Horrell’s UCLA Have No Secrecy

Southern California Daily Trojan, December 6, 1939 … “FORMIDABLE TRIO – DON MACPHERSON, JIM MITCHELL and CHUCK CASCALES, left to right, three pass catching ends, are expected to play important roles in the Bruin air attack when the Westwooders meet the Trojans Saturday.” … MacPherson, the junior right end from Los Angeles who was an Honorable Mention All-Pacific Coast choice of both the Associated Press and United Press in 1939, scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 35-yard pass reception during UCLA’s 20-7 triumph over the University of California Golden Bears in early November … Mitchell, the senior right end from Fremont who earned three varsity letters for UCLA in his career, added the final points in the Bruins’ 24-7 win over the Washington State Cougars after catching a 15-yard pass from second-string left halfback Chuck Fenenbock late in the fourth quarter of the Thanksgiving evening contest at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.


Los Angeles, December 5th (United Press) — The UCLA BRUINS, in line for a chance at the Rose Bowl (which would mark the Westwood school’s very first appearance in the annual gridiron game at Pasadena on New Year’s Day), went into heavy secret practice yesterday.

Coach BABE HORRELL was believed to have introduced several new plays centering around speedy JACKIE ROBINSON in an effort to spring him loose against the (cross-town rival USC) Trojans.


Apparently exhausted by a stream of newspaper reports claiming that spies with binoculars were watching UCLA’s supposedly “closed” training sessions from the rooftops of houses neighboring the Westwood school’s practice facility, the Bruins’ first-year head coach Horrell decided to abandon his preference for secrecy and re-opened his drills to the public during the week leading up to the de facto Pacific Coast Conference title game in early December of 1939.

It was certainly no secret that, if UCLA wanted to play in the annual Rose Bowl Game for the very first time in school history, then the Bruins simply could not afford to post the same kind of offensive numbers against USC that it had put up against the formidable Trojans defense the season before.

Indeed, one year earlier, UCLA (6-4-1) managed just 64 yards worth of total offense while USC (8-2-0) were triumphantly marching off with the 1938 game to the merry tune of a 42-7 song. Indicative of the Trojans’ dominance at the line of scrimmage, the Bruins could only muster 36 yards rushing on 31 carries for a woeful average of 1.16 yards per attempt. UCLA fared little better through the air against USC and had almost as many passes intercepted (four) as it had pass completions (five).

Bruins star left halfback KENNY WASHINGTON, the First Team All-Pacific Coast selection of both the Associated Press as well as the United Press in 1938 who had 573 yards rushing that season, was restricted to a paltry 15 yards rushing on as many carries by the rugged Trojan defenders; meanwhile, the trio of ineffective UCLA right halfbacks deployed (HAL HIRSHON, MERLE HARRIS and DALE GILMORE) all lost ground, a combined total of 34 yards on five rushing attempts.

Clearly, the recruitment of JACKIE ROBINSON in 1939 was a game-changing event for the developing UCLA Bruins football program, particularly in relation to its cross-town rivalry with the budding arch-enemy USC Trojans. The highly touted Robinson, who had an impressive 1,093 yards and 18 touchdowns rushing the football in eleven games for Pasadena Junior College during the 1938 campaign, made a very smooth transition to the playing for UCLA at the highest collegiate level in the strong Pacific Coast Conference. At long last, the up and coming Bruins now had a second All-Pacific Coast caliber player in the offensive backfield alongside the ever-dangerous Washington who was capable of worrying defensive opponents.

In the end, Robinson’s most influential play of the entire 1939 UCLA vs USC contest came with the Bruins’ first-year speedster operating on the defensive side of the ball, but that would be another story.


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