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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