Utah Fireplug’s Day
In the excited locker room, Utah Coach Jack Curtice grabbed a friend and said with surprise: "Haven't you ever seen him? Come on with me." He pulled the friend towards the showers and shouted inside for Fullback Lou Mele. As Mele stepped out of the steam, Curtice chuckled: "That's the kid. Look at him." Standing among his teammates, only five ft. six in. high, stubby legs, no trace of a neck, Lou Mele looked like a fire hydrant in a cluster of telephone poles. On the field he had looked like a giant.
He rushed with the ball 18 times. He gained 122 yards. He kicked off, converted a point, set up one touchdown and scored the second in Utah's 14-7 win over Wyoming. "I really felt like running today," he said afterwards. "It was the best game I ever played in my life."
Late in the second quarter Utah scooped a fumble on the Wyoming 31. Mele carried three times, gained 22 yards, and set up the score.
At the start of the final quarter, the fire hydrant exploded again, broke over right tackle, cut left through the Wyoming backfield and smashed 20 yards. The next play? Mele boomed over left tackle and down the sidelines for 21 more yards and the second Utah touchdown.
HICKMAN SAYS...BIG 7 AND SKYLINE
Utah now stands with Denver and Utah State in the Skyline Conference at two wins against one loss under Wyoming's 3 and 1. Jack Curtice's Utes have a way of coming through, so I'll have to stick with them until further notice for, at least, a slice of melon.
What I have in the Big Seven is not news. Slightly paraphrasing the Bard, the Sooners stride through the Big Seven like some huge colossus. The big question was and is, who will win the runner-up spot behind Oklahoma? The situation is a muddle. Missouri stands now with two wins against no losses. The team still has four conference games left. Any or all of its four remaining foes could beat Missouri, but at the present time it looks like best bet to win the bowl invitation. The only two teams out of the running are Iowa State and Kansas.
Link to this Issue, article on pg. 56
These Were the Stars
These are the men who gained recognition while their football feats resounded all over the Intermountain area, for they gained 1954 conference or national prestige.
A roll call includes: Dave Dungan, seventh leading passer in the nation; Don Henderson, blocker—extraordinary; Lou Mele, all-conference halfback; Max Pierce, speed, speed and more speed; Herb Nakken, crunching blocker, devastating runner; Orville Nellestein, at end, one of Utah’s greats; Tommy Thompson, guarding the forward outposts. (1955 Utonian Yearbook, pg. 221)
The Blog by DAMiller called "Countdown to 8.30.2007--The Thirty-Five Greatest University of Utah Football Games Ever" listed the Utah and BYU game of 1953 as #30:
#30: November 26, 1953 - Utah vs. BYU
HOW IS IT GREAT? In 1953, the NCAA selected a dozen football games to be aired nationally by NBC. The Utah-BYU game on Thanksgiving Day was one of those. This means that Ute fans living on the east coast were able to watch as many Utah football games back in 1953 than they will this season. I digress.
But by the time Thanksgiving rolled around, Utah was 7-2, had clinched the conference championship, and was favored to beat BYU (2-6-1) by 24 points. Nevertheless, America tuned in, and the game had to go on.
Just like is the case today, the Utah game is the highlight of every BYU season, and they typically outdo themselves whenever they play the Utes. That's exactly what happened in this game, and the Coogs were able to keep up with the Utes right up until they bungled a snap on a PAT at the end of the game.
The Cougars received most of the praise that day, as Zoobs will be quick to point out. But the fact of the matter is that Ute fans had the last word at office water coolers from LA to New York the following Monday. It was a real nailbiter in a big-time college football atmosphere, and I'm glad we got the W.
WHY #30? The close finish and national audience make this game one of the most significant in the Utah-BYU series. However, this game loses points in this countdown due to the fact that Utah was the heavy favorite, and could only escape with a 1-point win. Still, this is one game I would LOVE to get a video copy of, if for no other reason than to see the panoramic views of the Salt Lake Valley NBC shot from the Ute Stadium press box (see below).
• From the 2004 Football Media Guide:
"The Utah-BYU football game on Thanksgiving Day, 1953, was one of the earliest nationally televised games. It was the first of 12 games selected by the NCAA television committee for national broadcast in the 1953 season. An estimated 60 million people from coast-to-coast tuned into NBC and saw Utah edge BYU 33-32 in old Ute Stadium. Impressed with the beauty of Salt Lake City, NBC decided to mount two cameras on the press box to capture the panoramic views. Sportscaster Mel Allen handled the play-by-play and Lindsey Nelson did the color for the broadcast."
• Great quote by AncientUte about the game:
". . . And few would forget the Thanksgiving Day game between Utah and BYU in the late ‘50s that was broadcast to the whole nation (no regional coverage). The night before that game, Utah coach “Cactus Jack” Curtice drew up his offensive scheme on a napkin for the opposing coach, who turned around and used it against him the next day. The Utes won anyway."
AncientUte, July 16, 2004
WHAT THE PRESS HAD TO SAY:
By John Mooney
Salt Lake Tribune
November 27, 1953
The Cougars, who had beaten the Utes only once in their previous 28 games, lost a chance for a well-deserved tie in the closing minutes of the quarter when LaVon Satterfield lost the pass from center on the conversion attempt which would have tied the score.
But the Cougars, who dreamed of this one big upset as salve for a rugged season, were not to be granted their one Thanksgiving wish. The pass from center was a little wide, and Satterfield, hurried to get the ball down, saw it squirt from his grasp. He picked it up but it was smothered as he tried to run it across.
That drama was the curtain call for one of the more thrilling games in the long BYU-Utah series extending back to 1922.
It was like trying to put down one of those toys with a loaded base . . . every time the Utes knocked the Cougars down with a scoring play, the Cougars bobbed right back with one of their own.
It started out as a rout and wound up with everyone hanging on the ropes with wide-eyed awe at the offensive fireworks.
It took just over a minute for Utah to get its first touchdown, which was set-up by Don Peterson's 61-yard return of the opening kick-off. Little Pete was dragged down on the Cougar 17 by Satterfield, last man guarding pay dirt.
Jack Cross, a bulldozer in football togs, bulled for eight yards and Peterson swept left end for the tally. Automatic Lou Mele kicked the extra point for 7-0 lead.
Mele picked up 22 yards in two plays, but the Utes stalled with Mele kicking out of bounds on the Y 15. Then Satterfield started pitching strikes. He passed to Marion Probert for 9, then to Probert again for 11 to move to the Y 37. Reed Stalworthy split Utah's lack-luster defense for a 21-yard sortie to the Utah 42. Satterfield passed to Probert, who was dragged down at the Redskin 11. He passed again to Felt, who was run out of bounds on the Utah 1 and Don James bulled over. Meadows made this conversion to make it 7-7.
Don Rydalch, Utah's passing ace, couldn't get warmed up in the first quarter and his two incomplete passes killed off a Utah drive. Set Branham kicked out of bounds on the Y 25.
The Utes covered the 80 yards to the goal in 16 plays, with Jack Cross and Peterson carrying the mail. Cross took a Rydalch pass for 24 to move to the 45-yard line of Utah. Peterson and Cross alternated in carrying until they reached the one and Peterson drove over. Mele missed that one, but it was 13-7.
An 18-yard return by Felt of the kick off started the Cougars on their 76-yard touchdown drive which needed just 13 plays to score. Starting on the Y 45, Henry West started passing. He hit Dewey Brundage for a 22-yard pass. He picked out Phil Oyler for a 20-yarder. He connected with Felt for 10, and he was dropped on the one. Stolworthy spun off tackle for the score and Meadows missed his attempt to make it 13-13.
Utah received another break on the kickoff after the touchdown. As Mele kicked off, an official called a personal foul on BYU, which gave Utah possession of the ball on its 45-yard line. Again, the Utes didn't waste any time in converting the break into touchdown gold.
The big charge in this drive was a 46-yard pass from Rydalch to Paul Cook, who was stopped on the Y 10. The Cougars threw the Utes back to the 20-yard line, but on fourth down and 20, Rydalch picked out Max Pierce in the end zone for the score. Carter Cowley missed the conversion, but it was 26-13 for the Utes.
A 47-yard touchdown dash by James, after he had received a pitch out, put the Cougars back in the ball game in the last minute of the third period. Meadows missed the extra point attempt and it still was 26-19.
A good punt return by Oyler started BYU off again. The little reserve back scooted from the Y 45 to the utah 25 on Peterson's punt. James cut over guard for the final 10 yards and a touchdown. Meadows made this extra point good and it was knotted, 26-all.
But the Cougars weren't Mele kicked into the end zone. Felt's 30-yard run was the big gun as BYU moved to the Utah 32. West pitched a strike to Oyler and the little scooter out-raced the secondary in the dash for the end zone. That made it 33-32 and set the stage for BYU's ill-fated kick.
The game closed the season for both clubs and gave Utah a record of eight wins against two losses, in addition to its third straight Skyline championship.
Peterson and Cross were the Utah work horses in the backfield and Rydalch's passing was adequate when he warmed up. The play of Jim Durrant and Don Jensen offensively was outstanding. The Utes defensively played one of their worst games of the season.
Oregon 14……………..Utah 13
Idaho 13………………..Utah 20
Missouri 14………….…Utah 20
BYU 9……………….…Utah 41
Denver 7…………….….Utah 27
Wyoming 23…………...Utah 13
Colorado 37…………Utah 7
Colorado A & M 6…....Utah 27
USAC 13…………….Utah 14
Redskins styled football—fall 1955—with an architecture all its own. Redskins...the varsity squad numbered fifty-three talented Sophomores who made up more than half the team...the fewer but well seasoned Juniors...plus the strong seniors, two of whom were picked for all-star games...there’s was the Skyline second...only because the Utes played fewer conference games...their’s was-the impressive 6 win—3 loss record, won at the expense of Missouri, Denver, Idaho and Colorado A & M When critics said no—impossible...they were the reason for a new attendance record; For the “Utes” wanted to see this team.
The coaching staff...five men who worked the varsity—four who trained the freshmen—nine men who directed the the machinery of Redskin teamwork forward. (1956 Utonian Yearbook, pg. 131)
Lou’s first coaching position was at Uintah High School in Vernal, Utah where he lived with his young growing family. There he coached the football, wrestling, baseball and track teams throughout the seven years he lived there before moving back to Price, Utah and taking a coaching and teaching position at Carbon High School.
1964 State Wrestling Champs display trophy and medals. Front row: Joe Davis, Ken Jenkins, Bob Pope, Kent McCurdy, Dennis Montgomery, Norman Powell. Back row: Coach Louis Mele, Philip Hardy, Thomas Bingham, Bill Wardle, Milton Billings, Doug Hacking, Principal Leland G. Rex.
Uintah High School champion wrestlers display the region trophy they won. Left to right: Coach Louis Mele, Dennis Montgomery, Kent McCurdy, Ken Jenkins, Doug Hacking, Norman Powell, Billie Wardle, Thomas Bingham, Kenny Stringham, Bob Downard, Milton Billings, Phillip Hardy.
Uintah High School wrestling Coach Louis Mele and co-captains, Kent McCurdy and Denny Stringham admire the region trophy received by the team.
Dennis Montgomery, right, coaches Greg and Louis, sons of Coach Louis Mele, on finer points of wrestling.