August 20, 2007

#17: November 3, 1973 - Utah vs. Arizona State

HOW IS IT GREAT? The Sun Devils came into Salt Lake with a 12-game winning streak, a 7-0 record and a #8 national ranking. They featured two backs who would rush for over 1,000 yards in 1973: Woody Green (a consensus All-American) and Ben Malone (who rushed for 250 yards and 6 TDs against Oregon State one week prior -- still a school record for rush yards in a game). ASU also featured future NFL Hall of Famer Mike Haynes in the defensive backfield.

And their QB was none other than Danny White.

Sadly for Arizona State, they didn't play like title contenders that day. And Utah took advantage. The Utes jumped out to a big lead after a slew of Sun Devil turnovers and hung on for the win. It was the highest-ranked opponent Utah has ever beat.

Two things need to be emphasized about this game: First, Ute QB Don Van Galder requested to be taken out of the game early in the third quarter after a hit caused him double-vision.  Utah was leading 30-10 at that point. However, with Van Galder out, the Utah offense stalled and ASU began a comeback. The Sun Devils managed to cut the lead to six, 30-24, with about a full quarter left.

Second, with the lead still at six points, ASU had a first down at the Utah four-yard line. The Utes made an incredible defensive stand and held the Sun Devils at the five-yard line. But confusion erupted over whether ASU had used up all four of its downs or if it still had one remaining. After discussing the issue for 20 minutes, the officials decided the Sun Devils did indeed have one more down left. But the Ute defense rose to the occasion and made a final heroic stop to finally end the ASU drive. At this point, Van Galder returned to the game and drove the Utes 95-yards to score the touchdown that put Utah ahead for good.

The loss dropped Arizona State to #14 in the polls, but they went on to win a share of the WAC title. They beat Tony Dorsett and the Pitt Panthers in the Fiesta Bowl and finished the season 11-1 and ranked #9AP/#10Coaches. Utah, on the other hand, would win two of its four remaining games that season . . . and then two more over the course of the next two seasons.

2007 RANKING: #10. This was another one of those games Utah had no business winning. And as Arizona State was the highest-ranked team that Utah has ever beat, this win automatically has a place among its greatest games of all time.

But this was also another one of those games that will always be underrated simply because it occurred on the eve of "the Dark Ages." Ute greats like Van Galder, Steve Odom and Steve Marshall graduated after the 1973 season, and Coach Bill Meek left Utah with a dearth of talent. The agony Utah fans experienced the next few years would outweigh the satisfaction of this win.


By John Mooney
Salt Lake Tribune
November 4, 1973

Underdog Utah snapped the nation's longest current winning streak, handed Arizona State, the No. 8 team in the nation a 36-31 football lesson and thoroughly vindicated itself in the eyes of 22,135 fans in Bob Rice stadium Saturday.

After alertly capitalizing on Arizona State fumbles and pass interceptions for a 30-3 lead in the first half, the Ute defense rose to its highest pitch this season to hurl back the Sun Devils, just when it appeared the four-time WAC champions were going to take the lead.

The turning point in this thrilling game came early in the fourth quarter, after the Sun Devils had picked up a first down on the Utah four-yard line, with the Utah team leading only 30-24.

Turned Game Around

Starting in the third quarter, Arizona State had found the handle on the football and trimmed Utah's 30-10 halftime lead to 30-24.

Then, with the ball first and goal on the four, Arizona State hurled the nation's most productive offensive juggernaut at the Ute defense, and surrendered the ball on the Utah six.

That may have been one of the finest goal line stands in Utah's long football history. It was the longest, because a hassle over a first down which wasn't recorded on the scoreboard, delayed the game some 15 minutes and gave what the fans believed to be a "fifth down" to the Sun Devils.

It was a bonafide fourth down that Arizona State got finally, but Utah hurled down the pass which would have given the lead to ASU for the first time.

Launched 95-Yard Drive

Utah's offense, which was Johnny-on-the-spot in getting points when the defense offered the opportunities, then drove 95 yards to get a touchdown which ultimately meant the winning margin, since ASU scored a touchdown on the last play of the game to leave Utah five points in front.

Don Van Galder, who was the victim and the goat in the crucial loss to Arizona a week ago, picked up the hero medals by coming off the bench with his double-vision ailment to get the winning marker.

Victory March

Starting on the Utah 5, the Utes picked up 15 yards on a personal foul call, added 15 more on a fine surge by Steve Marlowe, 14 more on a fine catch by Willie Armstead, 10 on a sweep by Ike Spencer, and 15 more when pass interference was called on the ASU 20.

Steve Odom then caught a Van Galder pass for 11 yards and Van Galder came right back with a pass on which Odom made a sensational catch to get the touchdown in the coffin corner.

That put the Utes ahead 36-24 with 9:20 to play.

Arizona State's fine defense then held the Utes after a pass interception.

Mike Stevens had intercepted Danny White for the ninth Arizona State turnover, and Utah was knocking on the gates, but after picking up a first down on the ASU 5, Utah missed a touchdown by inches.

That only set the stage for the final ASU heroics with White passing 51 yards to Greg Hudson for the final touchdown as the game ended.

That was how much the Utah goal line stand and the offensive march meant to the outcome of the thriller on a chilly afternoon.

The game started out as a comedy of errors, with eight turnovers in the first quarter.

Twice White completed passes, only to have the ball dropped and recovered by the Utes. The first set up the touchdown which gave Utah a 7-3 quarter lead.

Utah, which used one screen pass against Arizona, went to the screen time and again and two screens to Spencer brought first blood, the score coming on a seven-yard burst to Ike.

Slow the Scoring

Interceptions and fumbles -- Arizona State lost the ball three times on fumbles and twice on interceptions, and Utah lost the ball on an interception and two fumbles -- held the score to 7-3 at the quarter.

A fumble by Van Galder allowed Arizona State to get on the scoreboard with a 30-yard field goal by Dan Kush.

Steve Marshall recovered a fumble by Ben Malone to set up Utah's field goal, with Dan Marrelli getting the 23-yarder to boost Utah's lead to 10-3.

Utes Make Drive

Utah then drove 60 yards wth Van Galder stretching into the end zone for the second Utah touchdown and a 17-3 lead.

Scott Reed recovered a Woody Green fumble to set up another Utah score, with Reed getting the ball on the eight after the ASU All-American lost the kickoff fumble.

Van Galder passed to Armstead for five yards and the score for a 23-3 lead.

A great punt return by Odom, a 70-yard surge down the sideline, set up a Utah score. Odom fumbled almost on the goal line and Utah's John Huddleston got the ball for the Utes on the one.

Van Galder hurdled into the end zone and Utah held a 30-3 lead and the fans were beginning to believe in footbal miracles.

Arizona State had lost five fumbles and two interceptions in the half.

Arizona held onto the football in the third and drove 58 yards with Green getting the final yards on a diving catch of a White pass. That made it 30-17.

A great save by Stevens stopped the Sun Devils on a bomb bid, but Odom fumbled a punt to give ASU a life, on the Ute 16.

Green finally scored from inside the one-yard line and Kush's kick cut Utah to the final margin, before the offensive and defensive heroics.

The defeat left Arizona State 7-1 for the season and 3-1 in the WAC. Utah moved up to 3-1 for the WAC and 5-3 for the year.

The big story of the game was shown in the turnovers, with ASU losing the ball 10 times to Utah's five.

ASU outgained the Utes in total offense, 506 yards to 263, but Utah won the score battle, which is the one they pay off on at the window.

Malone, who gained 250 yards in the victory over Oregon State last week, picked up 112 yards in 17 carries.

Green, the great runner who has been averaging 110 yards a game, had to settle for 48 yards in 16 carries.

Spencer added 83 yards in 23 carries and Marlowe 33 in seven tries.

It was a tremendous comeback victory for the Utes, because Arizona State was a threat every time the backs and receivers could hold onto the ball.

Utah did a great job and deserved the victory on the basis of those final minutes when it took the best shots ASU had from the five and slammed the door and then drove 95 yards for the clincher against the best defensive team in the WAC.

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