The official stationed under the goal posts at the back of the end zone looks up towards the sky in a bid to follow the flight of the football as the white-shirted UCLA Bruins attempt a field goal during the Pacific Coast Conference clash with their “big brothers to the north”, the University of California Golden Bears, at Memorial Stadium in Berkeley on October 17th, 1936. Thanks to a pair of touchdown passes from sophomore left halfback Hal Hirshon to senior right end Bob Schroeder as well as a 33-yard field goal from fullback Billy Bob Williams, the upstart UCLA Bruins were able to defeat the far more established California Golden Bears for the very first time in school history. Accordingly, jubilant UCLA supporters who had made the journey up from Los Angeles celebrated by joyfully taking down the goal posts.
Talented UCLA right halfback JOE FLEMING kicked no fewer than six field goals while scoring 13 touchdowns and adding a dozen extra points during a spectacular sophomore campaign in 1926 but, despite scoring another nine touchdowns and kicking eleven extra points over the course of his next two varsity seasons, never did boot any more three-pointers for the Bruins ever again. Nevertheless, another 40 years would pass before Fleming’s single-season field goal total was finally equaled by KURT ZIMMERMAN, a senior who just so happened to be the very first true “kicking specialist” in the history of the UCLA Bruins football program. Furthermore, it was not until 1967 that another UCLA placekicker (ZENON ANDRUSYSHYN, the very first “soccer-style” placekicker the Westwood school ever sent out onto the gridiron field) was able to duplicate Joe Fleming’s notable feat of having kicked two field goals for the Bruins in any one game (that being against Redlands University in 1926).
Coincidentally enough, 1926 was also the very last year that saw goalposts on a collegiate football field located on the actual goal line, itself. Because of injuries directly resulting from this particular placement and the fact that the goalposts, themselves, sometimes interfered with play (specifically, in passing and punting situations), the goalposts were moved ten yards to the back of the end zone. Although the National Football League, in an effort to increase field goals and, thus, overall scoring, moved its goalposts back to the goal line in 1933 (where they stayed until the conclusion of the 1973 NFL campaign), the collegiate game never reversed its course.
ALL-TIME UCLA BRUINS : FIELD GOALS, FROM 1927 THRU 1966
1933 ….. 27 yrd FG ….. Mike FRANKOVICH, vs Utah *
1934 ….. 25 yrd FG ….. Bill MURPHY, vs Oregon
1936 ….. 47 yrd FG ….. Billy Bob WILLIAMS, vs Montana
1936 ….. 33 yrd FG ….. Billy Bob WILLIAMS, vs California
1936 ….. 24 yrd FG ….. Billy Bob WILLIAMS, vs Oregon State
1939 ….. 40 yrd FG ….. Jack SOMMERS, vs Oregon
1941 ….. 25 yrd FG ….. Ken SNELLING, vs Florida
1942 ….. 37 yrd FG ….. Ken SNELLING, vs Oregon State
1947 ….. 24 yrd FG ….. Benny REIGES, vs Iowa
1952 ….. 27 yrd FG ….. Pete DAILEY, vs Stanford
1952 ….. 22 yrd FG ….. Pete DAILEY, vs USC
1955 ….. 25 yrd FG ….. Jim DECKER, vs Washington
1955 ….. 19 yrd FG ….. Jim DECKER, vs USC
1957 ….. 35 yrd FG ….. Steve GERTMAN, vs Illinois
1957 ….. 33 yrd FG ….. Kirk WILSON, vs California
1958 ….. 19 yrd FG ….. Kirk WILSON, vs California
1959 ….. 21 yrd FG ….. Ivory JONES, vs USC
1960 ….. 27 yrd FG ….. Ivory JONES, vs Air Force
1960 ….. 19 yrd FG ….. Ivory JONES, vs Utah
1961 ….. 32 yrd FG ….. Bob SMITH, vs Ohio State
1961 ….. 26 yrd FG ….. Bob SMITH, vs California
1961 ….. 31 yrd FG …… Bob SMITH, vs USC
1962 ….. 28 yrd FG ….. Bob SMITH, vs Minnesota – (Rose Bowl)
1962 ….. 28 yrd FG ….. Larry ZENO, vs Ohio State
1962 ….. 48 yrd FG ….. Larry ZENO, vs Air Force
1962 ….. 35 yrd FG ….. Larry ZENO, vs USC
1963 ….. 23 yrd FG ….. Larry ZENO, vs Stanford
1964 ….. 25 yrd FG ….. Larry ZENO, vs Pitt
1965 ….. 37 yrd FG ….. Kurt ZIMMERMAN, vs Michigan State
1965 ….. 31 yrd FG ….. Kurt ZIMMERMAN, vs Penn State
1965 ….. 34 yrd FG ….. Kurt ZIMMERMAN, vs Syracuse
1965 ….. 31 yrd FG ….. Kurt ZIMMERMAN, vs Air Force
1965 ….. 21 yrd FG ….. Kurt ZIMMERMAN, vs Stanford
1966 ….. 32 yrd FG ….. Kurt ZIMMERMAN, vs Syracuse
1966 ….. 25 yrd FG ….. Kurt ZIMMERMAN, vs Missouri
1966 ….. 17 yrd FG ….. Kurt ZIMMERMAN, vs Rice
1966 ….. 28 yrd FG ….. Kurt ZIMMERMAN, vs Air Force
1966 ….. 36 yrd FG ….. Kurt ZIMMERMAN, vs Washington
1966 ….. 21 yrd FG ….. Kurt ZIMMERMAN, vs Stanford
* Note — UCLA quarterback MIKE FRANKOVICH notched his three-pointer versus the University of Utah Utes in 1933 by means of the old “drop kick” maneuver and remains the last Bruins player ever to successfully kick a field goal in that manner.
Contemporary football fans seeking to understand just how rare successful field goal attempts were back when KENNY WASHINGTON starred at left halfback for the UCLA Bruins and, indeed, for many, many years thereafter, as well, might want to consider that, in 1938, there were a total of 47 field goals scored in all NCAA football games played, which translated into an average of just about one three-pointer for every five games contested. During the five-year period that led up to the outlawing of the flat placekicking tee in 1989, all NCAA football games played had produced a total of at least 1,350 field goals for five consecutive seasons straight – those figures translated into an average of roughly three field goals scored for every single game contested. So, in other words, the college teams such as the UCLA Bruins of TROY AIKMAN’s era were fifteen times more likely to successfully kick a field goal in any given football game as directly to college teams such as the Westwood warriors from the Kingfish’s time period.
It is very interesting to note that the UCLA Bruins struggled with placekicking even well after the NCAA liberalized the substitution rules in 1941 (which made it feasible for a certain specific player to come off the bench for the sole purpose of kicking extra points and field goals an unlimited number of times over the course of any given game). The 1946 UCLA squad that made an appearance in the prestigious Rose Bowl contest on New Year’s Day racked up an impressive total of fifty touchdowns in eleven games played that year with left halfback ERNIE CASE establishing a new school record by booting seven extra points in the 61-7 bombardment of the University of Montana Grizzlies. Still, the Bruins placekickers were barely able to convert more than half of their collective extra point attempts (54.0%) and also failed to kick even one field goal over the course of that entire season, as well.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association did change the substitution rules again in 1953, reverting back to an extremely limited policy that was very, very close to the old system that had been abolished prior to the 1941 college football season; the NCAA powers that be continued to tinker with the substitution rules until the modern-day “unlimited substitution” policy (which enabled teams to deploy separate offensive, defensive and special teams units in earnest) was adopted for the 1965 NCAA campaign.
UCLA Bruins placekicker KURT ZIMMERMAN (# 37) easily established a new school record for career field goals by booting eleven three-pointers in just two seasons. The 175-pounder, who, ironically enough, came by way of Redlands, California, did not attempt any extra points or field goals as a sophomore for the Bruins in 1964. Nevertheless, Zimmerman went on to smash all existing UCLA career records for both extra points scored (63) as well as accuracy (98.44%).
Contemporary football fans might find it rather interesting to note that the overwhelming majority (40/52, or 76.92%) of all players on the 1964 UCLA Bruins varsity roster are listed as having a position on both offense and defense.
The NCAA also made two significant moves during the decade that followed World War II in an on-going effort to generate more successful placekicking in the collegiate football game. The first major rule change, which came in 1950, allowed for the use of flat kicking tees that were up to two inches high. This development made it much easier for placekickers to “get under the ball” and, thus, prevent extra point and field goal attempts from being blocked by opponents who leap into the air with their arms raised high.
Even with the aid of the flat kicking tee, it was not until 1958 that the number of field goals scored in all Division I-A college football games finally reached a total of one hundred or more. So, for the very next season, the NCAA decided to extend the width of the goalposts to a measurement of 23 feet 4 inches. Still, the widened goalposts in 1959 did not produce an immediate tidal wave of field goal scoring (total of 109 field goals in all games played, an increase of just six from the year before).