With the advent of a Western Michigan versus BYU contest in the Idaho Potato Bowl, a vivid memory of the two combatants comes to mind.
In the fall of 1964, newly hired BYU football coach Tommy Hudspeth was attempting to put together a good program that could compete in the fledgling Western Athletic Conference. Sophomore quarterback Virgil Carter was destined to have a spectacular career at BYU, but there would be a few bumps along the way. By the time the Cougars were preparing to meet the Western Michigan Broncos at Cougar Stadium in mid-November, BYU had only won two games all season.
One of the wins had been an upset of the Utah State Aggies, a team that had lost two games or less in each of its of its four previous seasons. The euphoria of that win over Utah State was dampened the next week when the Utah Utes trounced the Cougars 47-13. The Utes went to the Liberty Bowl in Atlantic City, New Jersey, that year and destroyed the West Virginia Mountaineers, 32-6.
The Western Michigan game loomed as an opportunity for a win and to reestablish confidence that the program was heading in the right direction. On game day for the Broncos-Cougars faceoff, the weather was miserable. It was freezing cold with some snow flurries. It was a blustery mid-November day, and bundling up for the game was a necessity.
I was a public administration graduate student at BYU, and had a date with my girlfriend Kerry Doyle for the game. I was willing to brave the weather conditions just to witness a win. My date was not so sure. The game started out great for the Cougars, and the team led the Broncos 23-0 at halftime. I was excited to witness the dominance by the Cougars offensively and defensively. It was all that I could hope for as a fan. Except for one thing: my date was freezing.
We watched as many student fans and even the BYU band left after the halftime performance. I was torn between being comfortable and listening to my girlfriend's concerns, or watching history in the making. We stayed through the second half and witnessed fullback John Ogden score four touchdowns for the game. The team stuffed the Broncos offense, holding Western Michigan to 19 net total yards for the game in a 43-8 Cougar victory.
As we sat at JB's (Bob's Big Boy chain) eating hamburgers after the game, my girlfriend commented that her feet were so cold that she worried that it might be frostbite. That story has been repeated many times over the years to my family and friends, and I began to understand how I possibly could jeopardize our future marriage by being an overzealous fan. Our six children are testament to the fact that the incident didn't have tragic consequences.Comment on this story
That Western Michigan game was a portent of what was soon to come for the program. A year later BYU won the Western Athletic Conference championship, the first in history of many that would come to the program. Storied BYU coach LaVell Edwards was on Hudspeth's staff, and we got to reminisce about the 1965 team at the 50-year reunion of the WAC championship at the East Carolina-BYU game in 2015.
It looks like the Western Michigan-BYU bowl game will be played in cold conditions on the Boise State Broncos blue turf field. Cougars fans be pulling for another dominant showing, as well as dressing warmly enough to weather the cold. I would take a 43-8 win anytime, no matter the conditions, but my wife would have to erase a still-vivid personal memory.