Charting UCLA Head Coach Babe Horrell’s Man-In-Motion Offense In Action Against Washington State

ucla-42-fearsWithout a doubt, it is all very well and good to read up on the so-called “Man-In-Motion” offensive scheme that EDWIN “BABE” HORRELL installed at the beginning of his first season as UCLA Bruins head coach in 1939.

But, as would certainly be expected, it is far more enlightening to be able to actually see UCLA’s sensational combination of left halfback KENNY WASHINGTON and right halfback JACKIE ROBINSON operating this particular system out of the Bruins’ contemporary standard Carlisle Single Wing formation with one’s very own eyes.

So, in this regard, the YouTube video showing the entire UCLA vs Washington State contest from the 1939 NCAA football season is nothing short of an absolute historical treasure to be enjoyed to the fullest potential.

Those unfamiliar with the terms such as “standard Carlisle Single Wing formation” and “UCLA’s Man-In-Motion offensive scheme” might like to review the following in-depth articles already presented here at this blog :

http://lvironpigs.wordpress.com/04/11/understanding-ucla-single-wing-football-the-positions/

http://lvironpigs.wordpress.com/05/09/understanding-ucla-single-wing-football-man-in-motion-offensive-scheme/

Despite having to wait until the last quarter to finally break the game open on the way to a lopsided 24-7 victory, the UCLA Bruins, for the most part, were able to move the football all night long while piling up a season-high 413 yards worth of total offense against the overmatched Washington State Cougars, who could not cope with all the different offensive possibilities that Horrell’s “Man-In-Motion” look presented. The Bruins were particularly effective on the ground against the Cougars as UCLA ball carriers gained 304 yards, with Robinson (136 yrds) and Washington (81 yrds) accounting for a combined 217 yards rushing all by themselves. Of course, the versatile Washington was also able to toss the football forward on behalf of the Bruins with great success as the speed of Robinson and left end WOODY STRODE, each of whom scored on passing plays that were both designed and executed well, proved to be something that the Washington State defensive secondary just could not cope with.

Charting UCLA Offense vs Washington State Defense
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1st half ….. 27 offensive plays … 17 “Man-In-Motion” times … 62.96% usage
2nd half … 41 offensive plays … 26 “Man-In-Motion” times … 63.41% usage
total ……… 68 offensive plays … 43 “Man-In-Motion” times … 63.24% usage

In an obvious effort to address the threat of either the right halfback Robinson taking the pigskin on a sweep around the left end after starting in motion in the Bruins backfield before the snap or the left halfback Washington carrying the football on a sweep around the right end after faking a handoff first, the Cougars unveiled a new 5-3-2-1 defensive formation for the night contest with UCLA at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

At the end of the evening, Washington State’s tactics appeared to have mattered little with the Bruins having exceeded three hundred yards rushing for the first time in nine games that season. UCLA ran their right halfback on the reverse around the left end a total of ten times for 148 yards, with Robinson carrying the ball on four occasions in each half and understudy RAY BARTLETT, another transfer from Pasadena Junior College, also lugging the pigskin twice. By the end of the contest, the middle of the Cougars line had begun to soften considerably as evidenced by the fact that Bruins starting fullback BILL OVERLIN was held to a mere eight yards on six carries in the first half but, in the second half, a trio of UCLA substitute fullbacks led by sophomore LEO CANTOR picked up a combined total of 47 yards on ten runs between the tackles.

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1939 UCLA vs Washington State On You Tube – Bruins’ Play By Play, For Your Viewing Convenience

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BRUINS – 1st possession, 1st quarter
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kickoff returned for 23 yards by # 13 – K. Washington to UCLA 27
# 13 … K. Washington …… 5 yard run over right tackle
# 13 … K. Washington …… 6 yard run over center/guard
# 5 ….. B. Overlin ………….. 1 yard run over left tackle
# 5 ….. B. Overlin ………….. 6 yard net punt (partially blocked) to UCLA 45

BRUINS – 2nd possession, 1st quarter
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pass interception returned 16 yards by # 55 – N. Matthews to UCLA 18
# 28 … J. Robinson ………. 11 yard run on reverse around left end
# 5 ….. B. Overlin …………. 0 yard run over left tackle
# 13 … K. Washington …… pass incomplete
# 13 … K. Washington …… 10 yard run ; punt formation, snap to ‘up back’
# 5 ….. B. Overlin …………. 2 yard run up middle (direct snap)
# 13 … K. Washington …… 1 yard run over right tackle
# 28 … J. Robinson ……….. 9 yard run on reverse around left end
# 13 … K. Washington …… 5 yard run, sweep around right end
# 27 … W. Strode ………….. 44 yard TD pass from # 13 – K. Washington

BRUINS – 3rd possession, 2nd quarter
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fumble recovered by unknown Bruins player; ball on UCLA 20
# 13 … K. Washington …… 3 yard run up the middle
# 55 … N. Matthews ………. 4 yard run up middle (direct snap) – fumble lost

BRUINS – 4th possession, 2nd quarter
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kickoff returned for 19 yards by # 13 – K. Washington to UCLA 26
# 13 … K. Washington …… 2 yard run, sweep around right end
# 5 ….. B. Overlin ………….. 3 yard run off left tackle
# 13 … K. Washington …… 12 yard run, sweep around right end
# 13 … K. Washington …… 5 yard loss after fumbled snap recovered
# 27 … W. Strode ………….. 12 yard pass from # 13 – K. Washington
# 13 … K. Washington ……. pass incomplete
# 5 ….. B. Overlin ………….. 25 yard net punt to Wash St 25

BRUINS – 5th possession, 2nd quarter
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punt out of bounds, start on Wash St 38
# 28 … J. Robinson ……….. 4 yard loss on reverse around left end
# 45 … C. Fenenbock …….. 0 yard run off right tackle
# 45 … C. Fenenbock ……… pass intercepted, returned to Wash St 47

BRUINS – 6th possession, 2nd quarter
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punt returned for 13 yards by # 28 – J. Robinson to UCLA 35
# 28 … J. Robinson ……….. 12 yard run on reverse around left end
# 5 ….. B. Overlin ………….. 2 yard run off left tackle
# 5 ….. B. Overlin ………….. 0 yard run up middle
# 45 … C. Fenenbock ……… pass incomplete
# 45 … C. Fenenbock ……… 51 yard net punt, touchback

BRUINS – 7th possession, 3rd quarter
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kickoff of bounds, start on UCLA 35
# 2 ….. L. Cantor ……………. 2 yard run off left tackle
# 13 … K. Washington ……. 6 yard run, sweep around right end … (the Bruins’ star left halfback actually gained 28 yards on the play, itself, but a 15-yard penalty was marked off from the UCLA 43, thus, for statistical purposes, resulting in a net gain of six yards before the infraction)
# 13 … K. Washington ……. 13 yard run, sweep around right end
# 9 ….. R. Bartlett ………….. 20 yard run on reverse around left end
# 13 … K. Washington ……. 1 yard loss, sweep around right end
# 9 ….. R. Bartlett ………….. 8 yard loss on reverse around left end
# 13 … K. Washington …….. pass incomplete
# 2 ….. L. Cantor …………….. 37 yard net punt to Wash St 11

BRUINS – 8th possession, 3rd quarter
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punt returned 7 yards by # 9 – R. Bartlett to UCLA 42
# 13 … K. Washington ……. 11 yard loss, sacked while attempting to pass
# 27 … W. Strode …………… 12 yard pass from # 13 – K. Washington
# 13 … K. Washington …….. pass incomplete
# 2 ….. L. Cantor …………….. 39 yard net punt to Wash St 18

BRUINS – 9th possession, 3rd quarter
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punt returned 8 yards by # 9 – R. Bartlett to UCLA 44
# 2 ….. L. Cantor …………….. 5 yard run off left tackle
# 13 … K. Washington …….. 1 yard loss, sweep to the right
# 2 ….. L. Cantor …………….. 0 yard run off left tackle
# 2 ….. L. Cantor …………….. 38 yard net punt to Wash St 14

BRUINS – 10th possession, 3rd quarter (into next period)
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punt out of bounds, start on UCLA 18
# 28 … J. Robinson …………. 12 yard run reverse around left end
# 13 … K. Washington …….. 5 yard run, sweep around right end
# 2 ….. L. Cantor …………….. 9 yard run up middle
# 2 ….. L. Cantor …………….. 14 yard run up middle
# 13 … K. Washington …….. 8 yard run up middle
# 13 … K. Washington …….. 7 yard run over right guard
# 2 ….. L. Cantor …………….. 1 yard run off left tackle
# 13 … K. Washington …….. 5 yard loss, sweep around right end
# 2 ….. L. Cantor …………….. 5 yard run off left tackle
# 28 … J. Robinson …………. 26 yard TD pass from # 13 – K. Washington

BRUINS – 11th possession, 4th quarter
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punt returned 11 yards by # 28 – J. Robinson to UCLA 43
# 28 … J. Robinson …………. 30 yard run on reverse around left end
# 13 … K. Washington …….. 22 yard run, sweep around right end
# 13 … K. Washington …….. 7 yard loss on botched handoff – fumble lost

BRUINS – 12th possession, 4th quarter
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pass interception returned 12 yards by # 55 – N. Matthews to Wash St 20 but penalty on Bruins assessed at the end of the play; ball on Wash St 37
# 13 … K. Washington …….. 2 yard run up middle
# 13 … K. Washington …….. 1 yard run, sweep around right end
# 28 … J. Robinson …………. 34 yard TD run on reverse around left end

BRUINS – 13th possession, 4th quarter
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fumble recovered by unknown Bruins player, ball on UCLA 40
# 13 … K. Washington …….. 3 yard run up middle
# 4 ….. D. Hesse ……………… 5 yard run off left tackle
# 4 ….. D. Hesse ……………… 3 yard run up middle
# 28 … J. Robinson …………. 32 yard run on reverse around left end
# 45 … C. Fenenbock ………. 12 yard run, delay up middle
(five-yard penalty on Bruins, perhaps delay of game; ball on UCLA 10)
# 45 … C. Fenenbock ………. 0 yard run off right tackle
(five-yard penalty on Bruins, ball on Wash St 15 … Fenenbock rolled out to his right and threw a jump pass which landed incomplete at the back of the end zone, perhaps there was offensive holding or pass interference on the play)
# 45 … C. Fenenbock ……….. pass incomplete
# 45 … C. Fenenbock ……….. pass incomplete
# 41 … J. Mitchell ……………. 15 yard TD pass from # 45 – C. Fenenbock

BRUINS – 14th possession, 4th quarter
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punt out of bounds, ball on UCLA 27
# 25 … D. Gilmore …………….. 2 yard run, sweep around right end
# 25 … D. Gilmore …………….. 2 yard run off left tackle
# 3 ….. J. Zaby ………………….. 3 yard run up middle (direct snap)
end of game

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Historic Occasion For UCLA’s Ishmael Adams

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By returning an interception 20 yards for a touchdown against the Virginia Cavaliers in the season opener, UCLA Bruins cornerback ISHMAEL ADAMS became just the sixth player in school history since 1928 (the year that the Westwood warriors joined the Pacific Coast Conference) to have ever returned an interception as well as a kickoff or a punt for a touchdown over the course of an entire collegiate career.

However, prior to Thursday night’s contest in Tempe versus the host Arizona State Sun Devils, no football player in UCLA Bruins school history since 1928 had ever managed to return both an interception as well as a kickoff or a punt for touchdowns in the very same game!

Enter the homegrown junior defensive back from Woodland Hills who led UCLA during the 2013 NCAA campaign with four interceptions while also averaging an impressive 35.0 yards on ten kickoff returns after taking on that role late in the season. With less than twenty seconds remaining to be played in the first half, Arizona State were marching for a go-ahead touchdown which, with a successful extra point kick, would have left the Sun Devils ahead by four points. But Adams picked off a pass thrown over the middle, alertly picked up his blockers while cutting to his left and then embarked on a spectacular 95-yard return down the left sidelines that stretched UCLA’s lead to 27-17.

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NCAA Football: UCLA at Arizona State
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Arizona State, who came into the game ranked # 15 in the country by the Associated Press, added a field goal to pull within two touchdowns early in the third quarter. But, on the ensuing kickoff, Adams served immediate notice on behalf of the # 11 ranked Bruins indicating that there would, indeed, be no way back for the Sun Devils on this particular occasion. Accepting the football five yards deep on the extreme right side of his own end zone, the explosive UCLA cornerback swung all the way over to the left side and then executed a fabulous stop-start move which, in large part, made the whole return possible.

Another key to the sensational runback which essentially slammed the door on Arizona State while propelling UCLA to its convincing 62-27 victory over the Sun Devils was the crushing block delivered at the Bruins 34-yard line :

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2211428-uclas-ishmael-adams-returns-a-kickoff-100-yards-for-a-td-vs-arizona-state

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UCLA cornerback ISHMAEL ADAMS became the 11th player to score the Bruins’ 14th kickoff return touchdown in school history since 1928. Only five of those fourteen kickoff return touchdowns have covered a distance of 100 yards or more. The NCAA does not take into consideration where the return man catches the ball in the end zone and always lists any interception or kickoff which goes the distance as a 100-yard return in its official record books.
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As far as this blog is aware, the longest kickoff return for touchdown in UCLA school history previously occurred when AL HOISCH went 103 yards against the University of Illinois in the 1947 Rose Bowl Game on New Year’s Day.

http://lvironpigs.wordpress.com/2014/06/16/all-time-kickoff-returns-for-touchdowns/

It is an undeniable fact that none of the other five UCLA Bruins players who were able to return both a kick/punt as well as an interception/fumble for touchdowns in their respective collegiate careers are not even close to matching Ishamel Adams in terms of yardage.

UCLA BRUINS – Average Yards Per Touchdown Return,
Longest Kickoff/Punt & Longest Interception/Fumble Combined
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97.5 avg – Ishmael ADAMS …… (kick & int vs vs Arizona State ’14)
71.5 avg – Darryl HENLEY ……. (punt vs San Diego St ’88, fum vs Arizona ’86)
70.0 avg – George FORSTER … (kick vs Stanford ’28, fum vs Cal Tech ’28)
68.0 avg – Johnny ROESCH ….. (punt vs USC ’44, int vs St. Mary’s ’44)
47.0 avg – Ryan ROQUES ……… (punt vs Washington ’98, int vs Houston ’98)
40.5 avg – Joe SABOL …………… (int vs Purdue ’50, punt vs Wisconsin ’52)

(Note — Henley had three punt returns for touchdowns in his UCLA career and, accordingly, the longest runback was selected for this comparison)

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Two Birds With One Stone : Scouting 1939 USC vs Washington State Game Available On YouTube

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USC Trojans star quarterback GRENVILLE LANSDELL, the two-time consensus First Team All-Pacific Coast honoree who exceeded 100 yards rushing in five of his team’s ten regular season contests during the 1939 NCAA campaign and was then the tenth overall player taken in the 1940 National Football League Draft when chosen in the first round by the New York Giants, hammers the ball across the goal line to score a touchdown in the first quarter of the Pacific Coast Conference clash with the visiting Washington State Cougars at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in early October, 1939.
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The can be little doubt that on October 7th, 1939 — a date on which the UCLA football team, itself, was up in Seattle playing against the University of Washington Huskies — Bruins head coach BABE HORRELL still left a trusted associate (or perhaps maybe more) sitting in the stands at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in order to take a few notes as the arch-rival USC TROJANS tangled with the WASHINGTON STATE COUGARS in an early-season Pacific Coast Conference engagement.

As it was, the Washington State Cougars and the cross-town adversary USC Trojans just so happened to be the last two football teams that the were on the regular season schedule of the UCLA Bruins in 1939.

Thanks to the Manuscripts, Archives & Special Collections department of the Washington State University Libraries, many of the Cougars’ varsity football games from the 1939 NCAA season are available for viewing pleasure via the magic of YOUTUBE and the Washington State vs Southern California contest in Los Angeles would be no exception :

http://www.youtube.com

(search – “Southern California vs Washington State College, 1939″)

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SOUTHERN CAL vs WASHINGTON STATE
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The mighty USC TROJANS, the defending Rose Bowl champions who had been held to a draw by the Oregon Ducks to open their 1939 NCAA campaign the previous, had entirely too much size, speed and depth for the visiting WASHINGTON STATE COUGARS in this early-season Pacific Coast Conference encounter at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles.

Despite being held in check throughout most of the first half, thanks, in part, to a 63-yard Washington State quick kick on third down that left the Trojans to start a drive on their own three-yard line early in the game, USC came out strong in the second half and thoroughly dominated. In the end, the Trojans finished with an impressive 283 yards rushing and four unanswered touchdowns on the ground. The secret to USC’s success could easily be found at the line of scrimmage — the Trojans’ front seven outweighed their counterparts for the Cougars by an average of more than nineteen pounds per player.

The most important cog in the USC machine, senior quarterback GRENVILLE LANSDELL, was almost unstoppable in gaining 114 yards by land (7.6 avg, 2 tds) while adding another 58 yards through the air against Washington State … Viewers watching the contest on YouTube will want to remember that, in the terminology used by Trojans head coach HOWARD JONES, the backfield player referred to as the “Quarterback” in USC’s version of the standard Carlisle Single Wing formation is the same exact positional player in the backfield known as the “Left Halfback” in the standard Carlisle Single Wing formation that was used by countless college & professional football teams in the late 1930s including the Washington State Cougars (and, of course, the UCLA Bruins).

Viewers might also find it interesting to observe that, in the second half, Washington State ran five of its paltry total of nine offensive plays from what modern football fans would recognize as a standard punt formation.

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USC Trojans fullback BILL SANGSTER, the undersized senior (5’10” 170 lbs) from San Gabriel who recovered a Washington State fumble at the start of the third quarter and then, fittingly, carried the football over goal line for a touchdown on the ensuing drive, hurdles into the end zone from a yard out during the lopsided Pacific Coast Conference tussle with the Cougars at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on October 7th, 1939.
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USC TROJANS 27 – WASHINGTON STATE COUGARS 0

Game Statisitics
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net total yardage …………………….. USC 352, Wash St 65
first downs ……………………………… USC 18, Wash St 1
net rushing yards …………………….. USC 283, Wash St 31
net passing yards …………………….. USC 69, Wash St 34
passes completed / attempted ….. USC 7/14, Wash St 3/13
passes intercepted by ………………. USC 3, Wash St 0
fumbles recovered by ………………. USC 1, Wash St 0
punts / average ………………………… USC 7 – 32.0 , Wash St 10 – 44.0
kick & punt return yards …………… USC 78, Wash St 97
penalty yardage lost …………………. USC 50, Wash St 5

scoring plays
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1st qtr : TROJANS 7-0
Grenville LANSDELL 1 yard run (Phil GASPAR kick)
3rd qtr : TROJANS 13-0
Bill SANGSTER 1 yard run (kick failed)
3rd qtr : TROJANS 20-0
Grenville LANSDELL 39 yard run (Phil GASPAR kick)
4th qtr : TROJANS 27-0
Jerry BOWMAN 6 yard run (Bob DE LAUER kick)

USC net rushing
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QB – # 78 … Grenville LANSDELL ……. 15 att ….. 114 yrd …. 2 tds
QB – # 31 … Bob BERRYMAN ………….. 13 att …… 55 yrd
FB – # 21 …. Bob PEOPLES ………………… 7 att …… 31 yrd
FB – # 33 …. Jack BANTA ………………….. 7 att …… 30 yrd
QB – # 40 … Doyle NAVE …………………. 10 att ….. 24 yrd
QB – # 18 …. Jerry BOWMAN …………….. 2 att …… 18 yrd ….. 1 td
FB – # 27 …. Bill SANGSTER ………………. 5 att …… 16 yrd ….. 1 td
RH – # 28 … Bob ROBERTSON …………… 3 att …….. 3 yrd
QB – # 75 … Frank SWIRLES ………………. 1 att …….. 2 yrd
FB – # 15 …. Coye DUNN ……………………. 1 att ……… 1 yrd
LE – # 62 …. Al KRUEGER ………………….. 1 att ….. – 1 yrd
RH – # 53 … Jim SLATTER …………………. 1 att … – 10 yrd

USC passing
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QB – # 78 … Grenville LANSDELL ……. 4-7 comp/att … 58 yrd
QB – # 75 … Frank SWIRLES ……………. 2-2 comp/att ….. 6 yrd
QB – # 40 … Doyle NAVE …………………. 1-2 comp/att ….. 5 yrd
QB – # 31 …. Bob BERRYMAN …………. 0-3 comp/att ….. 0 yrd

USC receiving
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LH – # 45 … Bob HOFFMAN …………….. 2 rec ….. 43 yrd
RE – # 73 … Bob WINSLOW …………….. 1 rec …… 14 yrd
FB – # 33 … Jack BANTA …………………. 1 rec …….. 5 yrd
LH – # 20 … Phil DUBOSKI ………………. 1 rec ……. 4 yrd
LE – # 62 …. Al KRUEGER ……………….. 1 rec …….. 2 yrd
FB – # 27 …. Bill SANGSTER ……………. 1 rec …….. 1 yrd

USC interceptions
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RH – # 53 … Jim SLATTER ……………….. 1 int ….. 15 yrd
RT – # 42 … Bob DE LAUER ……………… 1 int ……. 2 yrd
LG – # 39 …. Floyd PHILLIPS ……………. 1 int ……. 2 yrd

USC fumble recoveries
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FB – # 27 …. Bill SANGSTER ……………… 1 fum rec

USC kick returns
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FB – # 21 …. Bob PEOPLES ……………….. 1 ret ….. 33 yrd

USC punt returns
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QB – # 40 … Doyle NAVE ………………….. 2 ret ….. 20 yrd
FB – # 27 …. Bill SANGSTER ……………… 1 ret ….. 13 yrd
QB – # 78 … Grenville LANSDELL ……… 1 ret ….. 10 yrd
QB – # 31 …. Bob BERRYMAN …………… 1 ret ……. 2 yrd

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Washington State net rushing
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FB – # 66 … Don MCLENNAN …………… 5 att ….. 14 yrd
LH – # 36 … Dick EMERSON …………….. 4 att ……. 6 yrd
QB – # 17 … Don GREELEY ……………….. 3 att ……. 5 yrd
FB – # 4 ….. Rex BANTZ ……………………. 4 att ……. 4 yrd
FB – # 3 ….. Ford SEXTON ………………… 2 att …….. 2 yrd

Washington State passing
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LH – # 36 … Don EMERSON ……….. 3-10 comp/att … 34 yrd … 1 int
LH – # 23 … Bill SEWELL ……………. 0-3 comp/att ……. 0 yrd … 2 int

Washington State receiving
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RH – # 2 ….. Earle ROSS …………………….. 2 rec ….. 27 yrd
QB – # 17 …. Don GREELEY ……………….. 1 rec ……. 7 yrd

Washington State kick returns
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QB – # 17 …. Don GREELEY ……………….. 1 ret ….. 24 yrd
LH – # 36 … Dick EMERSON ………………. 1 ret ….. 18 yrd
RH – # 2 ….. Earle ROSS ……………………… 1 ret ……. 9 yrd

Washington State punt returns
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LH – # 36 … Dick EMERSON ……………….. 6 ret ….. 34 yrd
LH – # 23 … Bill SEWELL …………………….. 1 ret …… 12 yrd

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On The ’39 Washington State Cougars

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USC Trojans third-string quarterback DOYLE NAVE (# 40), the pass-happy hero of the 1939 Rose Bowl Game whom the Detroit Lions later made the sixth overall player selected in the first round of the 1940 National Football League Draft, is crunched by a couple of Washington State Cougars including lineman JAMES WOODDY (# 24) during the lopsided Pacific Conference Coast game at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on October 7th, 1939.
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Not much had been expected from the WASHINGTON STATE COUGARS heading into the 1939 NCAA football season. After all, head coach ORIN E. “BABE” HOLLINGBERY’s club had managed to win only two of its ten games the season before while failing to post even a single victory against all Pacific Coast Conference opposition eligible to appear in the annual Rose Bowl contest on New Year’s Day. What’s worse, the Washington State Cougars had compiled the woeful total of just four offensive touchdowns scored in its ten games during that disastrous campaign in 1938, as well.

Indicative of the overall lack of talent in the program was the fact that only one Washington State Cougar was chosen in the 1939 National Football League Draft and that player, 220-pound tackle DICK FARMAN, was, in fact, a rather late selection (16th round, # 148 overall) of the Washington Redskins. Hollingbery did have several experienced players returning from the 1938 squad but no one who accurately fit the description of a real ‘difference-maker’. In September of 1939, quite understandably, the overwhelming majority of contemporary college football analysts had predicted that the Washington State Cougars would finish last among the eight conference teams all vying for a place in the lucrative and prestigious Rose Bowl.

Therefore, by the time Hollingbery’s charges departed for Los Angeles in late November of 1939 carrying the even record of four wins and four losses in their luggage, the Washington State College gridiron season had been rightly declared a success even before the Cougars faced the UCLA Bruins in their final game of the campaign. The signature victory had come against the intra-state arch-rival Washington Huskies in a contest that was witnessed by a school record crowd of 20,000 spectators, accentuated by the State of Washington’s year-long 50th Anniversary “Golden Jubilee” celebration and effectively settled in the first quarter when Cougars senior fullback REX BANTZ scored the game’s only touchdown from a yard out on fourth down. This triumph marked the first time in six years that Washington State had been able to defeat its great adversary from Seattle in the annual Apple Cup showdown and also happened to coincide with the ‘coming out party’ of BILLY SEWELL, the Cougars’ multi-talented sophomore left halfback who would later go on to be recognized on some some All-America teams in both 1940 & 1941.

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Washington State Cougars right halfback EARLE ROSS is met by Washington Huskies quarterback by Washington Huskies DON MEANS (# 32) right after catching a short pass in the flat during the Pacific Coast Conference clash at Rogers Field in Pullman on October 14th, 1939.
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Washington State did suffer through a mid-season slump that saw the Cougars score just one touchdown on a flukey play while dropping three games in succession. Certainly, a bit of luck was involved against the California Golden Bears when Washington State first-string center KEN DEVINE snatched a ball (that had been coughed up by the left halfback Sewell while running on a sweep) out of midair and dashed 25 yards to paydirt. But then Hollingbery’s troops rebounded sharply to win back-to-back contests opposite the Idaho Vandals and Stanford Indians, respectively.

The mid-season installation of the preveiously inexperienced DICK RENFRO the starting fullback played a huge part in Washington State’s last two victories as the stocky sophomore (5’10” 200 lbs) ran for 63 yards (4.8 avg) against Idaho and then added another 39 yards (3.3 avg) while scoring the only touchdown of the game against Stanford.

Until the emergence of Renfro, the only other Washington State ball carrier who had been able to gain yardage on the ground with any kind of meaningful consistency all season had been right halfback EARLE ROSS. The lanky senior (6’0″ 175 lbs) typically packed the pigskin for the Cougars on reverse plays that swept around the left end, similarly to what the UCLA Bruins were doing with their speedy right halfback, Jackie Robinson, but without the “man-in-motion” tactics. Also, unlike Robinson with the Bruins, Ross took his handoffs from the Washington State fullback who had received the direct snap (as compared to the left halfback, that is).

’39 WASHINGTON STATE rushing … (7 of 8 games going into UCLA contest)
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RHB ……. # 2 ….. Earle ROSS …………… 31 att …. 136 yrd ……. 4.39 avg ….. 1 td
FB ………. # 31 …. Dick RENFRO ………. 35 att …. 132 yrd ……. 3.77 avg ….. 1 td
LHB ……. # 23 … Billy SEWELL ………… 52 att …… 91 yrd ……. 1.75 avg
FB ………. # 4 ….. Rex BANTZ …………… 33 att …… 66 yrd ……. 2.00 avg …. 2 td
LHB ……. # 36 … Dick EMERSON …….. 30 att …… 55 yrd ……. 1.83 avg ….. 1 td
QB/FB … # 3 ….. Ford SEXTON ……….. 31 att …… 50 yrd ……. 1.61 avg
LHB ……. # 26 … Frank AKINS …………. 11 att …… 33 yrd ……. 3.00 avg
QB ……… # 17 …. Don GREELEY ………. 10 att …… 31 yrd ……. 3.10 avg
LHB ……. # 43 … Lee ORR ………………… 12 att …… 30 yrd ……. 2.50 avg
FB ………. # 66 … Don MCLENNAN …….. 7 att …… 20 yrd ……. 2.86 avg
LE/RE … # 40 … Fred BROWN …………… 2 att …… 12 yrd ……. 6.00 avg ….. 1 td
RHB …… # 12 …. Felix FLETCHER ……… 2 att …… 11 yrd ……. 5.50 avg
RHB …… # 22 …. Russell SCHLEEH …….. 1 att …….. 1 yrd ……. 1.00 avg
RE ……… # 20 …. Dan JORDAN …………… 1 att ….. – 4 yrd … – 4.00 avg
RHB …… # 28 …. Frank OLIVER …………. 6 att ….. – 5 yrd …. – 0.83 avg
LHB ……. # 52 …. Keith SIMON …………… 4 att … – 11 yrd …. – 2.75 avg

(Above statistics compiled from Washington State’s games against Gonzaga, Southern Cal, Washington, California, Oregon, Idaho and Stanford but do not include the Cougars’ contest with Oregon State … sources for statistics presented are contemporary newspaper reports from the Berkeley Daily-Gazette and the Eugene Register-Guard in addition to game films available on YouTube.)

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Washington State left halfback BILLY SEWELL (far left, carrying the football as a sophomore against Idaho) would set a new Pacific Coast Conference passing yardage record in 1940 and also led the Far West circuit that term with 1,333 yards worth of total offense (rushing & passing), as well, but that sum did not exceed the existing P.C.C. total offense record established by the UCLA Bruins’ Kenny Washington (1,371 yards) the previous season … Sewell was selected by the Philadelphia Eagles in the 7th round (# 53 overall) of the 1942 NFL Draft but never did play a game in the National Football League.
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It was also Earle Ross who just so happened to be Washington State’s most productive and reliable pass receiver, as well. The Cougars right halfback added another 115 yards and a touchdown on six catches (17.0 avg) in the three triumphs over Gonzaga, Washington and Idaho. For the most part, however, Babe Hollingbery’s 1939 Washington State Cougars were an extremely conservative Single Wing era team that, as a general rule of thumb, simply just preferred not to deal with the all of the inherent risks associated with passing the football forward.

Senior left halfback DICK EMERSON, who threw two touchdown passes in the Cougars’ season-opening victory against Gonzaga, was injured the next week opposite the USC Trojans and never did regain full physical fitness that fall. Sewell, who tossed only one touchdown pass (to Ross versus Idaho) as a sophomore in 1939, was still roughly a year away from becoming the NCAA’s official national passing champion with 86 completions in 174 attempts (49.42% accuracy – 1,023 yards) as a junior steering Washington State’s new wide-open offensive system in 1940. Collectively, the Cougars’ passers (read, primarily Emerson and Sewell) combined to generate just 31 completions out of 91 attempts (33.69% accuracy) and 394 yards passing in the eight games prior to Washington State’s 1939 season-ending contest against the UCLA Bruins.

At the top of Washington State’s priority list in 1939 was not so much possession of the pigskin as it was maintaining a good position on the gridiron field. Such a deliberate strategy is best evidenced by the fact that, quite often, the Cougars chose to punt the football away before the arrival of fourth down. The YouTube game films show that Washington State actually punted on fourth down less than half of the time (21 out of 44, or 47.73%) in their five games against Gonzaga, Southern Cal, Washington, Oregon and Idaho that year.

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Washington State Cougars reserve right end DAN JORDAN (# 20) will, unfortunately, not be able to catch the football despite being all alone in the end zone during the wide-open non-conference meeting with the visiting Idaho Vandals at Rogers Field in Pulman on November 12th, 1939.
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The Washington State Cougars’ most glaring weakness in 1939 was the overall lack of size at the line of scrimmage. At 210 pounds, junior right tackle STANFORD JOHNSON was the heaviest lineman that the head coach Hollingbery had at his disposal that season. Not helping the situation was the fact that Washington State had only two more linemen who saw any sort of regular action, senior tackle BILL BANTZ (205 lbs) and sophomore guard / tackle JAMES WOODDY (202 lbs), who also tipped the scales at more than two hundred pounds.

As far as the professionals were concerned, there was only one Washington State lineman on the entire 1939 team who would be worthy of having his name called at the annual NFL Draft as Cougars second team junior center KEN STONE was ultimately a very late choice (20th round, # 187 overall) of the New York Giants in 1941.

In this Single Wing Era of genuine smash-mouth football in the late 1930s, the dearth of pro-caliber talent at the line of scrimmage was a certainly major problem for the Washington State Cougars.

’39 WASHINGTON STATE Offense : Yards Per Game
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Gonzaga ……………….. 110 rush …….. 80 pass ……. 190 total ……. 19 pts
Southern Cal ………….. 31 rush ……… 34 pass ……… 65 total …….. 0 pts
Washington ……………. 66 rush …….. 48 pass ……. 114 total ……… 6 pts
California ……………….. 97 rush …….. 53 pass ……. 150 total …….. 7 pts
Oregon State …………… 23 rush …….. 51 pass ……… 74 total …….. 0 pts
Oregon ……………………. 65 rush …….. 19 pass ……… 84 total …….. 0 pts
Idaho ……………………. 224 rush …… 100 pass …… 324 total …… 21 pts
Stanford ………………….. 81 rush …….. 15 pass ……… 96 total …….. 7 pts
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average …………………. 87.1 rush ….. 50.0 pass … 137.1 total ….. 7.5 pts

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“W.S.C. Gridders Leave For South”

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“The UCLA Triumvirate Of Aces” — Bruins left end WOODY STRODE (# 27), right halback JACKIE ROBINSON (# 28) and superstar left halfback KENNY WASHINGTON (# 13) … In the estimation of the Associated Press, both Washington and Strode were seen as First Team All-Pacific Coast material with Robinson being viewed as Third Team stuff in 1939; as far as the United Press was concerned, Washington was selected as First Team All-Pacific Coast with Robinson and Strode both being cited as Honorable Mention (which was that organization’s equivalent of a third team) that year.
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Spokane Daily Chronicle — Tuesday, November 28th, 1939

“W.S.C. GRIDDERS LEAVE FOR SOUTH”

Following a long workout under the lights, the WASHINGTON STATE football team entrained for Los Angeles and the Thursday night game with U.C.L.A.

Last night’s practice was devoted to polishing up defensive tactics against KENNY WASHINGTON, JACKIE ROBINSON and WOODROW WILSON STRODE, the U.C.L.A. triumvirate of aces. Other items getting attention were passing and kicking, although Washington State ranks as the fourth best team in the nation in the punting department.

(Washington State College head coach BABE) HOLLINGBERY has promised to throw the offense wide open Thursday night and fans may see another of those wild and woolly games which U.C.L.A. staged with Oregon State last Saturday. Hollingbery took 34 gridders (on the trip to Los Angeles) and all but (left halfback) DICK EMERSON are ready to play. Emerson may play if needed.

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It is very interesting to note that the Washington State Cougars ended up deploying a 5-3-2-1 defensive scheme in many situations against UCLA in an obvious pre-arranged attempt to cope with the sweeping runs from the Bruins’ twin set of speedsters coming out of the backfield, Kenny Washington and Jackie Robinson.

Washington State normally played with a six-man defensive wall and this 5-3-2-1 formation was not something the Cougars had shown in any of the their previous games in 1939 against Gonzaga, Southern Cal, Washington, Oregon and Idaho (all five of which, of course, can be viewed on YouTube). Bascially, on certain plays, Washington State’s regular left end on the front line dropped back into the position of outside left linebacker in a second level now comprising of three defenders instead of the usual pair. As it turned out, the very first time that the Cougars utilized its five-man line against the UCLA, it was Washington State tackle JAMES WOODDY, the de facto left end in the new formation, who was able to get into the backfield and partially deflect the Bruins’ quick attempt (a punt that ended up traveling downfield all of six yards).

In the first quarter against UCLA, Washington State would only use the 5-3-2-1 defensive scheme on third downs (a total of four times). It appears as if the Cougars’ confidence in this formation grew as the game wore along because Washington State conspicuously deployed its three linebacker set a total of seven times in both the second and third quarters. It should also be noted that, in fact, the Cougars were leading by one point after forty-five minutes of play.

One has to wonder if the reason that Hollingbery had his Washington State troops work on the kicking game did not revolve around a strong desire to limit the effectiveness of UCLA right halfback JACKIE ROBINSON on punt returns. In 1939, the Bruins’ transfer from Pasadena Junior College was ultimately destined to lead the entire NCAA in average yards per attempt (18 returns for 295 yards, 16.4 average) and had already run a punt back 64 yards much to the detriment of the Cougars’ great intra-state arch-rival, the University of Washington Huskies. As events against the Bruins in Los Angeles would later unfold, diligent Washington State permitted the lightning-fast Robinson to run back just two punts for a combined total of twenty-four yards — so, in other words, the Cougars certainly did manage to hold UCLA’s dangerous return man well below his normal season average.

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“W.S.C. Awaits Night Battle – Leaves To Meet U.C.L.A. Under Lights At Los Angeles Thursday”

The Spokesman-Review — Tuesday, November 28th, 1939

“W.S.C. AWAITS NIGHT BATTLE – LEAVES TO MEET U.C.L.A. UNDER LIGHTS AT LOS ANGELES THURSDAY”

Set to put out the U.C.L.A. three-alarm fire (i.e., the Bruins trio of left halfback Kenny Washington, right halfback Jackie Robinson and left end Woody Strode), WASHINGTON STATE’s squad of 34 gridders entrained for Los Angeles tonight. Every player was in fine shape except Captain DICK EMERSON, who may be used if needed.

Turning out early, Washington State College got in more than three hours of practice tonight, both in daylight and lamplight. Most of the period was spent polishing up offensive weapons, for coach BABE HOLLINGBERY has promised to let go the scoring reins Thursday night.

There was still some indecision at train time over what color the ball was to be (used during the game in Los Angeles on Thursday). (UCLA head coach) BABE HORRELL wants a brown one and Hollingbery wants a white one. Hollingbery will wait until his club works out under the lights at the Los Angeles coliseum on Wednesday before making a final decision.

(Editor’s Note — The perfectly valid reason why the Bruins bench boss preferred to use a regular brown pigskin was because the UCLA star left halfback, Kenny Washington, would not be able to get the same grip on a painted white football as compared to a standard brown football. Therefore, the Kingfish would not be able to throw as tight a spiral with the white ball as he otherwise would be normally be capable of and that, of, course, could have a detrimental effect. Keeping in mind the fact that Washington had tossed no fewer than five touchdown passes in UCLA’s last four contests going into the game against Washington State in late November of 1939 and that, in fact, five of the Bruins’ seven touchdowns tallied in their last four games that year had been scored on passing plays, there could be no doubt that the specific kind of football to be used was a very significant detail.)

The game will mark the first night game in the 23-year history of the Pacific Coast loop. Originally slated for the afternoon, the game was shifted to the evening when President Roosevelt removed Thanksgiving Day from the scene and left no excuse for playing the game.

(Editor’s Note … Unfortunately, whomever is responsible for this particular article printed by The Spokesman-Review back in November of 1939 got things horribly wrong here. The Bruins had actually played their historic first Pacific Coast Conference game under the lights at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum two years earlier when UCLA doubled up the Oregon Ducks 26-13 on Friday, September 24th, 1937 — certainly a noteworthy date on which sophomore left halfback Kenny Washington marked his varsity debut for the Bruins by rushing for two touchdowns and passing for another. Presented below would be visual verification of that landmark night game via the applicable 1937/38 UCLA school yearbook.)

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(Editor’s Note, cont … The Spokesman-Review writer’s joint reference to President Roosevelt & Thanksgiving Day is rather confusing, as well, but it is very important to note that the month of November had five Thursdays in the calendar year of 1939. It is also extremely relevant to understand that, in 1939, FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT broke with the tradition first begun by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863 that set the last Thursday of November as the official date that Thanksgiving Day was to be observed. The reason why Roosevelt did this was because the United States was still trying to recover from the effects of The Great Depression and he thought that an extended Christmas shopping season would bolster the overall national economy.

The point being made here at this blog is that the writer of this particular article printed by The Spokesman-Review must have been trying to say that the reason why the UCLA vs Washington State game in 1939 was ultimately switched from an afternoon engagement to an evening affair is because the November 30th date was now no longer a Thanksgiving holiday and, therefore, many potential ticket-buyers would now be going to work during the daylight hours, as on any other normal weekday.)

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For the historical record, the UCLA BRUINS had never lost a night game in four previous contests (all Friday night affairs) when the WASHINGTON STATE COUGARS came calling in late November of 1939 :

Sept 27, 1935 …….. UCLA 39 – Utah State 0
Nov 15, 1935 …….. UCLA 19 – Hawaii 6
Sept 24, 1937 …….. UCLA 26 – Oregon 13
Sept 23, 1938 …….. UCLA 27 – Iowa 3

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