Utah offensive coordinator Troy Taylor will try to meet a fairly high standard vs. West Virginia in the Heart of Dallas Bowl after the Utes once posted 32 points and 467 yards against the Mountaineers in a bowl game.
One pass completion is all quarterback Jordan Love needs to give him a place in Utah State’s bowl history vs. New Mexico State, which is being renewed in the Arizona Bowl.
The convergence of rematches from the early 1960s, when only eight bowls existed, creates another dimension for the Utes’ and Aggies’ postseason appearances this week. Utah and West Virginia have not met since the Utes’ 32-6 victory in 1964 in Atlantic City, N.J.; New Mexico State has not appeared in a bowl game since beating USU 20-13 in 1960 in El Paso, Texas.
Aside from the 2009 Sugar Bowl upset of Alabama, the 1964 Liberty Bowl ranks as Utah’s biggest statement in a bowl game. “We laid it on ‘em pretty good,” said John Pease, a wingback who recently returned to the school to complete his coaching career. “By the time they figured out we were a pretty good football team, the game was over.”
HEART OF DALLAS BOWL
Utah vs. West Virginia
When • 11:30 a.m. MST Tuesday
TV • ESPN
Utah State vs. New Mexico State
When • 3:30 p.m. Friday
TV • CBSSN
The ’64 Liberty Bowl has a distinction as the first bowl game played indoors. The bowl, founded in Philadelphia, basically moved to the Atlantic City Convention Hall with organizers intending to try other sites. But they soon ended up sticking in Memphis, Tenn. Playing in Atlantic City involved installing a grass field over the hard floor and shortening one end zone because of a stage. The game was not a marketing success, drawing just 6,059 fans at a summer destination that basically was deserted in December.
The backdrop of the meeting with West Virginia included “such a lack of respect for Utah football,” Pease said.
Newspaper accounts support that theory. The Salt Lake Tribune’s John Mooney wrote, “It’s a little tiresome to come back here with athletes year after year and take the jibes of the press. … It will be interesting to read the reaction to Utah’s showing if the [Utes] play well. And we’re sure the reaction will be amazement.”
Afterward, Mooney happily quoted several New York reviews of coach Ray Nagel’s 467-yard offensive effort, led by running back Ron Coleman.
The ’64 Utes, who finished 9-2, recently were inducted into the school’s Crimson Club Hall of Fame as a team, but another symbol of their performance remains missing. The entrance of the Spence & Cleone Eccles Football Center features the Utes’ bell-shaped trophy from the 2003 Liberty Bowl, but the ’64 prize has disappeared.
The ‘60 Utah State Aggies also went 9-2, under coach John Ralston, but that record was disappointing after a 9-0 start. The Aggies lost 6-0 at Utah to end the regular season then fell to New Mexico State in the Sun Bowl.
“We had a terrific team,” said Tom Larscheid, USU’s star running back. “We certainly didn’t finish the season the way we wanted to.”
The Sun Bowl was staged in the old stadium of the El Paso school then known as Texas Western. New Mexico State fans made the 40-mile trip in huge numbers, creating an overflow crowd of 16,000 at Kidd Field, where the dormant grass was painted green.
An itinerary from the trip lists two practices a day for two days during USU’s trip to El Paso. At night, the border town of Juarez, Mexico, became part of the bowl experience — officially and otherwise. Larscheid remembers an organized trip to a bullfight; Charles “Tuff” Claybaugh, a reserve halfback, recalled his teammates’ other adventures.
“There were some crazy guys on our team,” said Claybaugh, who got married that month. “They had a lot of fun.”
The game started well for USU. But a defense that featured future NFL stars Merlin Olsen, Lionel Aldridge and Clark Miller and had not allowed more than 13 points in a game couldn’t hold a 13-6 halftime lead. NMSU quarterback Charley Johnson, who would play 15 seasons in the NFL, led the comeback.
Late in his pro career, Johnson joined the Denver Broncos, whose kicker was Jim Turner, a USU sophomore quarterback in 1960. They became roommates. “Remember me?” Johnson asked. “I was the guy who threw all the touchdowns against you in the Sun Bowl.”
Johnson passed for 190 yards and two scores; NMSU posted 234 total yards. USU’s Dolph Camilli Jr. and Mel Montalbo attempted four passes, completing none. USU completed only 37 passes all season while leading the nation with a 312-yard rushing average.
USU ran for 268 yards in the Sun Bowl, but fullback Doug Mayberry was stopped on a fourth-down play at the NMSU 21-yard line late in the game.
Mayberry ran up the middle, as the play was designed, “but our right guard pulled; he got mixed up on the play,” Larscheid said.
So the Sun Bowl trophy didn’t come home to Logan, although Claybaugh still has a souvenir at his home in Brigham City. He was alone in the locker room when a referee stopped by with a game ball. Claybaugh wishes he would have had his famous teammates sign the ball. Then again, he said, “They might have taken it away from me.”