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Saturday morning before Utah's game with Brigham Young, Curtice was relaxed as few coaches are so close to game time. He went out to watch his youngest son Jimmy quarterback a little league football team. The youngster completed two long passes, blocked well and came up like a determined, angry mouse to tackle on defense. Later in the day, talking to Jimmy, Curtice asked him about some of his quarterback calls.
"Well, sir," said Jimmy, who is a chunky smaller edition of his father, "one time, some guy stuck his thumb in my eye and I couldn't see so good. I didn't want to go out so I went on. I called a play but I couldn't see and I handed the ball to the wrong guy and he run 30 yards and I still couldn't see too good. I handed off to the wrong guy again and we scored."
"Shows the value of coaching," said Curtice gravely.
By game time Saturday night, Curtice was a little quieter, but still relaxed. He is a very knowledgeable coach and easily one of the most competent architects of football offense in the nation. His team was well prepared and Curtice seemed confident. Utah scored quickly on a tackle-eligible pass—a bit of legerdemain which allowed a 225-pound tackle named Evert Jones to catch a pass for the first touchdown of his life. Curtice, who is a tremendous showman on the sidelines, was quiet this night. His team was winning easily and he did not, as he has in the past, swoon dramatically over any of the officials' decisions or throw his big hat on the ground and jump on it or hurl himself on the ground. He watched Brigham Young unlimber a passing attack of its own and sent in an end to replace a sophomore who had been lax in pass coverage. In the seven years he has been at Utah, Curtice has changed the face of football in the Skyline Conference. Now all the teams play wide-open, pass-conscious football, and Curtice often is confronted with his own plays run at him by opposing coaches. Curtice enjoys the wholehearted respect of the coaching fraternity: he is a member of the Board of Trustees of the American Football Coaches Association, a member of the NCAA Rules Committee and, this year, head coach of the West team in the annual East-West Shrine game.
After the Brigham Young game, Curtice circulated among the sweating, boisterous youngsters in the dressing room. "Where's Slick Jones?" he hollered, looking for the tackle who had scored the first touchdown. Jones, a ponderous, beefy youngster, pushed through the players. "How's about making me an end, sir?" he asked. "Kokomo, you may be a halfback next week," Curtice said.
Later, in the lobby of the Hotel Utah, he accepted congratulations from dozens of well-wishers. Then, for the first time, his habitual good humor gave way for a moment.
A fan, hand outstretched, walked up to him. "I wouldn't have shaken hands with you last week [Utah lost]," he said, "but after tonight I will."
Curtice looked frosty.
"Mister," he said coldly, "I don't know what you do or how well you do it, so I'm not so sure I want to shake hands with you." He walked away.
The Skyline title could be decided when Utah plays Wyoming, although both, possibly looking ahead too far, were upset Saturday. Utah lost 12-7 to Denver; Wyoming was tied by Brigham Young 0-0. Wyoming, on the passing of Larry Zowada, has the kind of go-for-broke offense Curtice uses. Blame it on Cactus Jack Curtice.