As the climactic basketball match-up with No. 2 Gonzaga looms at the Marriott Center Thursday night, we can reflect on two other amazing nights, when the Cougars downed highly ranked teams in Provo. During the Stan Watts era, during my BYU years, it happened twice.
I came as a freshman to BYU in 1958 and made the freshman football team as a third-string quarterback. We played home games on the site of the Richards Building, with a capacity of 10,000 fans. The 1958 varsity team under Hal Kopp had a good year, and almost won the Skyline Conference championship.
But in Provo in those years, basketball was the real deal. The Smith Fieldhouse had a greater capacity than the football stadium, and the students and fans packed the place. BYU scheduled some great opponents in those years, and the 1958-59 season brought vaunted Kansas State, ranked No. 2 and led by All-American Bob Boozer, to the Cougars' home court. On that December night, BYU, led by two forwards from the state of Arizona, John Nicoll and Bob Skousen, soundly defeated the Wildcats, 77-68.
Fast-forward to 1965. The Cougars had lost John Fairchild, Mike Gardner and Bob Quinney to graduation but were still loaded with Neil Roberts, Steve Kramer, Craig Raymond, Dick Nemelka and Jeff Congdon. This 1965-66 team started the season with five straight wins, four times scoring more than 100 points, including defeats of Illinois, and Elvin Hayes led Houston.
St. Joseph's came to Provo, ranked No. 2 and loaded with bravado. Its star guard, Matt Goukas, declared, "If BYU scores 100 points on us, I will walk back to Philadelphia." As far as I know, he did not walk back, even though the Cougars trounced the Hawks, 103-83.
The 1965-66 Cougars ended the season with an NIT championship in New York City and that year defeated the aforementioned St. Joseph's (final ranking No. 6), the other Cougars (Houston), who finished No. 14, and No. 12 Utah twice (the last win was a 115-100 whipping the night I was unveiled as Cosmo).
The BYU team wound up ranked No. 19 in the Coaches Poll, but after the eventful December night and the St. Joseph's game win, the Cougars were ranked No. 3. Interestingly enough, the poll was published on my wedding day, Dec. 28, 1965. It was a nice wedding present, on that clear and beautiful Arizona day, and I was off to Mesa to wed the girl of my dreams, Kerry Doyle, just a little over 47 years ago.
Ken Driggs of Mesa, AZ is a BYU graduate and served as Cosmo in the '60's. Contact at firstname.lastname@example.org
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