UCLA Bruins left halfback IZZY CANTOR (# 2), the unlucky senior who would later be directly involved in the most pivotal play of this entire Pacific Coast Conference encounter, makes a valiant attempt but cannot stop his counterpart, Oregon State Beavers left halfback HAROLD HIGGINS (# 39), from diving head first into the end zone for an early first quarter touchdown at the almost empty Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on December 10, 1938.
There was certainly far more at stake than merely the right to remain in the Rose Bowl hunt as the visiting OREGON STATE BEAVERS (7-1-0) prepared to knock shoulder pads with the UCLA BRUINS (5-0-2), currently rated the nation’s 13th-best college football team by the Associated Press, in the high profile Pacific Coast Conference match-up to be played in southern California on the final weekend of November in 1939.
Now, even if Oregon State managed to score more points than UCLA Bruins at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for the first time in nearly a decade, the Beavers would still be long shots to be appear at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena on New Year’s Day. This because head coach LON STINER’s club had earlier in the season already succumbed to the powerful USC Trojans at home in Corvallis. So, after being heavily outgained by UCLA in the previous year’s contest, it was a lot more about restoring gridiron self esteem from the proud Oregon State Beavers’ perspective.
The UCLA Bruins, on the other hand, had just cause to feel a little bit hard done by the final result with Oregon State in 1938, as confirmed by the United Press in their post-game report (Milwaukee Journal, 11/11/38) :
“REFEREE ‘GOAT’ AS UCLANS TIE – OFFICIAL BLOCKS HALFBACK’S PATH TO GOAL IN CLEAR FIELD; GAME ENDS, 6-6″
Los Angeles (UP) — Referee Tom Fitzpatrick of Utah took his place Saturday beside John Getchell as a “helper” during the 1938 (NCAA) football season. Getchell called the wrong down in the Notre Dame – Carnegie Tech game and the Irish thereupon scored the winning touchdown. Fitzpatrick “tackled” a UCLA ball carrier bound for the goal and Oregon State got away with a 6-6 tie.
Halfback IZZY CANTOR took the ball on his own 10 (yard-line) on a lateral pass. As he emerged from a knot of tacklers on his own 45 (yard-line), with a clear field to the goal, the referee collided with (Cantor) and he went down. The ball became dead where (Cantor) fell.
It is, of course, impossible to state with 100% certainty that Izzy Cantor would not have eventually been caught from behind by an Oregon State player before actually crossing the goal line on that particular play. Then again, it cannot be stated accurately that the UCLA senior, whose younger brother Leo was a star fullback on the Bruins freshman football team in 1938, would not have been able to score a touchdown in his last-ever collegiate game at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The only incontrovertible fact is that this development was a good bit of luck for the visiting Beavers but an extremely bad break on this historical occasion for the hosts, who happened to be appearing at the iconic Olympic stadium under the direction of long-time Bruins head coach BILL SPAULDING for the final time.
There is no question that UCLA dominated this game with Oregon State in terms of moving the football. The Bruins piled up a massive 23-3 advantage in first downs made and also enjoyed a wide lead in total yards from scrimmage — some newspapers report that Spaulding’s side outgained the Beavers 388-114 while other accounts set the numbers at 377-74. But Oregon State scored an early touchdown soon after left halfback HAROLD HIGGINS returned the opening kickoff 84 yards to the Bruins six-yard stripe and UCLA never did manage more than a fourth quarter equalizer when left halfback KENNY WASHINGTON, a First Team All-Pacific Coast selection of the Associated Press in 1938, threw a short touchdown pass to substitute right end JIM MITCHELL.
Truth be told, the UCLA Bruins had a very late opportunity to score the winning points but were unable to capitalize. A successful passing play from Bruins right halfback HAL HIRSHON to left end WOODY STRODE brought the pigskin down to the Oregon State five-yard line with exactly ten seconds remaining. A penalty for delay of game would push the ball back out to the 10-yard line and, after yet another pass from Hirshon was not completed, UCLA guard JOHN FRAWLEY was wide on a field goal attempt.
UCLA’s SOUTHERN CAMPUS yearbook graciously makes no mention of either the official’s embarrassing collision or the failed field goal attempt that concluded the 1938 contest with visiting Oregon State. The top photo on the left shows Beavers senior left halfback HAROLD HIGGINS (# 39) breaking into the open field on his 84-yard kickoff return with UCLA Bruins senior left halfback IZZY CANTOR (# 2) chasing the play in the background. This same picture also reveals a great many empty seats at the cavernous Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum — several comtemporary newspaper reports in 1938 cited an attendance figure of “less than 10,000″ while a very recent edition of Oregon State’s official annual media guide gives a figure of only 7,500 spectators for the Beavers football game with UCLA that year.
UCLA BRUINS vs OREGON STATE BEAVERS all-time results
1938 … at Los Angeles …… UCLA 6 – Oregon State 6
1937 … at Corvallis ……….. UCLA 7 – Oregon State 7
1936 … at Los Angeles …… UCLA 22 – Oregon State 13
1935 … at Los Angeles …… UCLA 20 – Oregon State 7
1934 … at Los Angeles …… UCLA 25 – Oregon State 7
1930 … at Los Angeles……. Oregon State 19 – UCLA 0