July 29, 2007

October 21, 1916 - Utah at USC

HOW IS IT GREAT? So maybe I threw this into the countdown just for fun.

On the other hand, this was the first time that Utah won a game on the west coast. In fact, this was the very first time Utah ever won a game outside the intermountain west.

Still not impressed? Well, at a time when the most a college football team east of the Mississippi could achieve was regional superiority, taking a long train trip to Los Angeles and beating the local school was quite a feat and would have made more than a few heads turn. By 1916, Utah had established itself as a regional power, regularly competing for conference championships against the likes of Colorado, Wyoming, Denver, Utah St. Agricultural College, Colorado Mines, and Colorado College. It was quite an event for the Utah team simply to travel outside the region- let alone to go to a place like Los Angeles. In the week leading up to the game, Salt Lake newspapers chronicled the team's trip, reception in LA and excitement to be playing in such an exotic locale.

So for the Utah side to bring home such a convincing victory under these circumstances was a tremendous accomplishment. The win was the likely high point of the players' careers and would be the last time Utah would beat USC until 2001.

2007 RANKING: #32. A very impressive win. USC went 5-3 in 1916 but it was the last time they would lose that many games again in a season until 1934. It appears this game was played just as USC was beginning their rise to national prominence that would culminate in their first National Championship in 1928. This win would have ranked higher if it had come a few years later. Still a very nice win in a very interesting era of Utah Football.

FURTHER READING:
• One of the stars of the 1916 squad was Lowell "Dick" Romney. He was also a member of Utah's 1916 AAU National Championship basketball team. Following his playing days at Utah, he served as Utah State's head coach (1919-1948) and the commissioner of the Mountain States Conference (1949-1960). Utah State's football stadium is now named in his honor.

WHAT THE PRESS HAD TO SAY:

U. TRIUMPHS OVER COAST ELEVEN
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Utah Team Covers Itself With Glory at Los Angeles;
Romney, Kay, Wilson, Van Pelt Star
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Salt Lake Telegram
October 22, 1916

UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA, LOS ANGELES, Oct. 21 -- Two plunging backs smashed into a line that did not tackle, and the expected happened. The backs were Romney and Kay of Utah and the line was that of U. S. C. Utah won, 27 to 12.

Had it not been for two of the most scintillating runs ever seen on any football field, both by Frank Mallette, the Trojans would have been skunked, 27 to 0.

Once Mallette, took Romney's punt on his own fifteen-yard line and ran through the entire Utah team for a touchdown. That was in the first half. In the third quarter he took the ball on his own twenty-yard line and dashed eighty yards for another score. From the opening toot there was nothing to the game but Utah. With Romney and Kay ripping through the sievelike Trojan line for short gains, U. S. C. hardly ever had the ball in their possession.

Utah Nervous.

Nervousness on the part of the Utah backs coupled with fifteen-yard penalties by the dozen, and excellent punting by Mallette kept the Utah boys from getting any place in the first quarter, but steady hammering, assisted by rotten tackling brought two Utah scores with painful certitude. Kay thundered across squarely between the posts shortly after the opening of the second quarter, and kicking the goal was a mere formality. The same pounding process with a splendid and unlooked-for forward pass to Van Pelt in the middle of it found Romney slamming himself across in the corner. After a punt out, Kay again kicked goal. Utah 14, U. S. C. 0.

Once again, the Utahns began a march toward the U. S. C. goal, but penalties and some splendid tackling by Murray forced them to punt. Romney's boot was a low, shooting spiral, straight into Malette's hands. Captain Van Pelt of Utah was on the point of springing for Mallette's feet when Fred Kelly, hitting him squarely at the knees, threw him sprawling on his face. Granted a splendid start, Mallette sprinted straight down the field, beating man after man by shifty dodging and planted the ball squarely between the Utah posts.

A Great Run.

Mallette's run was as unexpected as a knockout by Freddie Welsh and was one of the most brilliant individual efforts ever seen in Southern California. He beat man after man, while his teammates stood by with gaping mouths, as awestruck as the spectators.

The second half found Utah starting another march towards the Trojan line. Taking the ball to midfield, they were held for downs and forced to kick. Romney missed a try for a drop kick, and it was U. S. C.'s ball on their twenty-yard line.

Kelly took the ball on the first play and jammed his way through center for two yards. On the next play Mallette picked a big hole in the middle of the Utah line and sprinted eighty yards for another sensational score. This time Murray instead of Mallette missed an easy shot at goal.

With the score only 14 to 12 in their favor, the Utah men commenced again to knife their way to the Trojan line and with a smashing drive as relentless and powerful as Hindenburg's drive toward Warsaw, Wilson dived over in the corner and after the puntout Kay again added the extra point. Utah 21, U. S. C. 12.

Utah Braces.

The final touchdown by Romney which came with only a few seconds to play was just the same thing over again. Cromwell hurled whole handfuls of fresh men into the game, but all alike were unable to stem the steady pounding advance of Romney and Kay. Kay's last attempt at goaling hit the post and bounced off, leaving the score 27 to 12.

The game was not a thriller. Aside from the perhaps twenty seconds consumed by Mallette in his two marourian (sp?) dashes, the audience leaned back and pondered upon the "tough guy" makeup of the referee. Watching the Utahns pound through the Trojan line was as thrilling as watching Willie Hoppe get the ivories into a corner and click off a run of a hundred. It was just four plunges and a couple of penalties and Utah's first down and then the same thing over and over again.

The most remarkable feature of the whole thing was that Utah didn't make the score a hundred. Only the ability of the officials to catch the Utahns holding on every down kept them from piling up a tremendous score.

Van Pelt Hero.

Van Pelt for Utah gave a wonderful exhibition of playing end. The only time he failed to nail Mallette in his tracks on a punt was the time that Mallette scored. He plucked a beautiful forward pass out of the air and his diving tackles were an object.

Romney and Kay made most of their gains after they had shaken off two or three would-be tacklers and the chances are that if the U. S. C. men had known how to get their man in one try out of every four the Utahns wouldn't have scored at all.

Quarterback Wilson of Utah ran back punts with splendid judgment and directed his smashing play at the center of the Trojan line in a business-like manner which brought results. He tried a whole flock of quarterback runs and the sooner he was tackled the better it was for his team as he generally ran towards his own goal.

For U. S. C. Mallette was of course the outstanding figure on offense with his two wonderful runs. For Fred Kelly it can be said that he bucked the line in splendid fashion and apparently without anything in the way of interference. But why should a runner like Fred Kelly be called upon to buck into a heavy line?

On the defense Murray shone for the Trojans. He made half the tackles for his team. In the line Fox and S--gler played splendidly on the defense. Burkett and Blake, who went in at ends at the end of the game were a most decided improvement on Jones and Simpson.

The best that can be said for U. S. C. is that they looked as though they could have beaten Utah if they had only known how. Their offense was pitifully weak and this, coupled with their rotten tackling enabled Utah to keep possession of the ball practically all of the time.

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