June 8, 2009

November 8, 1952 - Utah at Colorado A&M

HOW IS IT GREAT? Colorado A&M (aka Colorado State) was midway through their sixth-straight winning season. They were 5-1, 4-0 with three conference games left. They lost to Arizona State (the 1952 Border Conference Champion) in the second week of the season, but they beat all the other teams so far on their schedule by at least two touchdowns. A Skyline Conference title was on the horizon, and their main obstacle -- Utah -- had to come play them in Fort Collins.

A&M chose the Utah game to hold a special ceremony honoring Harry Hughes, the Ram A.D., who had also been their head coach from 1911-1941. On the verge of the conference championship, it seemed appropriate that they would dedicate this game to the man who last coached the Rams to a conference title, which was back in 1934.

The Utes (3-3-1, 3-0) were up for this game too. They had stumbled through their non-conference schedule, but had nevertheless set themselves up to compete for the Skyline title. And the week before the game, Coach Jack Curtice hinted that Utah would throw some offensive surprises at the Rams.

But it was actually their defense and special teams that won the day.

The Utes held a 7-0 lead until the third quarter when the Rams finally got on the board with a TD . . . but missed their extra point. Minutes later, still clinging to a one-point lead, Utah's Frank Branham returned a Ram punt 80 yards for the clincher. Finally, the Ute defense held the Rams through the final quarter to preserve the victory.

Utah crashed the A&M celebration and came away with an 8-point win in dramatic fashion. They then won their last two games to finish with a respectable 6-3-1, 5-0 record and the Skyline Championship. The Rams, on the other hand, stumbled down the stretch to finish 6-4, 5-2; they wouldn't finally claim another conference championship until 1955.

FURTHER READING:
• If the Rams had only beat the Utes, they would have won the 1952 Skyline title with a 6-1 record. However, with this loss, they actually finished in third place behind Utah (5-0) and New Mexico (5-1).

New Mexico and Montana joined the conference in 1951, bringing the total number of Skyline teams to eight. However, Utah didn't play against either newcomer in 1952; thus they only played five conference games that season. All the other Skyline teams played each other.

WHAT THE PRESS HAD TO SAY:

UTES NEAR SKYLINE TITLE ON 14-6 WIN OVER RAMS
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Tight Defense Baffles A-M
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By Jack Schroeder
Salt Lake Tribune
November 9, 1952

FORT COLLINS (Special) -- Utah's mighty Redskins, sensing their second consecutive Skyline Eight football crown, got over their biggest obstacle Saturday afternoon by crushing the hopes of Colorado A. and M., 14-6, in a titanic struggle that forced the Utes to use all their offensive tricks.

The Utes bottled up the talented Don Burroughs much to the dismay of 12,500 fans that filled Aggie Stadium on a gray, cold day in Fort Collins.

Actually it was the tremendous work of Coach Jack Curtice's Utah defenders that insured the victory. The Redskins' forward wall gave Burroughs the worst afternoon of his life by constantly rushing him in the backfield and covering his receivers on almost every occasion. And on the ground the Rams could do little better.

Branham Loose

But it wasn't until Set Branham grabbed one of Jerry Callahan's punts on the Utah 20-yard line and raced 80 yards for a touchdown that the Utes could breathe a little easier. Branham's electrifying touchdown run clearly broke the backs of the Rams and they then would have had to score two touchdowns to win the game.

Meanwhile, the Utes turned things over to Don Rydalch, the brilliant passing junior quarterback, who guided the Utes to their first touchdown and sent them on several other goalward drives. Rydalch's passing was not his best performance of the season, but he completed the aerials that really hurt the Aggies.

Ground March

Ironically enough, the Rams scored their only touchdown on the ground when their air game was stymied. They capitalized on a partially blocked punt to take charge on the Redskin 46 and then marched goalward from there, but Bob Rollins missed the extra point and the Utes still were in front in the third quarter, but only by one point.

It was then that Branham, a few minutes later, grabbed one of Callahan's punts and rambled for the clincher.

Callahan, incidentally, was the Aggies' best defensive weapon. His eight punt averaged 48 yards per try and he kicked on that rolled to the Utah 2-yard stripe and another to the 3. Cowley came up with a 43-yard average.

Completed 13 of 32

Burroughs, the Rams' best offensive bet, was harassed all afternoon by the Redskin defenders. He attempted 32 passes and completed only 13, most of these coming in the fourth quarter. He threw out of the T-formation, I-formation, and spread-formation, but nothing seemed to help.

Utah's ground game, sparked by George Bean, Don Petersen, Jack Cross and Glen Plaga, amassed a total of 210 yards as compared to only 120 for the Ags. The Utes competed seven of 18 passes for 96 yards to add to their advantage.

Utah's first touchdown was scored on an 80-yard march spearheaded by the passing of Rydalch. Don Peterson cut through tackle and lateraled to Gean Plaga, who scampered to the 28. Then Jack Cross and Plaga combined for a first down on the 30.

Rydalch hit Cross with a pass and the big right half rambled all the way to the Aggie 39. Plaga got to the 31 and Petersen moved to the 28. Rydalch hit Plaga again and the stocky little halfback pushed his way to the Aggie 15.

After Petersen got to the 13, Rydalch passed to Sandy Morris to the 3. On the next play, from scrimmage, Cross broke up through the middle for a touchdown. Charlie Kilani kicked the extra point and Utah held a 7-0 lead with less than six minutes to play in the first quarter.

The Utes had two more scoring opportunities in the first quarter, but neither paid off.

Jim Dublinski recovered Dorsey's fumble on the Aggie 29. On the first play, George Bean fumbled the ball and fell on it back on the Aggie 36. On two plays Rydalch failed to hit his target and Carter Cowley punted out of bounds on the Aggie 6-yard stripe.

Utes Out of Gas

Then at the end of the quarter, the Utes drove to the Aggie 24 before finally running out of gas. A Rydalch-to-Sandy Morris pass carried to the Aggie 31 and then Petersen hit the line four straight times, but couldn't get a first down.

The Aggies got back in the ball game when Carter Cowley's punt was partially blocked and rolled out of bounds on the Utah 36-yard line. Charles Mikkelson got 8 yards and then Burroughs passed to Dorsey for a first down on the Utah 14.

Gerald Zaleski shot up the middle to the 7-yard stripe and then bucked his way to the 1-yard line. On the next play he got inches from the goal line and Burroughs carried over on a quarterback sneak. Bob Rollins tried the extra point, but it was no good and the Utes were still in front 7-6.

Game on Ice

Branham put the game on ice when he took Callahan's punt a few minutes later on the Utah 20-yard line and cut to his right and rambled down the sidelines all the way to the goal line for a touchdown. Kalani again kicked the extra point and the Utes were in front 14-6 and that's the was it ended.

Utah had complete control of the game through the first half. The Utes racked up 11 first downs to only three for the Aggies and had 90 yards rushing and 90 yards passing for the first two periods. The Ags could get only 39 on the ground and 13 through the air for that same period of time.

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