Kenny Washington’s UCLA Bruins Could Have Had Better Placekicking

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If UCLA star left halfback KENNY WASHINGTON was feeling just a little frustrated in late November of 1939 after the nationally-ranked Bruins could only draw with the visiting Oregon State Beavers on home turf at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, then then that particular sentiment would have been completely understandable.

Using both his arm and legs, much to the chagrin of the Oregon State supporters in attendance, the two-time All-Pacific Coast selection had calmly directed the hosts all the way downfield in the very last minutes of what had already been a highly entertaining football game. Once promising Bruins sophomore fullback LEO CANTOR had scored his second touchdown of the ’39 NCAA season on short run up the middle, a successful extra point conversion was all that stood between the legitimate Rose Bowl contenders and a sensational, if not well deserved, come-from-behind victory. Surely, stationed as the wing (blocking) back at the left end of the line in the standard UCLA field goal formation, Washington was poised to celebrate as he awaited the forthcoming attempt from guard JOHN FRAWLEY.

But, alas, it was not to be. For the second consecutive year in a row, the Bruins co-captain misfired on a critical kick in the closing stages of a Pacific Coast Conference game with the highly competitive Oregon State Beavers. And so UCLA’s prized “Kingfish”, who was never ever one to complain about any possible weaknesses his teammates may have to the newspaper reporters of his era, was summarily left to ponder what might have been.

Not to get too far ahead of this blog’s account of the 1939 UCLA football story, but the simple fact of the matter is that better placekicking would have directly influenced the final outcome in three of the Bruins’ last four contests that year. Furthermore, during the previous NCAA campaign, the Westwood school played two other games that could have yielded a better result for the Bruins had UCLA been the beneficiaries of more accurate placekicking. In 1938, it had been two missed extra points by fullback BILL OVERLIN that loomed large during the 14-12 loss to the Oregon Ducks while, later on that term, Frawley could have defeated the Oregon State Beavers with a fourth quarter field goal, as well.

It is interesting to note that the final results of roughly one-quarter (5 of 21) of UCLA’s intercollegiate football contests during Kenny Washington’s last two years in uniform were radically affected by the Bruins’ lack of a more reliable placekicker to provide extra points and field goals.

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