1939, UCLA vs Montana

Benefiting from a fabulous block being thrown by falling fullback LEO CANTOR (middle), explosive UCLA Bruins left halfback KENNY WASHINGTON (# 13) turns the corner on the way to a 68-yard gain versus the visiting Montana Grizzlies at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum; although Washington did not score a touchdown on this run as the headline indicates, but the dual threat UCLA superstar did register the first of what would be three touchdowns against the Grizzlies on this record-setting day only two plays later … (Photo from The Afro American newspaper published on October 28, 1939)

October 21, 1939
Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
Attendance : 27,000


UCLA starting line-up
LE – # 27 … Woody STRODE …………. LH – # 13 … Kenny WASHINGTON
LT – # 15 … Del LYMAN ………………… FB – # 2 …… Leo CANTOR
LG – # 12 … John FRAWLEY ………….. QB – # 32 … Joe VIGER
OC – # 6 ….. Martin MATHESON ……. RH – # 28 … Jackie ROBINSON
RG – # 11 … Jack SOMMERS
RT – # 24 … Mladen ZARUBICA
RE – # 38 … Don MACPHERSON

Note — the UCLA Bruins were without a pair of homegrown first stringers who had both attended Manual Arts High School in Los Angeles when the Montana Grizzlies came calling … junior quarterback NED MATTHEWS had already made important interceptions for the Bruins against Texas Christian University as well as the University of Washington at the beginning of the 1939 NCAA campaign … junior fullback BILL OVERLIN was UCLA’s leading scorer at present having run for touchdowns in the season opener opposite the TCU Horned Frogs as well as versus Stanford University the previous week.


Game Statistics
first downs ……………………………….. UCLA 14, Montana 13
rushing yards ……………………………. UCLA * 240, Montana 63
passing yards ……………………………. UCLA 80, Montana 122
passes attempted / completed ……. UCLA 5/13, Montana 15/34
passes intercepted by…………………. UCLA 0, Montana 0
fumbles lost ………………………………. UCLA 1, Montana 1
punting average …………………………. UCLA 32.1, Montana 38.5
kick & punt return yards ……………. UCLA 84, Montana 167
penalty yards lost ………………………. UCLA 81, Montana 5

(* UCLA rushing total is was listed as “24″ by source material used)

scoring plays
1st qtr : BRUINS 7-0
Kenny WASHINGTON 10 yard run (John FRAWLEY kick)
2nd qtr : BRUINS 13-0
Kenny WASHINGTON 6 yard run (kick blocked)
3rd qtr : BRUINS 20-0
Kenny WASHINGTON 12 yard run (John FRAWLEY kick)
4th qtr : GRIZZLIES 6-20
Ed HUDACEK 1 yard run (kick failed)

UCLA individual net rushing statistics
LH – Kenny WASHINGTON …… 11 carries, 164 yards
FB – Leo CANTOR …………………… 5 carries, 58 yards

(all statistics as reported by The Spokesman Review on Oct 23, 1939)



On a sweltering hot day (95 degrees Fahrenheit) in Los Angeles, two times within the first six minutes of this non-conference match-up the UCLA Bruins were forced to take possession on its own five-yard line thanks to the coffin corner punting of Montrana Grizzlies right halfback FRANK NUGENT. But then UCLA star left halfback KENNY WASHINGTON broke free on a 68-yard dash down the right sideline. Two plays later, the Bruins’ marquee ball carrier swept into the end zone on a 10-yard run off right tackle against the undersized (not to mention injury-riddled) Montana team.

UCLA right halfback JACKIE ROBINSON, the transfer from Pasadena Junior College who gained a combined 127 yards rushing against the Washington Huskies and Stanford Indians in the Bruins’ two previous games but would not carry the ball from scrimmage even once against the Grizzlies, returned a punt 33 yards to the Montana 24-yard line shortly thereafter. Soon enough, UCLA’s Kingfish scored his second touchdown of the afternoon on a simple blast up the middle. With the Bruins already leading 13-0 at the start of the second period, head coach BABE HORRELL yanked the first string and gave valuable playing time to the reserves.

The UCLA substitutes, sparked by the running of halfback DENNY FRANCIS, twice drove the ball inside the Montana five yard-line only to be stopped by a holding penalty as well as a lack of downs, respectively. The Grizzlies had a great opportunity to get on the scoreboard when little-used Bruins left halfback CLARK GEORGE fumbled on the kickoff return to start the second half and the alert Montana right halfback Nugent recovered. The visitors quickly marched the pigskin down to the UCLA 3-yard line but then Grizzlies sophomore left halfback JACK SWARTHOUT fumbled the football right back to the hosts.

UCLA wasted no time in punting the ball away but Montana initiated another drive which reached the UCLA 12-yard line, with the key play being a pass from the left halfback Swarthout to the right halfback Nugent. The Bruins were able to avoid conceding any points, however, after a fourth down pass from lightweight substitute left halfback DONALD “Red” BRYAN (157 lbs) intended for the wide open end NEIL JOHNSON missed its mark. Determined to see his side finally go back on the offensive, the UCLA bench boss Horrell then hurried his first stringers back out onto the turf at the sun-baked Memorial Coliseum.


The Bruins regulars responded by immediately restoring order against a visiting school which had previously lost its first four NCAA contests with the Bruins in Los Angeles by a combined margin of 92-0. An eighty-yard march in seven plays, which culminated in a 12-yard touchdown run right up the middle by the irrepressible Washington, was more than enough to put the game effectively out of reach for the Grizzlies. With home team now ahead 20-0 in the third quarter after left guard JOHN FRAWLEY’s second successful extra point try in three attempts, the UCLA starters summarily took their seats on the bench for the rest of the afternoon.

The visiting Montana Grizzlies did salvage a measure of pride rather late by scoring points against the UCLA Bruins for the very first time in school history, however. The undersized Bryan connected with the reserve end Johnson on a “brilliant” 38-yard pass play which advanced the ball down to the UCLA 4-yard line. Another diminutive Montana second-stringer, right halfback ED “Butch” HUDACEK (145 lbs), carried over from a yard out with less than two minutes remaining on the stadium clock.

There no doubt that this battle had been largely won by the Bruins’ “General” Washington, who became just the second man in school history to ever record three rushing touchdowns in one NCAA game … (UCLA star halfback JOE FLEMING had accomplished this feat twice against something considerably less than the equivalent of modern-day Division I competition — that being little Redlands University in 1926 and La Verne College in 1928) … Washington’s impressive total of 164 yards on only 11 carries (14.9 yards per attempt) against the University of Montana in 1939 also established what was considered (by official NCAA standards) to be a new UCLA school record.

Attendance according to newspaper references

27,000 ….. Eugene Register Guard …………. 10/22/39
27,000 ….. San Bernardino County Sun ….. 10/22/39
none ……… The Spokesman Review ………… 10/22/39
none ……… Berkeley Daily Gazette ………….. 10/23/39
20,000 ….. The Spokesman Review ………… 10/23/39
20,000 ….. The Afro American ……………….. 10/28/39

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General Washington Marches All Over Montana, Draws Comparisons To Galloping Ghost

(Associated Press – The Spokesman Review, Monday, October 23, 1939) … UCLA senior left halfback KENNY WASHINGTON (# 13) takes advantage of a superb block being thrown by Bruins sophomore fullback Leo Cantor (middle) and turns the corner on his way to a 68-yard gain against the visiting Montana Grizzlies at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

“That fellow (KENNY) WASHINGTON is even greater than RED GRANGE. No wonder he ran wild against us,” plainly stated University of Montana head coach Doug Fessenden after the UCLA Bruins star left halfback had picked up 164 yards on the ground while scoring three touchdowns against the visiting Grizzlies despite playing less than half of the game at the sun-drenched Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on October 21, 1939.

ucla-39-mont-fessendenThe curly-haired Fessenden was actually more than qualified to offer his opinion which favorably compared the UCLA Bruins star left halfback with the one player who, still to this very day, is widely considered to be the very best collegiate football player to have ever lived. It should be remembered that the fifth-year Montana bench boss had, in 1927, graduated from the University of Illinois — the very same institution “haunted” by the great Galloping Ghost on Saturday afternoons for three truly spectacular seasons concluding in the fall of 1925. Red Grange, meanwhile, was, in 2008, named the very best colleigate football player to have ever lived by no less a judge than the Entertainment & Sports Programming Network.

Fessenden (above) was the head coach at the University of Montana from the 1935 thru the 1941 NCAA campagins and compiled a record of 32 wins against 25 losses with four draws during that time span … Fessenden’s career total of thirty-two victories for Montana was not surpassed until former Grizzlies left halfback JACK SWARTHOUT racked up 51 triumphs (against 41 losses with one tie) while at the helm for his alma mater from 1967 thru 1975.

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Establishing UCLA Single-Game Rushing Record



137 yrd … 18 att ….. 7.6 avg ….. Kenny Washington, 1938 vs Washington State
142 yrd … 25 att ….. 5.7 avg ….. Kenny Washington, 1939 vs Washington
164 yrd … 11 att … 14.9 avg ….. Kenny Washington, 1939 vs Montana
169 yrd … 22 att ….. 7.7 avg ….. Cal Rossi, 1945 vs Oregon
180 yrd … 27 att ….. 6.6 avg ….. Billy Kilmer, 1960 vs Utah
182 yrd … 28 att ….. 6.5 avg ….. Marv Kendricks, 1970 vs USC
183 yrd … 15 att …. 12.2 avg ….. Kermit Johnson, 1972 vs Arizona
220 yrd … 35 att ….. 6.3 avg ….. Theotis Brown, 1976 vs Washington
274 yrd … 26 att … 10.5 avg ….. Theotis Brown, 1978 vs Oregon
301 yrd … 31 att ….. 9.7 avg ….. DeShaun Foster, 2001 vs Washington
322 yrd … 26 att … 12.4 avg ….. Maurice Drew, 2004 vs Washington

NOTE — the “Non-Published Supplement” of the “2005 UCLA Football Media Guide” only starts tracking 100-yard rushing performances beginning with the 1939 NCAA season :


Now, it is a well known fact that UCLA left halfback CHUCK CHESHIRE produced a 93-yard touchdown run (an enduring school record which remains unsurpassed to this very day) against the University of Montana during the first quarter of the Bruins’ 16-0 triumph over the Grizzlies in 1934. And it has been reported that UCLA rolled up 388 yards rushing at the expense of the rather penetrable Montana defense on that particular day, as well. So it would seem very likely that Cheshire, who was the very first Bruin player to ever be formally drafted by a National Football League club, easily went over the 100-yard mark in that 1934 game with the visiting Grizzlies at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, although it was also said that UCLA second and third-stringers played the entire second half against Montana.

Therefore, it stands to reason that KENNY WASHINGTON’s 109 yards rushing as a sophomore against the rival California Golden Bears did not really constitute a new UCLA school record in 1937 — the very same year that the NCAA officially started keeping track of college football statistics.

It is also hard to say for sure if Washington’s 137 yards rushing against the Washington State Cougars in 1938 or even his 142 yards gained on the ground opposite the Washington Huskies in 1939 set the genuine Bruins’ single-game rushing record. The same observation must be made about the 164 yards that Kingfish piled up versus the Montana Grizzlies, as well. Nevertheless, some actual ‘starting point’ needed to be established.

Having done so here, it is extremely interesting to note that it is the legendary Kenny Washington who still has the highest average yards per attempt out of all the talented UCLA Bruins ball carriers to have ever set the school’s single-game rushing record.

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Understanding UCLA Single Wing Football – The Positions


It is very important to note that while virtually all college and professional football teams in the 1930s used either the standard Carlisle Single Wing formation or something rather closely related to Pop Warner’s revolutionary concept, different teams definitely used different terms when referencing the four backfield players.

The UCLA BRUINS of the 1930s typically lined up in the standard Carlisle Single Wing formation as shown above but, in the contemporary offensive terminology then in use by the Bruins, the “Tailback” was known as the Left Halfback and the “Wingback” was called the Right Halfback while the “Quarterback” as shown in the above diagram was sometimes designated as the Blocking Back, a massive hint at the player’s main role in the offensive scheme.

Now, the cross-town rival USC TROJANS of the 1930s typically operated out of an offensive formation that bore a striking resemblance to what the UCLA Bruins also just so happened to be using. The Bruins’ lethal run/pass weapon at the end of the decade, KENNY WASHINGTON, was always listed in the game programs, newspapers, etc., as a Left Halfback as were his UCLA predecessors but, by comparison, the Trojans’ chief handler/distributor of the football during that same time period, GRENVILLE LANSDELL, was said to be a Quarterback, as was always the case in the USC vernacular of the Single Wing Era. The significant point here to remember is that both Washington and Lansdell were, for all intents and purposes, occupying the same position designated as “Tailback” in the diagram shown above.

There is another fundamental flaw (at least as far as the UCLA Bruins and the USC Trojans of the 1930s are concerned) with the diagram of the standard Carlisle Single Wing formation shown at the top of this article — it was NOT the two Tackles who were positioned right next to one another in a formation using an “unbalanced line”.

A proper diagram of the standard Carlisle Single Wing formation as used by the UCLA Bruins of the 1930s shows it is the two Guards who are stationed side by side on the “strong” side of the unbalanced line.

As a very good general rule of thumb, particularly when dealing with the UCLA Bruins of the 1930s, it is very safe to say that Tackles were almost always the heaviest linemen on the Single Wing Era football roster.

In the modern era of football, specifically because of the ever-increasing amount of forward passing that has developed over the years, it is the Left Tackle, that heroic and selfless guardian who sacrifices his very own body to shield and protect the defenseless and unsuspecting blind, who is oftentimes the highest paid offensive lineman on any given professional team.

Although the offensive tactic of the forward pass was not used during the 1930s anywhere near as much as it is in contemporary times some eighty years later, it certainly was still very important for any given Single Wing Era football team to fortify its “weak” side when using an unbalanced line. For starters, even though Single Wing passers did not really try and set up shop in a specified “pocket” the way that modern day quarterbacks are wont to do, every Single Wing passer (either left or right-handed players) always had a “back side” and hard-charging defenders to be sincerely concerned about. Also, every ball carrier heading for the strong side of the line, particularly on a slowly developing rushing play, inherited the possible risk of being chased down by a pursuing tackler coming from the back side.

And, it must be prominently remembered that the Single Wing formation, itself, was heavily predicated on the use of deception and trickery — thus, the classic “reverse” play, a maneuver where the blockers appear to set up for a sweep to the strong side of the line but the Wingback (Right Halfback) loops back around in order to suddenly take the ball on an “end run” heading for the opposite side of the line (the weak side), was a commonly used tactic … (particularly by the UCLA Bruins during the 1939 NCAA campaign).

The four backfield players are completely out of position in this deliberately staged “Press Photo” of the UCLA BRUINS first string taken during pre-season practice in September of 1937 but the useful picture on exhibit here does much to confirm the very important point to remember — it is, in fact, the two Guards (# 39 – GEORGE PFEIFFER and # 14 – JACK COHEN in this case) who are positioned next to one another in the unbalanced line.

Aside from the fact that the two Ends are stationed on either side of the two Tackles and not split out wide the same way that they would be in today’s contemporary game, one other very important facet about the players’ positions in the standard Carlisle Single Wing football formation to remember is the role of the Quarterback.

Nowadays, the modern quarterback spends all his time on the playing field either a) immediately handing the football off to another teammate and and then getting out of the way of everybody else or b) passing the pigskin to a receiver who is somewhere else (perhaps even far away) and/or getting out of the way of defensive players who are trying to physically punish him.

Things certainly were just a little bit different for the contemporary positional prima donna in the Single Wing formation, though, at least as far as the UCLA Bruins of the 1930s were concerned. Although it was the Quarterback who was the player that always lined up closest to the Center behind all the rest of the offensive linemen, the snap of the football was usually aimed with either the Left Halfback or the Fullback as the intended receiver and initial ball handler for any given play. The primary functions of the Quarterback (who, ironically enough, was normally not as big as a Fullback) were to act as a lead blocker on running plays as well as be an effective pass receiver.

Because the Quarterback was the backfield player closest to the Center (to speak nothing of all the other linemen), it was QB who barked out the snap count — this is exactly where that time-honored term, “signal-caller”, originates from. On many but not all Single Wing teams, it was the Quarterback who decided what offensive plays would be selected in the huddle, as well. This, indeed, was the case with the UCLA Bruins of the 1930s.

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Understanding UCLA Single Wing Football – The Basic Strategies

First String Backfield of 1939 UCLA BRUINS (left to right) — right halfback JACKIE ROBINSON, quarterback NED MATTHEWS, fullback BILL OVERLIN, left halfback KENNY WASHINGTON

The origins of the classic Carlisle Single Wing formation from the early 1900s are well documented by a wide variety of fine sources entirely too various to be mentioned here. Suffice to say, although this new offensive alignment sought to make use of the forward pass more and more as the years progressed, advancing the football via the ground continued to remain the dominant strategy for decades thereafter. However, what made the Carlisle Single Wing truly revolutionary was the fact that this was the very first offensive formation that sought to make use of deception and trickery in the backfield as compared to simply relying on just sheer brute force up front at the line of scrimmage.

Aside from this all the ball-handing and misdirection going on in the backfield that was specifically designed to confuse and delay the defense, the other prominent tactic that was fundamental to the basic offensive strategy of the Single Wing formation involved flooding the actual point of attack on any given play with overwhelming manpower. In order to achieve the prime objective of “double-teaming” any given defensive player at the point of attack, “pulling guards” and other “lead blockers” preceding the ball carrier “into the hole” played a most prominent role. These two particular facets of classic Carlisle Single Wing football, pulling offensive linemen and lead blockers originating in the backfield, are still very prevalent in today’s contemporary game.

In direct contrast to what is typically seen in modern times, one preeminent tactic that was a major part of many a Single Wing football team’s strategy game in and game out was the old “quick kick” play. By punting the football away on third and sometimes even second down, the kicking team hoped to catch the defense with no player positioned far enough down field to receive the pigskin. And a favorable bounce of the ball could radically affect the immediate fortunes of any given team backed up close to its own goal line or, perhaps, seeking to put its opponents in a similarly awkward position.

1938, UCLA BRUINS vs WASHINGTON HUSKIES at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum ……… the four players in the Bruins offensive backfield shown here are junior left halfback KENNY WASHINGTON (# 13), sophomore fullback BILL OVERLIN (# 5), sophomore quarterback NED MATTHEWS (# 55) and right halfback HAL HIRSHON (# 33) while anchoring the right side of the UCLA line is pass-catching end WOODY STRODE (# 27).

One facet of classic Carlisle Single Wing football that was critical to the success of any given offensive play was the direct snap from the Center, which could be aimed at either the Left Halfback or the Fullback but might also go the Quarterback, as well. Oftentimes, the snap was not intended for a stationary player but would go to a designated area for an intended receiver who was expected to be arriving. In any case, the Single Wing relied upon a good pass from the Center and a clean catch from the primary ball handler on every single solitary play from scrimmage.

On the other side of the line of scrimmage, the defense facing the Single Wing was meant to be left back on their heels and hesitant at all times. Several different players, each pretending that they are the one who actually has the possession of the football, might head off in a variety of different directions with the direct snap that starts any given play. Several different players might act as if they are the one who now has the pigskin after taking an alleged handoff — it was up to the defenders to sort it all out while simultaneously dealing with oncoming blockers bent on neutralizing them.

It was not uncommon for defensive players and referees on the field as well as spectators and motion picture cameramen in the stadium, alike, to all lose track of the whereabouts of the actual ball carrier.

1937, UCLA BRUINS vs SOUTHERN METHODIST MUSTANGS at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum ……… UCLA fullback BILLY BOB WILLIAMS (# 55), the bruising homegrown senior who led the Bruins with 423 yards rushing and was selected as the team’s Most Valuable Player by the Los Angeles County American Legion as a junior in 1936, acts as a lead blocker as Bruins left halfback KENNY WASHINGTON (# 13), the talented homegrown sophomore who led UCLA with 530 yards rushing and was named the school’s MVP by the same American Legion post in 1937, decides how to best take advantage of the rest of his teammates’ interference at the point of attack … Note the ambitious SMU Mustangs defensive player (# 41) who has already gotten around the left flank of the UCLA Bruins’ offensive line and seeks to chase the running play down from the back side.

Among other very interesting activities, the following UCLA football blog is doing very fine work to take full inventory of exactly what jerseys the Bruins were wearing in which particular years :


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1939, UCLA vs Oregon


The turnover-filled 1939 encounter on the Pacific Coast not only dropped the University of Oregon from the ranks of unbeaten teams in the conference, the sun-splashed affair also resulted in a considerable amount of media attention focused on UCLA Bruins rookie right halfback JACKIE ROBINSON — and for very good reason, as well.

October 28, 1939
Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
Attendance : 40,000


UCLA starting line-up
LE – # 27 … Woody STRODE ………….. LH – # 13 …. Kenny WASHINGTON
LT – # 15 … Del LYMAN …………………. FB – # 5 ……. Bill OVERLIN
LG – # 12 … John FRAWLEY …………… QB – # 55 …. Ned MATTHEWS
OC – # 6 ….. Martin MATHESON …….. RH – # 28 … Jackie ROBINSON
RG – # 11 … Jack SOMMERS
RT – # 24 … Mladen ZARUBICA
RE – # 38 … Don MACPHERSON

E – Jim MITCHELL (# 41), Ray BARTLETT (# 9), Bob SIMPSON (# 44), Chuck CASCALES (# 54)
T – Ernest HILL (# 10), Jack COHEN (# 14)
G – Louis KYZIVAT (# 30), Joe RUETTGERS (# 43), Robin WILLIAMS (# 35), Nate DEFRANCISCO (# 31)
C – Ted JONES (# 37)
QB – Joe VIGER (# 32)
LH – Chuck FENENBOCK (# 45)
RH – Dale GILMORE (# 25)
FB – Leo CANTOR (# 2), Don HESSE (# 4)

Page seventeen of the official stadium program (entitled “THE GOAL POST”) sold at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for the UCLA versus Oregon contest played on October 28, 1939, prominently notes the three touchdowns scored by KENNY WASHINGTON the previous week against the University of Montana and openly touts the Bruins left halfback for First Team All-America status.


Game Statistics
first downs ……………………………… UCLA 4, Oregon 16
net yards rushing ……………………. UCLA 183, Oregon 231
net yards passing …………………….. UCLA 66, Oregon 79
passes completed/attempted …… UCLA 1/6, Oregon 9/24
passes intercepted by ………………. UCLA 4, Oregon 0
fumbles lost …………………………….. UCLA 3, Oregon 3

scoring plays
1st qtr : BRUINS 3-0
Jack SOMMERS 40 yard field goal
2nd qtr : DUCKS 6-3
Bob SMITH 2 yard run (kick failed)
2nd qtr : BRUINS 9-6
Jackie ROBINSON 66 yard pass from Kenny WASHINGTON (kick failed)
3rd qtr : BRUINS 16-6
Jackie ROBINSON 83 yard run (John FRAWLEY kick)

UCLA individual net rushing statistics
RH – Jackie ROBINSON ………….. 5 carries … 93 yards
LH – Kenny WASHINGTON ……. 4 carries … 23 yards

FB – Leo CANTOR …………………… 2 carries … 18 yards *
LH – Chuck FENENBOCK ………… 1 carry ….. 15 yards *

* incomplete statisitcs … (only 149 of UCLA’s 183 rushing yards against Oregeon are accounted for on chart above)

GAME NOTES — the visiting Oregon Ducks ran the ball 48 times as compared to the 27 rushing attempts made by the host UCLA Bruins … Oregon first string right halfback John Berry (12 carries, 74 yards) and second string left halfback Bob Smith (17 carries, 74 yards) finished as joint top rushers for the the Ducks … the Eugene Register Guard newspaper account of the game noted that two of the UCLA Bruins’ top defensive performers, lineman Jack Sommers and safety Kenny Washington, both just so happened to be on the sidelines nursing minor injuries when the Oregon engaged in the long drive that produced the Ducks’ only touchdown of the entire afternoon.



The Oregon Ducks committed the first of what would be seven costly turnovers on its very first offensive possession of the game when star left halfback JAY GRAYBEAL, the senior who would be chosen First Team All-Pacific Coast by United Press International and honored as Second Team All-Pacific Coast by The Associated Press at the conclusion of the 1939 NCAA campaign, was hit and fumbled on a reverse play. Right end DON MACPHERSON, the lanky homegrown junior from University High School in Los Angeles, recovered the loose football for the Bruins on the opponents’ 22-yard line and, although the UCLA attack went nowhere, the hosts still went ahead when standout right guard JACK SOMMERS boomed a 40-yard field goal. Aside from the circumstance that Sommers was not normally the player traditionally assigned to handle placekicking duties for the Bruins, what made this feat extraordinary was the simple fact that UCLA had not made good on one single field goal attempt since the 1936 NCAA season.

Immediately thereafter, Oregon embarked on a long drive that was only stopped after the Ducks ran out of downs on the UCLA 3-yard line. The very next time the visitors had the pigskin in that first quarter, only an interception by Bruins quarterback NED MATTHEWS, the ball-hawking homegrown junior from Manual Arts High School, could save UCLA’s bacon. Oregon finally found the back of the end zone early in the second quarter after a 63-yard march directed by substitute left halfback BOB SMITH but the Ducks’ 6-3 advantage would not last very long at all.

This because the UCLA Bruins’ dynamic duo of left halfback KENNY WASHINGTON and right halfback JACKIE ROBINSON combined on one of, if not the most spectacular passing play of the entire 1939 NCAA football season within short order. According to the Associated Press report out of Los Angeles, the “Miracle Eye” camera pictures of the long-distance forward pass thrown by the dual-threat UCLA star Washington was confirmed to have traveled a distance of 52 yards in the air. The streaking Robinson, after receiving the football on the Oregon 23-yard line, left a trio of Ducks defensive players in his wake to score the very first touchdown of his two-year varsity career for the Bruins.

Officially, the play went into the books as a 66-yard touchdown toss from Washington to Robinson … (although this was not the existing UCLA school record then – that mark had already been set in 1932 when Mike Frankovich connected with Ransom Livesay for a 93-yard touchdown against, ironically enough, the University of Oregon … the strong-armed Washington, of course, had also been involved in the famous 73-yard touchdown reception that right halfback Hal Hirshon registered at the expense of cross-town rival Southern Cal Trojans in December of 1937).

Robinson, who had already successfully converted both of his extra point attempts against the Washington Huskies and Stanford Indians, respectively, failed on his third kick of that 1939 NCAA campaign but the Bruins still led 9-6 as the first half expired … while the speedy transfer from Pasadena Junior College would more than make up for that missed kick as the third quarter at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum wore on.


Oregon accepted the second half kickoff and, once again, were on the move after a 28-yard run by the substitute halfback Smith advanced the ball to the Bruins’ 32-yard line. But then Ducks right halfback JOHN BERRY fumbled at the end of his 17-yard run and Bruins lineman Sommers, the alert junior from Norristown, Pennsylvania, quickly secured the football only fifteen yards from his own goal line. Undaunted, the visitors soon blocked a punt from UCLA fullback BILL OVERLIN and progressed all the way down to the Bruins 1-yard line only to see Smith, the the left-handed senior who led Oregon with both 325 yards rushing as well as 405 yards passing in 1939, cough up the pigskin … (yet again, it was the influential Sommers with the critical fumble recovery for head coach Babe Horrell’s squad).

UCLA immediately punted the ball right back to the relentless troops of Ducks head coach Tex Oliver, who began this latest offensive possession on the Bruins 29-yard line. Once more, though, the visitors would come up empty after Robinson, who was deployed as the equivalent of a modern-day cornerback in what was UCLA’s typical 6-2-2-1 defensive alignment back then, got his hands on a forward pass from Smith at the Bruins 17-yard line. On the very next play from scrimmage, the electric UCLA right halfback essentially turned the lights out on the Ducks by racing 83 yards around left end on the single wing, man-in-motion reverse tactic that Horrell’s Bruins used to such devastating effect throughout the course of the entire 1939 NCAA season.

(Robinson’s 83-yard touchdown dash against the Oregon Ducks in 1939 was the second longest rushing play in UCLA school history at that time — the existing record, which still stands to this very day, is the monumental 93-yard touchdown run that Bruins star left halfback Chuck Cheshire made against the University of Montana in October of 1934)

A successful extra point conversion by senior co-captain JOHN FRAWLEY stretched Bruins’ margin to 16-6 and the Ducks’ will to resist effectively migrated. UCLA might have added yet another score after the Bruins blocked a punt in the fourth quarter and reserve left halfback CHUCK FENENBOCK broke free for a long run deep inside Oregon territory. A pair of line smashes from second-string fullback LEO CANTOR carried the football to within five yards of the desired end zone but a fumble by the beefy sophomore killed off the game’s final threat.

(Associated Press – Eugene Register Guard, Monday, October 30, 1939) … Oregon Ducks left end HYMIE HARRIS is submarined by UCLA Bruins defender JACK SOMMERS (# 11) just after catching a pass for a thirteen-yard gain during the Pacific Coast Conference battle of unbeaten teams at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on October 28, 1939.

Pacific Coast Conference standings (as of 10/30/1939)

Oregon State ………… won 3 lost 0 tied 0 ….. (won 5 lost 0 tied 0)
Southern Cal ………… won 2 lost 0 tied 1 ….. (won 3 lost 0 tied 1)
UCLA …………………… won 2 lost 0 tied 1 ….. (won 4 lost 0 tied 1)
Oregon …………………. won 2 lost 1 tied 1 ….. (won 2 lost 2 tied 1)
California ……………… won 1 lost 2 tied 0 ….. (won 2 lost 4 tied 0)
Washington State ….. won 1 lost 3 tied 0 ….. (won 2 lost 3 tied 0)
Washington …………… won 1 lost 3 tied 0 ….. (won 1 lost 4 tied 0)
Stanford ……………….. won 0 lost 3 tied 1 ….. (won 0 lost 3 tied 1)


Attendance according to newspaper references
40,000 … Eugene Register-Guard ………….. 10/29/39
40,000 … Palm Beach Post ……………………. 10/29/39
40,000 … Pittsburgh Press ……………………. 10/29/39
40,000 … San Bernardino County Sun …… 10/29/39
40,000 … Nebraska State Journal ………….. 10/30/39
35,000 …. Berkeley Daily Gazette …………… 10/30/39

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Robinson’s Speed Sinks Oregon’s Ducks


Considering the school for whom his Olympic medal-winning older brother Mack was an NCAA track champion in 1938, it was, perhaps, most appropriate then that, one year later, UCLA Bruins rookie right halfback JACKIE ROBINSON recorded the first pair of his collegiate touchdowns scored at the highest NCAA level in a contest opposite the University of Oregon Ducks.

The highly touted transfer from Pasadena Junior College had received good reviews and contributed two key runs on UCLA’s game-winning touchdown march in the Bruins’ 1939 season opener against the defending national champions also known as Texas Christian University Horned Frogs. Robinson also figured prominently in the offensive strategy for UCLA’s next two games while gaining 62 yards rushing against the Stanford Indians and another 65 yards on the ground at the expense of the Washington Huskies. But then Bruins head coach BABE HORRELL decided to utilize the speedy right halfback strictly in a decoy role for the following contest against the University of Montana and, thus, Robinson did not carry the ball from scrimmage even one time against the Grizzlies while UCLA rolled to victory.

Nevertheless, the explosive Robinson needed to touch the pigskin only twice against the luckless Oregon Ducks team in order to rack up an astonishing 149 yards for an amazing average of 74.5 yards per play and score the two pivotal touchdowns that swung the Pacific Coast Conference game permanently in the direction of the decidedly outgained UCLA Bruins.

Altogether, Robinson accumulated 93 yards rushing on five attempts versus Oregon and, including the long pass reception in the second quarter, was responsible for a total of 159 yards — this sum represented 63.9% of UCLA’s total offensive production that day.

This copyrighted photograph from the University of Oregon Libraries – Special Collections and University Achives shows MACK ROBINSON, the world-class track & field athlete who won a silver medal for the United States in the 200 meters competition at the notorious Games of the XI Olympiad hosted by Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany in 1936.

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Filed under UCLA Football