1939, UCLA vs Oregon

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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 BRUINS vs OREGON DUCKS

UCLA starting line-up
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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

substitutions
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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)

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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.
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UCLA BRUINS 16 – OREGON DUCKS 6

Game Statistics
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net total yardage …………………….. UCLA 243, Oregon 295
first downs ……………………………… UCLA 4, Oregon 16
net yards rushing ……………………. UCLA 177, Oregon 222
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
punts / average ……………………….. UCLA 10 – 26.4, Oregon 5 – 15.6
kick & punt return yards …………. UCLA 38, Oregon 114
penalty yardage lost ………………… UCLA 15, Oregon 20

scoring plays
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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
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# 28 … RH – Jackie ROBINSON ………….. 5 carries … 89 yards
# 45 … LH – Chuck FENENBOCK ………… 8 carries … 26 yards
# 13 … LH – Kenny WASHINGTON …….. 4 carries … 23 yards
# 2 ….. FB – Leo CANTOR ……………………. 4 carries … 19 yards
# 5 ….. FB – Bill OVERLIN ……………………. 3 carries … 14 yards
# 4 ….. FB – Don HESSE ………………………. 2 carries ….. 4 yards
# 25 … RH – Dale GILMORE ………………… 1 carry …….. 3 yards

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 JOHH 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, linebacker 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 … Both teams had difficulty with punt protection and this explains the poor kicking averages for the game; Oregon blocked two UCLA punts outright and partially blocked another while the Ducks had one of their kicks snuffed out by the Bruins.

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UCLA BRUINS vs OREGON DUCKS
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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.

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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.

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(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.
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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)

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Attendance according to newspaper references
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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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