July 26, 2007

November 9, 1957 - Utah at Army

HOW IS IT GREAT? If Utah had won this game, it would certainly be one of the ten greatest Ute victories of all time. But alas, it is only a moral victory. In fact, Head Coach Jack Curtice would forever refer to this game as the time "we beat Army."

These were the days when Army was truly one of the nation's powerhouse football programs. Going into the game, they were ranked #8 in the nation, and would end the year at #18 AP/#13 UP. Army also featured All-American Bob Anderson and 1958 Heisman winner Pete Dawkins at halfback.

But Utah brought an All-American of their own to West Point: Lee Grosscup. Not only did Utah nearly pull off the upset, but they amazed onlookers with a stunning passing display. Grosscup & co. racked up 316 yards and two touchdowns through the air, including a touchdown pass to Larry Wilson on the final play of the game. The AP would later name this game as the second-best of the 1957 season.

2007 RANKING: #35. I perhaps underrate what this game meant to the program, but I just can't bring myself to place a defeat any higher on the list. And while this game gave Utah, particularly Grosscup and Curtice, much national attention, the team on the whole failed to capitalize on this impressive showing. They ended the season 6-4 as Mountain States Conference champions, but wouldn't see another winning season until 1960. Furthermore, Curtice left at the end of the season to coach at Stanford, and the new coach (Ray Nagel) relegated Grosscup and the "Utah Pass" to a lesser role in the offense.

FURTHER READING: see: www.aafla.org (starting at the bottom of page 14).

• After watching Utah have so much success against Army with the "Utah Pass," Navy would copy the play and use it weeks later to score twice against the Black Knights in their 14-0 victory.



WHAT THE PRESS HAD TO SAY:

UNDERDOG U. BRILLIANT IN 39-33 DEFEAT
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By Kenneth B. Knowles
Deseret News & Telegram
November 11, 1957

WEST POINT, N.Y.-- Utah may have lost to Army, 39-33, Saturday, but Lee Grosscup and all his Utah teammates won the plaudits of the crowd and the nation.

Utah's terrific passing attack, which was still chalking up scores in the last five seconds of the game, gave Grosscup the national recognition which he has merited as the country's leading passer. As half a dozen press box writers commented Saturday: "The pros will be watching for him."

Lowell Thomas, noted newscaster and world traveler, said following the game that Utah had "put on the best passing attack I have ever seen."

Utah's passing chalked up 326 yards during the afternoon, while Army netted only 45 yards through the air. However, Army, led by Bob Anderson, 200-pound sophomore halfback from Florida, gained 394 yards on the ground while Utah gained 85 with running plays.

Utah entered the game as 19 to 30-point underdogs, but they played as if they'd never heard those odds. They came back, and came back, and then added a final bit of glory in the closing seconds after half the crowd had thought the game was over.

A sellout crowd of 27,900, including 16,000 Boy Scouts on their 10th annual festival day at West Point, thrilled to the frenzied duel of all-out offense in which Red Blaik's heavily favored Black Knights, meeting Utah's Skyline Conference entry for the first time, trailed by 14 to 13 early in the second quarter, three times surged into a two-touchdown lead and had the devil's own time keeping Cactus Jack Curtice's air-power team off their backs.

It was appropriate and typical that Utah scored on a pass on the final play of the game. California-bred Grosscup, the most successful passer in the country, percentage-wise and on number of completions, hit the bulls-eye on 13 of 24 passes for 316 yards.

The Utes put up a tremendous battle as the Cadets led by 13-7 in the first period, 19-14 at half time, 26-14 in the third quarter, and 39-33 at the end of a five-touchdown final period.

Luckily for Army, Anderson had his biggest day. The No. 1 touchdown scorer of the country, he added three to boost his total to 13, boosted his rushing yardage to 820 yards, well ahead of the pace that earned the fabulous Glenn Davis Army's rushing record of 930 yards in 1945.

The Cadets took the opening kickoff and marched 72 yards in 11 plays without a pass. Pete Dawkins, the other half of Army's solid one-two halfback punch, ran 25 yards for the big gain but Anderson carried six times for 39 yards and slammed five yards off tackle for the score.

On Utah's first play, Grosscup Rowe recovered on Utah's 31. In eight plays Army had another touchdown. Anderson carried four times for 20 yards, including the last two on an off tackle burst.

Stuart Vaughan, the 147-pound pass-catching whiz from Utah, ran back the kickoff 45 yards and Utah covered 45 yards in five plays, two of them Grosscup passes. One was a tricky overhand shovel pass to an end, George Boss, who ran laterally, left to right, behind his scrimmage line, took the pass and lateraled off to fullback Karl Jensen for 27 yards to the one-foot line. Grosscup scored on a sneak.

Stopping Army, Utah then went 88 yards in 15 plays early in the second period as Grosscup mixed passes with fullback runs by Merrill Douglas, who went off tackle for the last three yards. With Boss's kick, Utah led 14-13 to the wonderment of all.

But Army took the kickoff and marched 87 yards in 18 plays, mostly on the ground and was never headed again. Anderson accounted for 47, rushing four times for 30 yards, catching a Bourland pass for eight and throwing to Dawkins for nine. With Army threatening to the right Bourland rolled out to the left in tricky style, faked to Anderson and ran eight yards around Utah's right flank.

Army tallied the only third period touchdown on Anderson's 54-yard sprint.

The well-coached Utahns retaliated swiftly, scoring early in the fourth as Grosscup passed 22 yards to Vaughan, 45 yards to Boss and then 10 to Douglas in the end zone. On an Army punt, Dawkins recovered McGivney's fumble and Army covered 34 yards in eight plays, with Anderson, on fourth down passing five yards on the end-run option to Bill Graf.

Utah wouldn't cry uncle. Grosscup passed 53 yards to end Don Erickson and 10 to Boss in the end zone to make it 33-27. Army marched 72 yards and scored on Bourland's 23-yard pitch to Dawkins for the clincher with 17 seconds to go, but in those final 17 seconds Grosscup passed 52 yards to Erickson and, after the officials had to clear the field of hundreds of spectators, passed 13 yards on the final play to Larry Wilson for the T.D.

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