DID YOU SAY "UTES" PART TWO
HELMET HUT NEWS/REFLECTIONS December 2013:
DID YOU SAY "UTES" PART TWO
By Dr. Ken
One of the primary weapons that the University Of Utah had going for it was head coach, “Cactus” Jack Curtice. He had a uniquely intense attention to detail and was willing to put in whatever time was necessary to give his team an advantage. As the head coach of West Texas State in 1940 and ’41, he even wrote the school’s official fight song. From 1942 through ’49 he enhanced his reputation with his offensive tinkering at Texas Western University (later, UTEP). He came to Utah in 1950 and in an area already utilizing the forward pass more frequently than other parts of the nation, opened things up even more. As Curtice explained it, “We operate on the theory of always threatening a pass with the possibility of a run. Most Split-T teams threaten the run with a possibility of a pass. Football that way is not much fun.” The squad took to the new, fast paced attack but still had difficulties in his first season. One assistant noted that Curtice “did not like defense very much” and little time was spent on it during practices. With a newly installed, high flying offense, the defense found itself on the field relatively quickly after stopping the other teams they played, and getting but a brief rest as the offense quickly scored, or gave up the ball. Spending so much time playing defense, especially for what were primarily two-way performers, the Utes often ran out of steam late in games. Junior college transfer guard and kicker Charlie Kalani, who later starred in the wrestling ring and in both television and movies as Professor Tanaka, helped the ’51 turnaround to 7-4 with clutch kicking and the Indians offense was off and running. Utah football lucked out when chosen as one of the NCAA’s mandatory nationally televised teams. On November 26, 1953, the entire nation was treated to a barnburner as the Indians faced off against rival BYU. The 33-32 Utah victory was a see-saw battle that went down to the final second and it is believed that it was the excitement generated from that one game that earned Utah their big-break game against Army in ’57.
The Utes offense also earned them the attention of the University Of Washington’s freshman quarterback Lee Grosscup. Caught in the middle of intra-staff squabbling that caused a player revolt at Washington and the departure of many of their California based players, Grosscup gained acclaim in his first season of eligibility at Utah in 1957. The team’s charged offense heightened the interest of fans for the Army game where Utah would make its first east coast appearance. Curtice brought more than Grosscup with him as his backfield included 147 pound speedster Stuart Vaughan and future NFL great Larry Wilson. The 39-33 Utah loss was seen by most sportswriters as a powerful victory for the school, the Rockies, Grosscup, and Curtice.