UCLA Bruins vs USC Trojans : Developing A Real Rivalry, 1929-1937

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USC left halfback ERNY PINCKERT (# 17 in dark jersey), the talented sophomore who went on to become a First Team All-America selection of the Associated Press in both 1930 and 1931, dances across the goal line to score one of his two touchdowns during the Trojans’ historic 76-0 blowout victory over the cross-town rival UCLA Bruins in the first-ever collegiate football game played between the two Los Angeles schools in front of a curious crowd of 50,000 spectators at the cavernous Memorial Coliseum … (El Rodeo photo)
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September 28, 1929 : USC TROJANS 76 – UCLA BRUINS 0
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“September twenty-eight, nineteen hundred twenty-nine, will go down in football history as the day upon which occurred the first Trojan – Bruin game. It will be remembered by grandads in days to come as a complete rout of the Westwood Bruins to the tune of 76 to 0. It will be remembered as a game that produced the enormous Trojan yardage total of 735 yards, against 124 for the Bruins,” it was written in the 1930 edition of the University of Southern California’s school yearbook, “El Rodeo”.

USC quarterback RUSS SAUNDERS, a Third Team All-America choice of both the Newspaper Enterprise Association and the North American Newspaper Alliance in 1929, racked up 234 yards on only 14 carries and scored three touchdowns. Second-string fullback JESS HILL, who was later the Trojans head coach from 1951 to 1956 before before serving as the school’s athletic director from 1957 until 1972, rushed for 152 yards on just 14 attempts and added two touchdowns. Second team right halfback GAIUS SHAVER, a sophomore who would be chosen First Team All-America choice at fullback by the United Press as well as the Central Press Association two years later in 1931, galloped 72 yards in the second quarter for the first of his two touchdowns and reserve left halfback ERNY PINCKERT also crossed the goal line two times apiece as the so-called Thundering Herd of head coach HOWARD JONES totaled a dozen touchdowns in all against the hapless Bruins.

USC fared less well with its extra point attempts against UCLA in 1929 — the Trojans successfully kicked only three out of eleven conversion attempts from placement, it shall be noted. The Bruins, meanwhile, managed to complete but one pass out of six attempts all game long. However, as if to foreshadow spectacular UCLA passing plays which were destined to unfold over the years as the intra-city rivalry developed in earnest, second-string quarterback ED SOLOMON’s toss to reserve left halfback HOWIE ROBERTS gained an impressive 30 yards against a highly regarded Trojans team that went on to destroy a previously unbeaten and untied University of Pittsburgh Panthers squad in the 1930 Rose Bowl Game at Pasadena.

“No apologies can be made for the Bruins in this first conference game with the Trojans. It merely remains a task for succeeding Bruin teams to build up a reputation that will erase this defeat. Westwood begins siege of Troy,” wrote the UCLA school yearbook, “Southern Campus” in 1930.

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USC quarterback ORVILLE MOHLER (right) is dragged down by the UCLA defensive player wearing the # 21 jersey after breaking through the line of scrimmage for another big gain during the Trojans’ comfortable 52-0 triumph over the slowly but surely improving Bruins in a contest watched by a reported 40,000 football fans at what was then the seven-year-old Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, which was, by this point in time, was already scheduled to undergo an expansion ahead of the impending arrival of the 1932 Summer Olympic Games … (El Rodeo photo)
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September 27, 1930 : USC TROJANS 52 – UCLA BRUINS 0
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USC Trojans first-string quarterback MARSHALL DUFFIELD, the Third Team All-America selection of the Associated Press as well as the Central Press Association in 1930, set the tone for the second-ever meeting with the UCLA Bruins by returning the opening kickoff 67 yards to set up the game’s first touchdown by fullback JIM MUSICK. Led by the blocking power of guard JOHNNY BAKER, a Second Team All-America choice of the Associated Press and a Third Team All-America pick of the United Press in 1930 but a First Team All-America nomination of the New York Sun that season, the irrepressible Trojans piled up 562 yards of total offense as compared to just 116 yards for the inexperienced Bruins. Duffield crossd the goal line three times in all as one of six USC ball carriers who gained a combined total of 475 yards on the ground against UCLA.

Indicative of the greater overall depth (not to mention skill) at the disposal of the Trojans against their intra-city adversaries, it was actually second-string quarterback ORVILLE MOHLER who led USC with 179 yards rushing on 18 carries for an average of nearly ten yards per attempt; the mighty Trojans converted only four of eight extra point conversions against the Bruins in 1930, though, and showed that their placekicking game still needed more work.

The UCLA defense, meanwhile, quietly conceded twenty-four fewer points than it had against the cross-town rivals the year before. Significantly, the Bruins also demonstrated improvement in the passing game by completing six of fourteen pass attempts for 78 yards against USC in 1930. The upstarts might have even notched its very first touchdown at the expense of its far more established opponents, too, but a perfect pass from substitute quarterback LEN BERGDAHL was dropped on the goal line.

“It seems to be the consensus opinion among all fans that UCLA will gradually improve its football team, and will be our main contender within the next five years,” the 1931 edition of the University of Southern California yearbook, “El Rodeo”, wrote.

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USC sophomore right halfback JIMMY JONES (far left with arrow overhead) lies among the mass of humanity just over the goal line after running the reverse through the right side of the UCLA defensive line to score a touchdown from four yards out during the third quarter of the surprising intra-city tussle reportedly watched by the impressive crowd of 90,000 spectators at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum … (Southern California Daily Trojan photo).
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November 26, 1936 : UCLA BRUINS 7 – USC TROJANS 7
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“The 1936 season inaugurated a renewal of gridiron relations with our hometown neighbors, University of California at Los Angeles. This was a result of a four-year diplomatic dickering with officials of both schools and meant the realization of the hopes of the two student bodies who have longed for such a relationship for several years. The meeting of the two universities this year will set a tradition that will probably last as long as either school participates in football compeition,” remarked the University of Southern California yearbook, “El Rodeo”.

Outstanding work by a UCLA defense that generated five turnovers and phenomenal punting by Bruins right halfback FRED FUNK ensured that, for the very first time in history, the storied USC Trojans failed to their defeat intra-city rivals in a Pacific Coast Conference football game.

The Bruins accomplished what would have been unthinkable less than a decade earlier by storming to the lead against the four-time Rose Bowl champion Trojans in the second quarter. UCLA senior captain SHERMAN CHAVOOR, who had been honored as a Third Team All-America center by the Newspaper Editors Association the previous season in 1935, tackled USC quarterback AMBROSE SCHINDLER and forced the sophomore signal-caller to cough up the pigskin on his own 40-yard line. After Chavoor recovered the fumble he had created, Funk carried the football eleven yards deeper into Trojans territory and then UCLA sophomore left halfback IZZY CANTOR connected with right end ROBERT NASH on a ten-yard passing play; soon, junior fullback BILLY BOB WILLIAMS crashed over for a landmark touchdown from two yards out and then kicked the extra point, himself, to provide the Bruins, who had come into the game rated as underdogs at odds of 2-to-1, with the initial advantage.

USC pulled back on level terms in the third quarter after Schindler led a 52-yard march by completing a trio of passes and sophomore right halfback JIMMY JONES scored on a short run. But the Trojans second-stringer later fumbled again on the UCLA 13-yard line and USC first team quarterback DAVIE DAVIS, after first running 38 yards down to the Bruins 20-yard line, bobbled the subsequent snap from center and UCLA guard JOHN HASTINGS recovered the loose ball. Davis also launched three long bombs into enemy territory that were all intercepted by Bruins quarterback MERLE HARRIS.

Harris, who also pounced on Schindler’s fumble in the second half, was easily UCLA’s most influential defensive player while Funk was clearly the Bruins’ best offensive weapon, averaging a whopping 47.8 yards per punt. Although USC outgained UCLA 186 to 151 in total offensive yardage, the Westwood warriors had almost as many first downs (9-7) as well as rushing yards (151-142) as their counterparts. It was a brand new football game in Los Angeles now.

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UCLA Bruins left halfback KENNY WASHINGTON (# 13), the rocket-armed sophomore who accounted for 1,025 yards of total offense and nine touchdowns in his first varsity season, can only look as on USC second-string quarterback GRENVILLE LANSDELL (# 78), the sophomore transfer from Pasadena Junior College who led the Trojans with 310 yards passing (four touchdowns, no interceptions) while adding 417 yards (four touchdowns) on the ground in 1937, stiff-arms a would-be tackler during the heart-stopping Pacific Coast Conference game witnessed by 75,000 spectators at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
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December 4, 1937 : USC TROJANS 19 – UCLA BRUINS 13
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The history books show that it was, in fact, the USC Trojans who triumphed in the 1937 football game against their cross-town rivals. But the contemporary newspapers accounts from all over the nation make it clear that the real big winner, at least as far as copy space went, was youthful UCLA Bruins left halfback KENNY WASHINGTON. This “because Kenny, in the final period of the intra-city battle, gave the most astounding exhibition of long distance firing ever seen on the gridiron,” as United Press staff correspondent Henry McLemore explained in his post-game article.

USC dominated play for the first 54 minutes and assumed a commanding 19-0 lead on the strength of two touchdown runs by new first-string quarterback GRENVILLE LANSDELL in the first and second stanzas, respectively, as well as a 20-yard touchdown pass from Lansdell to sophomore second-string left halfback JOE SHELL in the final period. The Trojans, who compiled 363 yards of total offense in the contest, might have had an even bigger lead but had been stopped on the UCLA one-foot line in the first quarter and also fumbled the ball away three times. Lansdell, who had been taking more and more playing time away from junior quarterback AMBROSE SCHINDLER as the 1937 campaign wore on, had only made his first career start for USC in the Trojans’ second-last game of the season (a 13-6 loss to Notre Dame the previous week).

UCLA, who managed a paltry 40 yards of total offense in the entire first half, suddenly came to life in the latter part of the final period after jumping on a loose ball at the USC 44-yard line. On second down, Washington retreated to the Bruins’ side of the midfield strip before launching a long bomb that UCLA right halfback HAL HIRSHON hauled in at the Trojans 10-yard line before strolling into the end zone unmolested. To their enormous regret, USC decided to kick the ball right back to their neighbors from Westwood (a strategy that was not only legal but also not an uncommon occurrence in the late 1930s).

Immediately after Bruins fullback WALT SCHELL returned the boot to the UCLA 27-yard line, the Washington-to-Hirshon connection hooked up again. This time, the Herculean heave of the enormously gifted sophomore left halfback traveled 62 yards in the air before it was tracked down by Hirshon, who again scored easily. Three-quarters of a century later, the 73-yard touchdown reception still remains one of the longest passing plays in the entire history of UCLA Bruins football.

“Washington’s distance and accuracy is made the most remarkable when it is remembered that for three full periods (Kenny) had done most of the Bruins ball-carrying (and) a great share of tackling. Earlier in the (final) period, he had shown signs of wear and tear. He limped and occasionally doubled over as if hurt in the body,” remarked McLemore.

The Trojans wisely chose to receive the next kickoff but were immediately forced to punt; with roughly four minutes remaining, Washington tossed a short pass to C.M. “Slats” WYRICK on a “tackle eligible” play and the beefy lineman from Oklahoma rumbled all the way for a touchdown but the play was called back because the officials ruled that Wyrick’s knee had touched the ground while shedding a tackler at the USC 32-yard line. Two more passes from Washington to quarterback JOHNNY BAIDA and sophomore end JIM MITCHELL took the ball to the Trojans 13-yard line but there the aerial attack of the Bruins fizzled out.

A fourth down pass from Washington was too hot for UCLA standout sophomore end WOODY STRODE to handle on the goal line and so USC barely escaped with their lead intact. Nevertheless, in the end, the Bruins had amassed 291 yards of total offense (including an amazing 198 yards through the air on 14 completions out of 25 attempts). And, most notably, the Westwood warriors, as McLemore saw it, “had come within a whisker of winning.”

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