On The ’39 TCU Horned Frogs

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UCLA Bruins substitute end RAY BARTLETT (9), the promising transfer from Pasadena Junior College, closes in fast as Texas Christian University quarterback JACK ODLE (12), the Horned Frogs passer who was eventually tabbed by the Chicago Bears in the 20th round (# 188 overall) of the 1941 National Football League Draft, tries to shake free from a would-be tackler during the surprising NCAA inter-regional clash played under the lights at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on September 29, 1939.
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The UCLA BRUINS were widely considered to be clear underdogs going into their 1939 NCAA season opener against the defending national champions from TEXAS CHRISTIAN UNIVERSITY. Contemporary sportswriter Harry Ferguson of the United Press confidently proclaimed that the Horned Frogs would defeat the host Bruins by two touchdowns in an article that appeared in newspapers all across the country and, as stalwart UCLA left end WOODY STRODE later confided in his autobiography, the local Los Angeles bookmakers installed the visitors from the Southwest Conference as nine-point favorites. Even though T.C.U. were seeking to replace the Heisman Trophy winner and several other top notch players from a squad that won all eleven of its games in 1938, there were still plenty of seemingly valid reasons to think that the 1939 Horned Frogs would be able to pick up where their predecessors had left off.

After all, Texas Chrisitan fullback CONNIE SPARKS had rushed for 486 yards (3.6 avg) and 11 touchdowns in as many games as a sophomore in 1938. And left halfback EARL CLARK, who led the unbeaten and untied Horned Frogs with both 27 pass receptions (476 yards, 17.6 avg) and six touchdown catches in eleven games as a junior, was back for his senior season. Furthermore, the two sticky-fingered first team ends who combined to catch five touchdown passes the previous season, DURWOOD HORNER and JOE LOONEY, also both returned to help power T.C.U.’s high-octane offensive attack.

(This trio of Clark, Horner and Looney would all later be selected in the 1940 National Football League Draft)

Although four of the Horned Frogs’ five interior linemen had graduated, several second-stringers on T.C.U.’s so-called “B Team” had contributed substantially in 1938. Among these vital reserves were guard BOBBY SHERROD, who was cited by many sportswriters for his yeoman’s work against Carnegie Tech in the dramatic 1939 Sugar Bowl contest in New Orleans that the Horned Frogs rallied to win 15-7. Other notable B-Team players from the 1938 squad now operating with the Texas Christian first team in 1939 included tackles BOB COOK and ENNIS KERLEE, would-be three-year letterwinners both.

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Texas Christian University senior fullback WARD WILKINSON (33) places the football down as Horned Frogs quarterback and 1938 Heisman Trophy winner DAVEY O’BRIEN (8), who had already connected with end Durwood Horner on a 44-yard passing play to give T.C.U. the lead in the third period, calmly kicks a pivotal field goal in the fourth quarter of the see-saw 1939 Sugar Bowl game against the Carnegie Tech Tartans.
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Heading into the 1939 NCAA season, it was commonly thought that Horned Frogs quarterback JACK ODLE, the strapping six-foot, one hundred and eighty pound homegrown junior from McKinney, was adequately prepared to follow in the footsteps of former Texas Christian University standouts SAMMY BAUGH and DAVEY O’BRIEN. The fact is, though, that Odle’s statistics from T.C.U.’s highly successful ten-game regular season in 1938 had not been all that overwhelming as the sophomore second-string quarterback completed 12 of his 28 passes for 146 yards with no touchdowns and three interceptions while rushing for just 43 net yards (1.6 avg per carry) and no touchdowns. Odle did have one noteworthy play in the 1938 Sugar Bowl, a 40-yard punt which pinned Carnegie Tech back on their own six-yard line.

One thing was certain for Texas Christian as they prepared to travel west and confront UCLA at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum — the graduation losses had been considerable :

TCU HORNED FROGS selected in 1939 NFL DRAFT
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# 1 overall ……. Chicago Cardinals …………….. C – Ki ALDRICH
# 4 overall ……. Philadelphia Eagles ……….. QB – Davey O’BRIEN
# 8 overall ……. Washington Redskins ……….. T – I.B. HALE

# 75 overall …… Brooklyn Dodgers ……………. G – Forrest KLINE
# 79 overall …… Green Bay Packers ………… HB – John HALL

# 114 overall ….. Philadelphia Eagles …………. T – Allie WHITE

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1938 TEXAS CHRISTIAN UNIVERSITY HORNED FROGS … in the offensive backfield, from left to right, are right halfback John Hall, fullback Connie Sparks, quarterback Davey O’Brien, left halfback Earl Clark while on the offensive line are, from left to right, right end Durwood Horner, right tackle Allie White, right guard Bud Taylor, center Ki Aldrich, left guard Forrest Kline, left tackle I.B. Hale and left end Joe Looney.

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