August 24, 2009

#16: November 11, 1961 - Utah at Colorado

HOW IS IT GREAT? Utah had a solid team in 1961. Although they finished the season with a 6-4 record, they had big wins over Arizona State and Oregon. Three of Utah's four losses were narrow defeats to really good teams: a 7-0 loss at Wisconsin (who finished the season ranked #18 in the Coaches Poll); a 13-6 loss against Wyoming (who finished the season ranked #17 in the Coaches Poll); and a 17-6 loss to Utah State (who finished the season ranked #10 in both major polls).

The fourth loss was a 21-6 defeat at New Mexico.

However, Utah's greatest achievement that season was a 21-12 win in Boulder against nationally ranked Colorado.

The Buffaloes were rated #8 AP/#9 Coaches and were the second-highest ranked team Utah had ever played up to that time (the 1957 Army team was two spots higher in the Coaches Poll).

Even as Utah led the game, fans surely expected the highly-favored home team to eventually pull themselves together and make a game of it. But as you can see from the Tribune recap below, that just wasn't the case. The Utes dominated their long-time rival until the game was out of reach.

It became, and remains, Utah's most impressive road win ever (not including neutral site bowl games).

Colorado finished the regular season 9-1, ranked #4 AP/#3 Coaches, and was crowned champion of the Big Eight Conference. They would lose to LSU in the Orange Bowl, but ended up ranked #7 in both polls.

• Utah beat the Buffaloes again in Salt Lake the following year, 37-21. It was the 57th game in a rivalry that dates back to 1903. Unfortunately, it was also the last time these schools have played each other in football.

But still today, there are only four teams that Utah has played more often than Colorado (Utah State-108, BYU-90, Wyoming-81, and Colorado State-77).

• Deseret News article about the CU-Utah rivalry published days before the series was renewed in 2011: Utes, Colorado renew a dormant series.

• Recap from the Colorado perspective:
In a most convincing manner, Utah applied the brake to Colorado's bid for an undefeated season. "Go, go, go you Buffs!" chanted 25,000 disbelievers, as Utah smashed Colorado's collective ego, 21-12. The Buffaloes did little to enchant the Orange Bowl committee in their seventh performance of the season.

Colorado scored first and last, but in between, Utah dominated the game. The Redskins had more first downs (22-17), more rushing yardage (233-210), and more points at the game's end. Clearly, Colorado had suffered a letdown after beating Missouri the week before.

Colorado moved steadily with the opening kickoff 82 yards for a touchdown, with Weidner throwing to Hillebrand for the score from 10 yards out. But not until the last four minutes of the game could the Herd duplicate this accomplishment, and by then Utah had the game won. The Redskins moved steadily with their passing attack and, more disappointingly, Colorado couldn't halt the Ute running game either.

It was a sad day for the "invincible" Buffs.

. . .

It was almost a perfect season for Colorado. With the exception of one bleak Saturday afternoon against an upstart Utah team, the Buffaloes negotiated a rigorous ten-game test unscathed before bowing to LSU in the Orange Bowl.

Included on the Buffalo squad were four All-Conference selections and a depth of talent never before amassed at Colorado. All-American, All-Big Eight guard Joe Romig led this procession. Behind Romig came end Jerry Hillebrand, center Walt Klinker, and quarterback Gale Weidner -- all selected to Big Eight honors in their own right.

It was a good season -- the best, that Colorado has ever enjoyed.


Ute Line Stops Touted Rivals
By John Mooney
Salt Lake Tribune
November 12, 1961

BOULDER, COLO -- Utah, playing near-perfect football until the issue was decided, shook off the sackcloth and ashes of two straight defeats to knock heavily-favored Colorado out of the ranks of the unbeaten teams with a tremendous 21-12 football victory here Saturday afternoon.

The Redskins were mangificent in snapping the Buffs' eight-game mastery of the Utes.

THIS WAS THE first time Utah had been able to best the Buffs at Boulder since the 1947 season, and their first win over C.U. since 1948.

And the Buffs had no excuses in losing their first game of the season. It was a team victory all the way.

While Utah's backs, led by Captain Gordy Lee, Dennis Zito, Jerry Overton, Doug Wasko, and Bud Tynes, ripped through the bulky Buff line for tremendous surges and Bill Cravens and Gary Hertzfeldt pierced the Colorado pass defense in amazing fashion, the Utah line was magnificent.

The Redskin forwards, lethargic since the Oregon
game early in the season, beat the Buffs to smithereens.

The line, shackled by injuries and outweighed 21 pounds to the man, played inspired ball.

And even when the pass defense slipped momentarily in the final four minutes to let the Buffs break loose with their trade-marked "home run" long pass, the Ute defense [rose back up] to smite down the attempt for the two-point conversion after the second C.U. touchdown.

THAT LEFT the Utes nine big points ahead and even though the Buffs went down to defeat like a good ball club, with all guns booming, the Redskins had the satisfaction of winning the biggest game in Coach Ray Nagel's four seasons at Utah.

This was a bigger victory than the upset of Oregon, because Colorado was an unbeaten ball club with the scent of orange blossoms carried heavily on the crisp fall air.

The Redskins, in winning their sixth game of the season against three losses, qualified to meet the unbeaten Utah Aggies in the big game next Saturday.

And, suddenly, this isn't a push-over for the great farmer crew.

Few teams in the nation would have beaten the Utes Saturday afternoon.

Not until they led 21-6 late in the fourth quarter did the Utes make a mistake.

By then, it was too late for the Buffaloes, who had been served a royal lesson in alert, hard-charging football by a team that rode to victory on "desire."

UTAH SCORED in each of the first three quarters in turning a complete reversal of their form of last week when they blew a game to New Mexico.

There was nothing flukey about the Redskin triumph. They surrendered a touchdown to the Buffs the first time Colorado had the ball in the game. But Utah roared back to grab a 7-6 lead moments later.

The Buffs didn't know it, but that was all she wrote for the ball club Boulder people were rating as the greatest since the days of Whizzer White.

Utah won the game much easier than the final score might indicate.

Except for the 78-yard pass-run for a Colorado touchdown late in the game, the Buffs had few opportunities to spring their vaunted running and passing prowess.

The Buffs threatened several times, but the Utah defense when the chips were down was amazing.

THE UTES GAVE up ground, but the Buffs had to fight for everything they earned from this inspired Utah team Saturday afternoon. And when the big money play came, it was big time Charley Colorado who wound up a minute late and a nickel short.

Utah ran up 233 yards against the Colorado line that was shredded and torn asunder by the ferocity of Redskin blockers and runners.

THE UTES MADE the first downs, 22 to 17, and although the Buffs won the statistical battle with 418 yards to 363, Utah had the ball game in its pocket and was willing to trade statistics for time.

It didn't start out very auspiciously for the Redskins this brisk November afternoon as the Buffs powered 78 yards in 14 plays after taking the opening kickoff.

With Gale Weidner at the throttle and Ted Woods, Ted Somerville, and Bill Harris running like demons, the Buffs punched over the score.

Weidner passed to Jerry Hillebrand for the final 10 yards and the score.

A pass from Weidner to Somerville was the first gainer as Colorado cut Utah's defense alignment to ribbons in the first drive. But when Hillebrand missed the extra point, the Utes took heart.

Cravens punted beautifully to the Colorado nine and after another punt back, the Utes rolled 56 yards in just seven plays to tie the score. Hertzfeldt hit his "non-receiving end," Marv Holmes, then Marv Fleming, and finally Jerry Overton for the final 18 yards and the score.

DENNIS McLaughlin booted the Utes ahead, 7-6, in the final minutes of the initial quarter.

Colorado made a short drive, but Ron Manno intercepted a pass and returned it to the Buff 41 to set the stage for the winning marker. Utah moved 41 yards in six plays with Lee scooting 25 yards to the 14 as the key play. Hertzfeldt hit Fleming on the Colorado four and Doug Wasko boomed in to score two plays later.

Again McLaughlin kicked the point for a 14-6 advantage.

Now the Utes, who had been defensive patsies for a month, had
a chance to redeem themselves and they didn't disappoint.

Back roared the Buffs. But when they hit the Utah 15, first and 10 to go, the determined Utes hurled them back.

Colorado didn't threaten again during the half, but the Utes went for broke, hurling five straight passes as the half ended in an effort to break open the game.

UTAH WASTED little time when the second half started as they blasted 77 yards in 18 plays, with Hertzfeldt mixing up his running and passing like a genius.

Wasko boomed over from the four for the score and McLaughlin made it 21-6

Now the Utes, who lost three games when the clock and breaks conspired against them, battled the clock and the Buffs. With the final quarter underway, Lee fumbled on first down on the Buff 28.

But Ed Pine, a tremendous lineman Saturday,
made a diving interception to give the Utes a life.

Again Lee was the goat as he fumbled a pass and McBride grabbed it for the Buffs on the C.U. 11.

But Lee wasn't to remain a goat for long. Moments later he grabbed a Weidner pass for an interception on the Colorado 28.

AFTER A PUNT, Weidner hit Leon Mavity in the middle and he pulled away from Ute tacklers for a 78-yard pass play. Now the Buff fans came to life. This was the old Colorado team, that came from 19-0 to win from Kansas.

But the Utes had the big defensive play in their sock when Weidner was pulled down inches short of the goal on the two-point try.

The Buffs had one more try, but Weidner's passing attack couldn't fashion a nine-point play in the last minute and the Utes had a deserved victory, one of the big ones in Utah's football history.

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