June 29, 2009

October 24, 1953 - Utah vs. Wyoming

HOW IS IT GREAT? This was the best kind of Utah-Wyoming football game. Terrible weather. Sloppy field. Players ejected for fighting. Closely-fought till the final minutes. It featured the two best teams in the league; and as it turned out, this game decided the Skyline Conference championship.

Nearly 25,000 fans were expected to attend the game at Ute Stadium. But when Saturday came, so did the storm, and the actual attendance turned out to be half that many.

It seemed the weather would give Wyoming the advantage. The Cowboys (4-1, 3-0) were a running team that was most effective pounding the ball up the middle out of the Single Wing. The Utes (5-0, 2-0), on the other hand, ran a slashing-type offense out of the Split-T, and relied heavily on their passing game. Ironically though, Wyoming out-gained Utah in the passing game that day (119-37) and Utah creamed Wyoming in the rushing game (267-79).

By the fourth quarter, the rain began to let up and Utah found itself with a 13-6 lead. This is when the game really got interesting--

In order to maintain possession of the ball and protect its seven-point lead, Utah gambled three times in the final quarter. Two times they went for it on fourth-and-one, and both times they converted.

The third gamble was a screen pass deep in their own territory with just a few minutes left. This one backfired. The pass was intercepted and returned for a Cowboy touchdown. This cut Utah's lead down to one point--pending Wyoming's PAT.

But Utah's line would not settle for a tie. As soon as the ball was snapped, they rushed in and smothered the extra point attempt. And that was the ballgame.

Utah went on to win the Skyline crown with a 5-0 record (8-2 overall). The Cowboys finished 4-2 (5-4-1 overall). This game proved to be the deciding battle--for had Wyoming won, the outright conference title would have been theirs. Instead, it was Utah's title for a third time in a row.


By John Mooney
Salt Lake Tribune
October 25, 1953

Plagued by rain, cold, mud, and a tenacious Wyoming defense, the University of Utah capitalized on Carter Cowley's perfect placement Saturday afternoon to maintain its unbeaten record with a 13-12 victory over the 'Poke gridders in Ute Stadium.

The victory was No. 6 of an unbeaten season for the Utes, and it was a "hard-way six" for Coach Jack Curtice's Redskins, who were battled down to the final gun by a fighting Wyoming crew.

And while the Utes never trailed in this 28th renewal of their Cowboys 'n' Indians feud, the outcome was so much in the balance that very few of the 12,429 chilled fans left the game before the clock started its final circuit sweep.

Cowley Shares Hero Honors

Cowley, the skinny alternate quarterback, shared hero honors with a host of hard-running backs and a Ute defense which held Cowboy Joe Mastrogiovanni to a net 46 yards in 16 rushing plays and the Cowboy single wing attack to a meager 62 net yards in rushing for the afternoon.

Don Peterson, the chunky fullback who took charge of Wyoming a year ago with 170 yards in rushing, picked up 80 yards in 20 carries to outrace the Cowboy from Brooklyn. It was Peterson who swooped untouched into the Wyoming end zone which eventually gave Utah the victory.

And Little Pete had plenty of help from Jack Cross, the 60-minute man, who added 70 yards to Utah's total in 17 carries. And in Don Rydalch, the Ute aerialist who was all but grounded in his passing, but who churned for 41 yards in seven attempts on the quarterback keep series.

Eliminates Most Serious Threat

The victory eliminated Utah's most serious threat to its third straight Skyline Conference title. The Utes now have three victories and have only to beat Colorado A. and M. and BYU to wind up a perfect conference season.

The loss was the second on consecutive week ends for the Cowboys, and it was a bitter pill to swallow. In fact, so bitter was the feeling that the final period resembled the Golden Gloves almost as much as football. Two Cowboys, center Dick Viner and guard Bill DeMontebreum, were given the heave-ho by the officials for slugging in the fourth quarter.

Back to the Old Days

It was a thrilling, brutal game -- one which must have carried the fans back to the old bruising days of football.

And any cynic who contends that the modern touchdown comes too cheaply need only to look at the churned and cleat-chopped football field in the stadium for his answer.

With the exception of Wyoming's final touchdown, every tally was earned dearly with bumps, bruises, and sweat.

Utah drove 64-yards for its first touchdown and the Cowboys came right back with a 74-yard march of their own. The Utes moved 84 yards for their final tally and the Cowboys ran an intercepted pass back from the Utah 43 for their second marker.

Then, with the Cowboys trailing 12-13 and only a few minutes remaining in the game, Cowboy Joe Mastrogiovanni -- who hadn't missed a conversion attempt this year -- lined up his sights.

This was the play that could put Wyoming even, probably insure a tie in the game and keep the Cowboys' hopes alive for a piece of the conference championship.

Mastro's Kick Blocked

But Cowboy Joe, the nation's leading player in total offense, was not destined to snatch the victory from the Utes. As the ball was centered, the Utah line rose up like a tidal wave to engulf the pigskin and drown the desperation hope of the Cowboys.

A 15-yard penalty put the Utes in the sock in the first quarter and it wasn't until the closing minute that the Redskins could get their offense rolling.

On the second play of the initial period, Rydalch flipped a pass to Paul Cook, which moved the Utes across midfield. But the holding penalty set them back to their 24 and three long desperation passes couldn't connect.

Wyoming, grinding out yardage like a sausage machine, drove to the Utah 34 in 10 attempts. When the attack was stymied, Mastrogiovanni sliced a perfect punt out of bounds on the Utah 6. The Utes could advance only to their 25 before Peterson was forced to boot, and his wobbly kick went out of bounds on the Wyoming 34.

Mastrogiovanni started passing, with only average success. He steered the 'Pokes to the Utah 45 before the Utes smeared him back to the Cowboy 30 and forced him to punt.

Starting on their 36, the Utes started to move with Peterson and Cross lugging the mail. They drove to the midfield stripe for the first time as the quarter ended. Max Pierce swept end for 22 to take it to the 18, Cross picked up 12 in two attempts and Pierce swept end for the tally. Cowley booted it squarely between the uprights for a 7-0 lead.

A "fast whistle" helped the Cowboys on their first sortie. George Galuska, the big fullback, fumbled as he hit the line and Dick Bubak recovered, but the ball had been blown dead. That gave the Cowboys a life and they moved 73 yards in 19 plays for a touchdown.

Heave 2 Passes

Forty-seven of those yards came on two passes, the first from Mastrogiovanni to Cedric Couch and the second from Mastrogiovanni to Pete Kutches, who was stopped on the Utah 3. Galuska hit the line twice and the second time he penetrated. Jack Jones missed the conversion and it was 7-6.

Mastrogiovanni's interception and Peterson's fumble slowed the action in the third frame until Utah started its winning drive on its 16 after a punt.

Cross, Rydalch and Peterson, aided by a 15-yard penalty which put the Utes on the Wyoming six, drove for the score, with Peterson going the last five yards around his left end. A 15-yard holding penalty against the Utes stopped the drive, but the 15-yarder against Wyoming put 'em back in contention again.

Misses Conversion

Peterson's run made it 13-6, and this time Cowley missed the conversion.

In the fourth period, Utah drove to the Wyoming 33 on the ground before Corky Roberts intercepted a Cowley pass to stop the drive. Rydalch intercepted a pass right back to give the Utes a "life" and then Rydalch had a chance to wear the goat's horns.

Holding Penalty

A 15-yard holding penalty set the Utes back and Rydalch elected to gamble on a screen for the first down. But Carter, cutting in behind the Ute screen, plucked off the flat pass on the Utah 43 and he was into the end zone pronto. Then Mastro missed the big conversion.

The dismal day held one advantage for spectators, if it could be called an advantage.

The big scoreboard to the south, usually difficult to see in the day time, was glowing brightly on the dark afternoon. By fourth quarter, it was almost dark enough for the field lights to be turned on.

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