Utah and WVU clash today in the Heart of Dallas Bowl. It’s actually a rematch, albeit one from more than five decades ago.
The two teams have met just once before – Dec. 19, 1964, at the Liberty Bowl inside the Atlantic City Convention Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Utah won the game easily, 32-6, and Mountaineer fans that were alive to see it have been asking for a rematch ever since. OK, maybe not, but 53 years later, the rematch will happen.
The First (and only) meeting
Neither offense had much going in the first quarter, but Utah opened up a big lead in the second, taking a 19-0 advantage into the locker room.
West Virginia didn’t get off to any better start in the second half, allowing a 47-yard touchdown run to Andy Ireland, giving the Utes a 25-point lead.
WVU’s only touchdown of the game came on a 15-yard pitch and catch between Allen McCune and Milt Clegg late in the third quarter. But another long score in the fourth quarter sealed the 32-6 victory for Utah.
The game was the first major college football bowl game played indoors, and the only one ever played in Atlantic City.
When that game was played Lyndon B. Johnson was in his first term as president, and three countries – Malawi, Malta, and Zambia – had just gained their independence from the United Kingdom.
Hawaii and Alaska had only been states for five years, and the WVU Coliseum, Milan Puskar Stadium and the campus’s Personal Rapid Transit system had yet to be built.
The year of 1964 was a star-studded year for birthdays, with the likes of Russell Crowe, Rob Lowe, Michelle Obama, Nicolas Cage, Courtney Cox and Stephen Colbert all being born that year.
Leading up to the second meeting
Since the two teams met, West Virginia has appeared in 30 bowl games, winning twelve of them. Over that same time period, Utah has accepted invitations to 18 bowls, and walked away victorious from fourteen of them, including each of the last four.
This year the Mountaineers were just one-game better during the regular season but fared much better against conference foes.
Utah, which started the season 4-0, lost each of its next four games, including two by at least 20 points.
Meanwhile, West Virginia got off to a 3-1 start and stayed above .500 with a comeback-victory over then-No. 24 Texas Tech. However, the Mountaineers were just 2-3 over their final five contests, with two of the three losses coming at home.
Of course, the biggest loss was quarterback Will Grier. With Grier leading the way, The Mountaineers were the far-superior passing team this season, though the two universities were nearly identical when it came to running the football. WVU, however, will be without Justin Crawford, who is skipping the bowl to prepare for the NFL draft.
The Utes were much stingier on defense, giving up nearly 100 yards fewer per game on the ground than the Mountaineers. Utah ranks 32nd in the nation in terms of total defense.