A pall had fallen over University Stadium on the afternoon of Oct. 13, 1962.
Segried Hoyt was having none of it.
“We can still win this game,” Hoyt, the newly crowned University of New Mexico homecoming queen, told the Lobo faithful (and not so faithful) over the public address system at halftime.
Her optimism drew a mostly polite guffaw from the crowd. The Lobos, after all, were down 13-0 to visiting Utah State.
Certainly, a 13-point deficit was not insurmountable. But this was Utah State, unbeaten (4-0) and a regional power. And the Lobos (3-1) were coming off an embarrassing 16-14 loss in El Paso to a so-so UTEP team.
Yet, the Lobos made Hoyt a prophet. A fourth-and-6 Jim Cromartie-to-Bobby Santiago-to-Larry Jasper flea-flicker from the Utah State 22-yard line with 2:50 left in the game, plus Ed Meadows’ extra point, gave UNM a 14-13 homecoming victory.
The dramatic comeback, coupled with the quality of the opposition and the occasion – homecoming, 1962 – combine to make this game among the most memorable in UNM football history.
For these purposes, it’s No. 11 on our list this fall, with 10 more to come.
By any measure, the 1962 Lobos rank among the program’s best. En route to a record of 7-2-1, they captured the first-ever Western Athletic Conference title.
The Utah State victory, though, was without question the 1962 team’s finest moment – even though it wasn’t a conference game. The Utags, as they were commonly known, were not invited to join the new league despite having won the Skyline Conference title the previous two years.
As for that inaugural WAC title, the Lobos won it with a less-than-stellar league record of 2-1-1 – defeating Wyoming and Arizona, playing Utah to a 7-7 tie, then, with the title in their grasp, being dealt a stunning, 27-0 loss to a Brigham Young team that entered the game with a 2-5 record.
One might even say the Lobos backed into the title, since after the BYU debacle they needed the Cougars to beat Wyoming on Nov. 17. They obliged, beating the Cowboys 14-7.
And put an asterisk on the whole thing, since Western powerhouse and WAC charter member Arizona State was ineligible for the title that year. The Sun Devils were able to schedule only three WAC games.
All that aside, the Utah State victory was the centerpiece of a memorable season.
• Santiago, among the most popular UNM players ever. The Albuquerque High graduate rushed for 806 yards with an average of 5.3 yards per carry as a senior in 1962. He carried 15 times for 84 yards against Utah State.
Playing at about 155 pounds, Santiago doubled as a defensive back. As a sophomore in 1960, he blasted 205-pound Wyoming running back Jerry Hill, a future Baltimore Colt, and forced a fumble.
• Cromartie, a dual-threat quarterback from Quanah, Texas. A strong runner and the man in command of coach Bill Weeks’ Wing-T offense, Cromartie threw only 33 passes all that 1962 season and completed just 12. But one of the 12 was his 10-yard third-quarter TD pass to Jasper that ignited the UNM comeback.
• Jasper, a two-way end from West Virginia. A vicious tackler, his hit on Aggies quarterback Bill Munson – a future NFL player – caused a wobbly pass and a fourth-quarter, touchdown-saving interception by UNM linebacker Chuck Kelly.
From there, the Lobos launched a 96-yard touchdown drive that, Albuquerque Journal sports editor LeRoy Bearman wrote, “brought (UNM) one of the sweetest of all homecoming victories.”
• Fullback Bucky Stallings, Santiago’s running mate, who rushed for 575 yards on a 5.4-yard average in ’62. He rushed for 60 yards against Utah State.
• The defense: Jasper, linebacker Eddie Stokes, guard Jack Abendschan (a future Canadian Football League Hall of Famer), tackle John Kosor, defensive back Jim Ottmann (the future Sandia head coach), et al, held Munson & Co. scoreless in the second half.
Twice, the Lobo defense stopped the Aggies inside the UNM 10-yard line.
It’s fair to say that Lady Luck played a role as well. Utah State kicker Jim Turner (yes, another future NFL player) missed a second-quarter PAT as well as a 20-yard field goal just before halftime.
Still, New Mexico earned the victory. The Lobos outrushed the Aggies 238 to 197 and had 292 yards total offense to 264 for USU.
And in the end, the game came down to a gutsy play call and flawless execution.
On that fourth-and-6 play, with the game in the balance, Santiago went in motion and Cromartie – to this day, they’re the closest of friends – threw to him near the sideline. The Utah State defense, not realizing it was a lateral pass, rushed forward to make a tackle – leaving Jasper wide open in the end zone.
Santiago admits that, almost 58 years later, his memories are hazy.
“I don’t remember if it was a spiral or (end over end),” he said in a phone interview. “I remember that I just got it and threw it.”
His aim was true, and Jasper’s hands were sure.
A crowd announced at 28,236 celebrated.
And, one hopes, gave Segried Hoyt her due.