Commentary: Memorable BYU football moments in pre-Edwards era
BYUtv did a great job showing the 50 greatest plays in BYU football history. I would like to add some significant plays, games and moments in my lifetime before the historic LaVell Edwards coaching era began. One of those games came before my memory kicked in. On Oct. 10, 1942, the BYU football team accomplished something that had never happened before, and that was to defeat Utah.
My first memory of seeing BYU play in person came on Thanksgiving weekend in Arizona. Our family had driven from our home in northern California to spend the holiday weekend with our Driggs and Macdonald relatives, and we went to Goodwin Stadium on the ASU campus to see if the Cougars could slow down the Sun Devils' acclaimed and shifty running back, "Whizzer" White.
As a wide-eyed 7-year-old boy, I got to witness some of White's patented across-the-field reverses, but the Cougars prevailed, 27-25. White, who recently passed away, is the father of ASU and Dallas Cowboys quarterback Danny White and the grandfather of our own BYU star quarterback Max Hall. Hall was just named this week as a starter in the Canadian Football League.
After some lean years in the early ’50s, President Ernest L. Wilkinson brought in a non-LDS coach from the East, Hal Kopp. He brought some toughness as well as some tough players, including end Fred Whittingham, the father of current Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham. One fact that is not well know is that the 1957 Cougar team set a national record by recovering 32 of its opponents' fumbles (the 1977 BYU team trumped that record).
Kopp's signature win was the 14-7 triumph over Utah in 1958. In the early ’60s, Hal Mitchell came to BYU from UCLA and brought with him the single wing offense. Lithe and versatile tailback Eldon Fortie became an All American in 1962, and in his last game as a Cougar, he came off the bench with an arm injury and inspired and led BYU to a thrilling 14-7 win over Wyoming.
On an eventful and tragic day in November 1965, quarterback Virgil Carter led the Cougars to a big win at New Mexico and a WAC Conference championship. A plane crash that day cost the lives of many faithful BYU fans who were on their way to the game. During the 1966 season, Carter broke the NCAA record for total offense in a game with 599 yards against Texas Western, a record that stood for a number of years.
Current KSL broadcasting color commentator Marc Lyons led the Cougars to an upset win at Oregon State in 1967, but there was only one more winning season for coach Tommy Hudspeth until he was replaced by the legendary Edwards.
In those years, there were still some highlights, like NCAA leading punt returner Chris "The Galloping Greek" Farasopoulos carrying the Cougars to a homecoming win over Arizona in 1969, and linebacker Ron Tree stealing the pigskin from the Utah State quarterback and scoring a touchdown for another homecoming win the very next year. Flashy receiver and return specialist and future Dallas Cowboy Golden Richards set a yards per punt return record in a blowout win over North Texas State to begin the 1971 season.
Obviously with the advent of the Edwards regime, the highlights became more plentiful and more significant as the competition and exposure were raised to greater heights. Still the nostalgia for the old days remains and seems as vivid as ever.
Ken Driggs of Mesa, Ariz., is a BYU graduate and served as Cosmo in the ’60s. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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