On The ’39 Oregon State Beavers

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Oregon State fullback JIM KISSELBAUGH (# 49), who was named Third Team All-America by the Associated Press as a senior in 1940 and is credited with having scored 15 rushing touchdowns in his collegiate career, threw two of the three passes that resulted in touchdown plays for the Beavers during the entire 1938 and 1939 NCAA seasons, combined.
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The OREGON STATE BEAVERS outfit that arrived at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in late November of 1939 to boot the ole’ pigskin around with the UCLA BRUINS (ranked # 13 in the nation according to the latest Associated Press national poll) was a rather competent college football team, to be certain.

In the week leading up to the vital Pacific Coast Conference tilt featuring host UCLA and visiting Oregon State, the previously # 19-ranked Beavers had actually fallen out of the AP Top Twenty despite having beaten the slumping California Golden Bears 21-0 on November 18, 1939, to improve their season slate to an impressive seven wins against just one defeat. Head coach ALONZO STINER’s club had climbed as high as # 11 on the weekly AP chart in 1939 before suffering a most catastrophic 19-7 loss at home to the mighty USC Trojans at the start of November. Nevertheless, Oregon State still had an outside shot at the lucrative and prestigious Rose Bowl invitation, but, in order to book their place in Pasadena, the Beavers would first have to register a triumph over the Bruins in Los Angeles and then later hope for favorable results from USC’s final two Pacific Coast Conference games (against UCLA and the University of Washington) in early December.

UCLA’s own Rose Bowl ambitions were alive and well as Oregon State came calling in late November of 1939 but the bottom line for the Bruins was the fact that, dating back to the previous campaign, the formidable Beavers were currently sporting the impressive record of twelve wins against just two losses from their last fifteen NCAA contests.

Now, Oregon State had lost six of its eleven first team players — both ends, an All-Pacific Coast guard, the center, the quarterback (read, chief blocking back) and the always-influential left halfback — from the squad that posted the overall record of five wins against three losses with one tie in 1938. Before the new season started, the head coach Stiner stated that he thought the 1939 edition Beavers would be ‘good’ but, perhaps, ‘great’ might be just a bit beyond this particular team’s reach. What Stiner could not have known in advance was that his group of sophomores on the Oregon State varsity that year were, indeed, destined to play in the 1942 Rose Bowl Game.

oregon-state-scultzStiner did have a solid cast of upperclassmen returning to the Oregon State squad, including standout guard EBERLE SCHULTZ (# 48), a beefy (6’4″ 222 lbs) senior who was to become a Second Team All-America selection of both the New York Sun newspaper and the well-respected Paul Williamson as well as a Third Team All-America selection of both the Associated Press as well as the Central Press Association in 1939. Known to be particular effective at opening holes on the offensive side of the ball, the consensus First Team All-Pacific Coast pick was the 29th overall player taken at the 1940 National Football League Draft when snapped up in the fourth round by the Philadelphia Eagles. Left tackle JOHN HACKENBRUCK, a reliable 210-pound senior whose professional playing rights would be reserved by the Detroit Lions in the 17th round (# 165 overall) of the 1940 NFL Draft, was another experienced starter back to help the overwhelmingly run-oriented Beavers at the point of attack.

Two returning linemen who had earned their first varsity letters in a reserve role as sophomores in 1938 would ascend to first team status and be recognized as all-league players before their respective college careers had concluded. Right guard LEN YOUNCE, a 200-pounder who proved to be better than average at kicking extra points, would be named Second Team All-Pacific Coast by both the Associated Press and United Press as a junior in 1939 before honored as a First Team All-Pacific Coast choice by both major news organizations as a senior in 1940. Younce was eventually tabbed by the New York Giants in the eighth round (# 67 overall) of the 1941 NFL Draft.

Tackle VIC SEARS (6’3 210) took slightly longer to emerge as a starter for the Oregon State Beavers but, as a senior in 1940, ultimately developed a First Team All-America selection, according the New York Sun. Originally taken by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the fifth round (# 33 overall) of the 1941 NFL Draft, the native of Eugene (home, of course, of the arch-rival Oregon Ducks) spent a dozen years as property of the Philadelphia Eagles in an NFL career that was interrupted by military service during World War II. Both Younce (another WWII veteran) and Sears, who celebrated National Football League titles with the Eagles in both 1948 and 1949, were later named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s All-1940s Team in conjunction with the NFL’s 50th Anniversary Season in 1969.

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Oregon State right halfback MORRIS KOHLER registered the only touchdown of his senior season by scoring on a 44-yard scamper in the third quarter of the Beavers’ 13-7 win over the Washington Huskies in October of 1939.
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Returning to spearhead the Oregon State offense was triple-threat fullback JIM KISSELBURGH, who had been honored as Second Team All-Pacific Coast by the Associated Press as a sophomore in 1938. The 185-pound native of Hollywood, California, who pounded out both touchdowns in the Beavers’ 14-0 victory over the Oregon Ducks during his initial varsity campaign, had also established himself as one of the conference’s best punters while being a demon at linebacker on defense, as well. A three-time First or Second Team All-Pacific Coast selection in his collegiate career, the well-rounded Kisselburgh would be snapped up by the Cleveland Rams in the sixth round (# 44 overall) of the 1941 NFL Draft.

The Beavers, who were just as likely to have the fullback field the direct snap as they were the left halfback in the multiple variations of the traditional Single Wing formation they were typically wont to use, had a quality backup for Kisselbaugh in fellow junior KENNETH “ROWDY” DOW. The 195-pound bruiser from Montana led the way by rushing for 83 yards (5.9 avg) and a touchdown during Oregon State’s 13-0 victory over Washington State in late October and contributed 46 yards (5.1 avg) and another six points on the ground during the Beavers’ 21-0 whitewash of the California Golden Bears. Dow’s abilities were confirmed when the Washington Redskins took the Oregon State second-string fullback in the 16th round (# 150 overall) of the 1941 NFL Draft.

MORRIS KOHLER, the 170-pound senior from Sutton, Nebraska, who would be taken by the Cleveland Rams in the 16th round (# 145 overall) of the 1940 NFL Draft, was the only other returning starter in the backfield as Oregon State prepared to kick off its 1939 NCAA campaign. It was Morris Kohler who paced the Beavers on consecutive Saturdays by gaining 58 yards (5.3 avg) during the 19-14 win over the intra-state arch-rival University of Oregon and then 70 yards (5.8 avg) during the big victory over the visiting University of California in the two games leading up to Oregon State’s clash with the still unbeaten UCLA Bruins in Los Angeles. Kohler’s twin brother, Vic, was among a slew of hopefuls vying for playing time spot at left halfback — it had been an interception and subsequent 70 yard touchdown return by VIC KOHLER that had propelled the Beavers to a 6-0 triumph over Stanford University in 1938.

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(Associated Press photo – The Spokesman-Review, October 22, 1939) …….. Oregon State left halfback BOB OLSON (# 82) clutches the pigskin tight as he hammers across the University of Washington goal line to score a touchdown from two yards out during the second quarter of the Pacific Coast Conference encounter at Husky Stadium in Seattle on October 21, 1939.
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GEORGE PETERS, a 190-pound sophomore from Ventura, California, took over the first team job at quarterback (read, blocking back) and scored Oregon State’s very first touchdown of the 1939 NCAA season on a pass reception from the fullback Kisselburgh during the Beavers’ 12-0 victory over the Stanford Indians at the end of September; Peters was fated to be picked in the eighth round (# 66 overall) of the 1942 NFL Draft by the Washington Redskins.

BOB OLSON surprisingly “stole the whole show” during Oregon State’s spring practice sessions in 1939 and, thus, had the inside track at left halfback. It was the homegrown junior from Medford who tossed a pass to the quarterback Peters for a touchdown that provided the Beavers with an early lead during the annual “Civil War” battle with the eternal enemy, the Oregon Ducks, that year. The tall but lanky Olson later broke that very same contest open in spectacular fashion by lugging the second half kickoff back 93 yards for a touchdown.

Aside from Vic Kohler, Oregon State also had yet another productive left halfback in BOB DETHMAN. It was the 185-pound homegrown sophomore from Hood River who tallied the first two touchdowns of his varsity career during the Beavers’ surprisingly close 14-12 win over the University of Portland in the middle of October. Dethman, who later went on to throw two pivotal third quarter touchdown passes against Duke University in the 1942 Rose Bowl Game, was destined to become the 20th overall player selected at the 1942 NFL Draft after being tabbed by the Detroit Lions in the third round.

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