SALT LAKE CITY — Saturday’s Utah-Arizona game rekindled memories of perhaps the greatest comeback in Utah history 40 years ago this month when the Utes beat the Wildcats 28-27.
In that November game in 1972, Utah trailed Arizona 27-0 going into the fourth quarter. Many of the 19,236 fans at Rice Stadium had already headed for the exits when Utah staged its improbable comeback.
As a newspaper account the following day read, “Utah was a soundly whipped football team when the fourth quarter opened with Arizona coasting with a 27-0 lead.”
The Utes were in their own territory when quarterback Don Van Galder threw a 53-yard strike to Steve Odom, who bobbled the ball before pulling it in for a touchdown. A little over two minutes later, Van Galder and Odom hooked up again for a 35-yard TD pass to make it 27-14 with 12:29 left.
After Arizona held the ball for five minutes and missed a field goal try, Utah couldn’t sustain a drive and turned the ball over with six minutes left.
Although the Utes had no timeouts left with less than five minutes left, the Wildcats committed a blunder when quarterback Bill Demory audibled for a pass, which was intercepted by Utah’s Steve Marshall and returned 68 yards for a touchdown to make it 27-21 with 4:19 left.
The Utes forced a punt with 2:20 left and drove 72 yards for the game-winning scores as Van Galder ran around the right end on a 2-yard keeper with 10 seconds left. That tied the score at 27, and Flemming Jensen’s PAT kick gave the Utes the astonishing victory.
SENIOR DAY: Twenty-five seniors were honored just before the kickoff for their final home games as Utes.
Ten of the seniors were part of the unbeaten 2008-09 team, most as redshirts, including DeVonte Christopher, Boo Andersen, Patrick Greene, Dave Kruger, Ryan Lacy, Luke Matthews, Kendrick Moeai, Sean Sellwood, Tevita Stevens and Reggie Topps.
Other seniors honored included Sam Brenner, Reggie Dunn, Dave Fagergren, Lorenzo Ford, Jon Hays, Moe Lee, Star Lotulelei, Miles Mason, Max Moala, Joape Pela, Coleman Peterson, Dallin Rogers, David Rolf, Lewis Walker and John White.
UTE NOTES: Star Lotulelei, who came into the game tied for first in the Pac-12 in fumble recoveries and tied for sixth in the nation, recovered his fourth fumble of the season in the first quarter. The Utes also recovered an Arizona fumble with 33 seconds left in the first half at the Utah 7-yard line. DeVonte Christopher, who hadn’t played much since the UCLA game in mid-October, caught a 42-yard pass from Travis Wilson in the first quarter on a flea-flicker play. Wilson handed off to John White, who pitched back to Wilson. Christopher also caught a 36-yard touchdown pass from Wilson in the third quarter. Neither team punted in the first half. Utah converted on one of three fourth-down tries, while Arizona was unsuccessful on its fourth-down try. Attendance was 45,031, the 18th straight official sellout, although there were a few thousand empty seats on the rainy evening. The Utes and Wildcats had played 37 times before this year with Utah winning 20 and two games ending in ties. The last Ute loss to Arizona came in 2002 in Tucson. The last Arizona win in Salt Lake came in 2000 in a 17-3 victory. Utah beat Arizona 16-13 in the 1994 Freedom Bowl. The Utes wore black helmets and black pants to go with their red home jerseys. Arizona won the opening coin toss and elected to receive the kickoff rather than defer as most teams do. Utah concludes its regular season Friday at Colorado.
Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company