July 30, 2007

November 17, 1973 - Utah vs. Utah State


HOW IS IT GREAT? From 1892 until the mid-1970s, the Utah-USU rivalry was the premier rivalry in the State of Utah. Curiously though, few of the match-ups featured two quality teams- it seems Utah and USU would take turns having good seasons, and then the annual meeting would be lopsided.

The fact that this rivalry game was both close and featured two good teams (Utah 6-3, USU 7-2) cannot be overstated. Neither can Steve Odom's performance. The 5-9, 165 pound All-American returned three Aggie punts for 99 yards (33 yards/punt-return is still the second highest average by a Ute in a single game) and the game-clinching touchdown. He also returned two kickoffs for 73 yards (36.5 yards/kickoff-return would be the tenth highest average in a game but for the three return minimum requirement. I'm just sayin'. Seems the Aggies weren't quite stupid enough to kickoff the ball to Odom a third time.).

Utah State kept the game closer than it should have been, thanks to three fourth-quarter touchdowns. But Utah recovered a USU onside kick in the end to preserve the win.

As a postscript, this win had the Utes and their lame-duck coach (Bill Meek) poised for a Beehive Boot victory if they could only beat BYU (3-6) the following week. Suffice it to say, they couldn't pull it off. The Utah-USU rivalry became second fiddle to what is now known as the Holy War, and the "dark ages" officially began.

2007 RANKING: #31. This game merits Top-35 inclusion for two main reasons: 1) It was a close game against Utah State back when the Utah-USU rivalry was still relevant; and 2) Steve Odom. The Utah-USU rivalry is still an integral part of Utah Football history. And 34 years later, Steve Odom's name still garnishes the Utah record books.

WHAT THE PRESS HAD TO SAY:

UTAH COPS CLOSE TILT
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By John Mooney
Salt Lake Tribune
November 28, 1973

Steve Odom's dazzling running sparked Utah to a 31-7 lead going into the fourth quarter and then Utah State's Louie Glammona staged his own show to spark a three-touchdown comeback by the Aggies before Utah won the traditional game, 31-28, Saturday in Rice Stadium.

With 27,814 fans sitting in the sun-drenched stands, the Utes broke open the ball game early and then battled gamely as the Aggies came roaring back to turn this game into a thriller.

Top Collegiate Returner

Odom, who has returned kicks for more yardage than any collegian in history, returned two kickoffs for 73 yards, three punts for 99 yards and a touchdown, and he carried four times on the reverse for 37 yards.

The Ute senior flanker didn't catch a pass, but a punt return of 45 yards set up Utah's first touchdown, and a 52-yard punt return for a touchdown gave Utah its last score and the ultimate victory.

Steve Marshall, the senior defensive leader, also returned an intercepted pass for a Utah touchdown to give the Utes their first victory in the last three games against the Aggies.

Both Teams Now 7-3

The victory gave the Utes a 7-3 record, identical with the Aggie seasonal mark. Giammona, the sophomore running back behind Archie Gibson, carried the ball 30 times for 188 yards, two touchdowns and a two-point conversion.

Giammona also caught two passes for 13 yards and returned three kickoffs for 60 yards.

Thus, Odom, 5-9 and 165 pounds, and Giammona, 5-9 and 175 pounds, were the big men on the field in this annual football joust which started slowly and developed into a real barn-burner in the second half.

The statistics favored the Aggies, even though the USU club led only once in the game, 7-3, in the second quarter on Gibson's eight-yard scoring run.

However, Gibson was injured and spent most of the second half on the bench. "I just don't like the artificial surface," Gibson moaned as he limped from the stadium with a swollen ankle. "I turned it just at the start of the second quarter and never could run properly after that," Gibson added.

But the injury gave Giammona the opportunity to do his thing.

Ute Defense a Factor

Utah's defense actually was a factor in the victory, even though the statistics--298 yards Aggie rushing and 118 yards passing--might not tell that story.

But Ed Onofrio's pass interception set up a Utah field goal, a 45-yard Odom punt return set up a Utah score, the Marshall pass interception gave Utah another and Odom's final punt return added the final.

A fine defensive stand by the Utes also stopped the Aggies when the game was in doubt early and the stand launched a touchdown drive which was capped by a 55-yard Don Van Galder to Willie Armstead pass for a 24-7 Utah lead.

The Van Galder-to-Armstead pass and run was a picture play. Armstead caught the ball at about the 25-yard line, was headed toward the west sideline and reversed his field and got a fine block from Ike Spencer who took out three Aggies and the junior receiver sped into the end zone.

An intercepted pass by Bob Fuhriman set up the first Aggie score as Utah led, 7-0 at the quarter, 17-7 at the half, 31-7 after three and then the Aggies caught fire.

A Marrelli Field Goal

Dan Marrelli kicked a 32 yard field goal for the Utes, Gibson raced eight yards for the Aggie score and Armstead took an eight-yard pass for a Utah score.

Utah's defensive unit, headed by 260-pound tackle Ron Rydalch, pressured Aggie quarterback Tom Wilson just before the half, and his floater was picked off by Marshall and run in 27 yards for the score by the senior free safety who was a burr under the Aggies saddle all afternoon.

Then, it was Armstead with his spinning, reversing touchdown run with Van Galder's pass, the 55-yard effort making it 24-7 for the Utes.

Odom Closes it Out

Odom then closed out one of the finest games of his sensational career by taking a short Aggie punt in the crowd at the west sideline and then making like a State Street dragster in breezing over to score the final Ute touchdown from 52 yards away.

Giammona then raced 15 yards for a score, then broke a 60-yard scoring burst up the middle and Craig Clark closed it out with an 11-yard pass for the final score.

Giammona kept the Aggie hopes alive by picking up a fumbled pitchout on the two-point conversion and turning it into a play which cut the margin to three points with 1:38 left.

But Utah's Lance Robbins smothered the on-side kick and the Utes had a victory which gave the Redskins a leg up on the Beehive Boot which goes to the state's college football champion, with the finale next Saturday against BYU in the Rice Stadium.

Coach Bill Meek praised the Aggies for "a great comeback." He said "you don't get to be 7-2 for the season on nothing. They got fired up and kept coming at us."

"But like last week, our fellows had the courage to stay in there and get the win. One fan told me on the way in that it was a 'lucky victory', but we'll take the wins any way they come," Meek concluded.

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