ags started a drive late in the first quarter and scored in the first two minutes of the second.
Munson passed to Steele for the final seven yards and the score.
Pella missed the kick and Utah could still celebrate a 7-6 edge.

But the Utes, who weren't able to get outside their own 40 yard line during the second and third periods, were knocked back on their heels as the Aggies drove 53 yards for the second score with Campbell bulling over from the three.

NOW ROLLING with a full head of steam, the Ags swept back 74 yards in nine plays to push over what could have been the game breaker in the closing minutes of the first half.

Munson tallied with 45 seconds remaining in the half to send the Aggies out to the dressing room with a 20-7 lead.

Utah got back in the game in the third quarter when Campbell was jarred loose from the ball on the USU 20.  The Utes, despite a 15-yard clipping penalty, scored in just four plays.  Hertzfeldt passed to Jefferson and the clever end wormed his way 18 yards for the score.
But Jefferson's kick was blocked, leaving the Aggies 20-13 ahead.
USU retaliated by driving deep into Utah territory where Pella booted his 22-yard field goal for the "insurance" points that put the losers ahead by 10 points.

Then came the final quarter and one of the finer comebacks in Utah U. history.

THE DUEL of the two senior quarterbacks, Hertzfeldt and Munson, broke about even.  Munson hit on 14 of 23 attempts for 223 yards but the one interception started the Utes off to victory.

Hertzfeldt hit nine of 15 for 111 yards and two touchdowns.  Hertzfeldt carried the ball 10 times for 41 yards while Munson's 11 rushes netted him 29 yards.

AS THE GAME was played in two parts -- the first and fourth quarters Utah's and the middle periods the Aggies' -- the statistics showed an even game.  Utah surprisingly out-gained the Aggies on the ground, 189 to 112 yards.  The Ags out-gained the U. in passing, 223 to 111 yards.

First downs were 18-16 for the home club and the Aggies led in total offense, 335 to 300.
That was the way it was.  Either team could have won the game and both had good and bad breaks.
But the Utes punched over their scores when opportunity knocked and the Aggies couldn't break the Ute line when a break had given USU the ball on Utah's two.

Utah won it on a "fourth and 21" gamble that launched the big offense and a goal line defense that refused to give an inch when the big play was up for grabs.