Appropriately enough, today's Utah-Utah State football game will take place in Logan. It isn't every Saturday that two schools have a chance to simultaneously celebrate 100 years of trying to beat each other into oblivion on the gridiron. When they do, it seems proper that they should get as close to a re-creation as possible.
The Aggies and the Utes first met 100 years ago on a field in Logan. According to sketchy historical accounts of what was to be a momentous occasion, it was the University of Utah's idea, which leaves unanswered the question as to just why it was that the Ute 11 had to travel.As legend as it, a group of hip, in-the-know students at the University of Utah decided that by 1892 it was high time for the school to follow the lead of the colleges in the East and field its own football team. A squad was organized, team colors were chosen (red, brown and white), and uniforms were made.
There was only one problem.
Nobody else had a team.
The Utes issued challenges to the state's other institutions of higher learning. The Brigham Young Academy in Provo hadn't yet organized an athletic association and wasn't interested. The L.D.S. College in Salt Lake City disapproved of a sport as barbaric as football and turned the other cheek.
But the students of the Agricultural College in Logan said OK.
The game was scheduled for Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 24, 1892, at 3:30 in the afternoon. When a blizzard hit Cache Valley that day, the game was rescheduled to the next day.
The schools had taken different approaches in getting ready for the first college football game to be played in the Territory of Utah.
The Utes studied the skills of Yale and Princeton and Army and practiced tirelessly. They played two warmup scrimmages against a team from the Salt Lake City YMCA. They lost the first game by a 4-0 score (touchdowns were worth four points then) and won the second, 4-0, on a touchdown by team captain and fullback Alan Cunningham.
The Aggies, meanwhile, went around their campus and assembled the 11 biggest students they could find. The biggest of them, Frank Olsen, a giant of the times at 225 pounds, was named team captain. Saving their strength, the Ags played no warmup games.
The day of the game dawned cold and clear. The Utah team, dressed coordinatedly in white jerseys, red socks and brown pants, looked like a sure winner. No two players on the A.C. team were dressed alike.
But then the game began and for the first time, but not the last, the axiom was proved: "The contest doesn't always go to the biggest and the strongest, but that's the way to bet."
The Utes were seriously out-weighed. Finesse wasn't getting them anywhere. Their quarterback, Seth Thomas, did manage a long run but he paid for it when he was pounced on by the Aggies' Olsen, whose tackle was deemed excessive enough by referee W.P. Cutter to earn him the ignominy of becoming the first football player in Utah collegiate history to get kicked out of a game.
No matter. Even without their captain, the Aggies were in good shape. As the Logan Journal wrote it: "The war waxed warm. The University fought hard and made some good plays, but the College knew how to do it. Back and forth the two teams surged and the excitement grew apace. Blood flowed, mud splashed and hearts fluttered. To the unsophisticated spectator it might have been taken for a rough and tumble fight. Finally the game ended and the score was announced with many cheers for the victorious students of the Agricultural College."
The Agriculturalists had prevailed 12-0. They got their first touchdown on a run by right guard George Garff. Olsen kicked the conversion (worth two points). Their second touchdown came just before the end of the game in a swarm play so tightly bunched no one knew exactly who had the ball. Claude Raybould added the conversion.
And that was that. The A.C. ended the season undefeated, untied and unscored-on. The Utes ended the season realizing they needed bigger guys.
Neither school fielded a team in 1893. The Utes regrouped in 1894 and have been in the football business ever since. The Aggies didn't field another team until 1896, then took off the 1897 season, and finally began a program in earnest in 1898.
The Utes and Aggies didn't meet again on the gridiron until 1900 in Salt Lake City - where the Utes won 21-0. The schools have played virtually every season since. Only four intercollegiate series in the nation - Army-Navy, Purdue-Indiana, Minnesota-Wisconsin and Missouri-Kansas - date back further. Today's game will be the 90th between the schools in their century-old rivalry.
For some reason, the Utes have dominated. Going into today's centennial game, they own a 58-27-4 all-time advantage. If Frank Olsen really was a dirty player, the Aggies have spent the better part of a century paying off his debt.