Bruins Head Coach Weighs In Before Heavyweight Contest With Trojans

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UCLA quarterback and signal-caller NED MATTHEWS (# 55) watches as Bruins right halfback JACKIE ROBINSON (# 28) races upfield after catching a short pass in the flat from the Westwooders’ consensus All-America left halfback KENNY WASHINGTON (# 13) during the landmark Pacific Coast Conference battle for the Rose Bowl watched by the history-making crowd of 103,300 spectators at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on December 9, 1939.
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“EDITOR WARNS WESTWOODERS ARE DANGEROUS”

By Milt Cohen, Sports Editor of “The Daily Bruin”
Southern California Daily Trojan – December 8, 1939

The odds may favor the Trojans. This season’s record may favor the Trojans. Past history may favor the Trojans. Power, reserves, passing offense, defense, (and) weight may all favor the Trojans — but you can take our word for it all these advantages will melt away into insignificance when the Battling Bruins of Westwood meet the men of Troy in the year’s “Biggest Game” tomorrow.

Coach EDWIN C. “Babe” HORRELL’s eleven is about the most unpredictable band in moleskins. You can never tell what they’re going to do next. In only two games this year have they grabbed a lead and kept it all the way. In the other seven games they’ve come from behind to win, tie, or, like in the Santa Clara brawl, almost win in the closing minutes.

It’s this “climax” ability, which the Trojans emulated to win in the closing seconds against Washington last week, that has every one of the 103,000 fans wondering about those Bruins.

Everyone asks the same question : “Who shall we watch – (senior left halfback KENNY) WASHINGTON, (junior right halfback JACKIE) ROBINSON, or (sophomore fullback LEO) CANTOR?”

It when they ask this question that Headman Horrell only grins delightedly and gives them the answer that has been proved so many times this year, “If they watch Washington, we’ll throw Robinson. If they watch both Washington and Robinson, we’ll throw Cantor. If they watch all three, which is impossible, then we’ll throw passes.”

In other words, Horrell is confident. And he has a right to be despite the odds. Statistics against common opponents show several things that would astound Gus Fan — foremost among these being the fact that El Bruin has outgained El Trojan on the ground. It’s only in pass offense and defense that SC has an edge over the Westwooders.

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1939 NCAA season stats as of Dec 8, 1939
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USC TROJANS offense (first eight games)
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315.0 total yards per game … 193.0 yrds rushing … 122.0 yrds passing

UCLA BRUINS offense (first nine games)
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281.0 total yards per game … 205.0 yrds rushing ….. 76.0 yrds passing

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“A football team that has gone undefeated in its first nine games under a new coach! That is what Coach BABE HORRELL has produced in his first season as head football director at the University of California at Los Angeles. Horrell has completely revampled the Bruin style of play,” wrote the “Southern California Daily Trojan” in an article that appeared the day before the legendary UCLA vs USC clash in December of 1939.

The USC school newspaper, of course, was referring to the Bruins’ highly publicized “Man-In-Motion” offensive scheme that Horrell had installed at the start of the 1939 NCAA season. Not only did this new system take advantage of the blinding speed of right halfback JACKIE ROBINSON, the transfer from Pasadena Junior College who was making his varsity debut for the Westwooders, the explosive package also did well to fully unleash the running & passing skills of All-America left halfback KENNY WASHINGTON. Indeed, operating as the primary ball-handler in this new “Man-In-Motion” offensive attack, the homegrown senior out of Lincoln High School in Los Angeles went on to establish personal career-bests with both 812 yards rushing and 559 yards passing for UCLA in 1939.

Robinson, for his part, added another 514 yards on the ground for the UCLA Bruins in 1939, as well. This figure that left the Third Team All-Pacific Coast and Honorable Mention All-America selection of the Associated Press just outside the Top Ten as far as the nation’s leading rushers were concerned. Significantly, no other collegiate ball-carrier in the country with at least forty rushing attempts on the ’39 NCAA season even came close to the eye-popping 12.2 average yards-per-carry that Robinson did.

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Head coach Babe Horrell’s standard offensive set is on display in this photo from the UCLA Bruins vs Oregon State Beavers game on November 25, 1939. One can easily see the Bruins’ “unbalanced” line at work, with only end WOODY STRODE (# 27) and tackle DEL LYMAN (# 15) stationed to the left of center MARTIN MATHESON (# 6). One probably has to look a little harder to notice the two guards, JOHN FRAWLEY (# 12) and JACK SOMMERS (# 11), bunched so close together to the right of the center Matheson. The other two players coomprising the UCLA front seven are right tackle MLADEN ZARUBICA (# 24) and right end DON MACPHERSON (# 38) … JACKIE ROBINSON (# 28) is positioned as what would have been known in football terms of future generations as a “wingback” on the right flank of the UCLA line with quarterback NED MATTHEWS (# 55) functioning primarily as a blocker and pass receiver to his left. The deepest player in the Bruins backfield is fullback BILL OVERLIN (# 5) at the extreme left in the photo. Lined up roughly five yards behind center is the standout UCLA player who finished as the nation’s total offense leader in 1939, left halfback KENNY WASHINGTON (# 13) … Modern football fans living in the 21st Century might immediately notice a complete lack of any “wide receivers” in this compact offensive formation that typical of the Single Wing era.
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(UCLA vs Oregon State, 1939) — With the Bruins quarterback NED MATTHEWS (# 55) now lined up directly behind left tackle DEL LYMAN (# 15), UCLA right halfback JACKIE ROBINSON (# 28) begins his trademark looping run in the backfield before the snap of the football. As noted in a previous post here at this blog which charted Horrell’s “Man-In-Motion” offense, the Bruins used this particular tactic on 43 of the 68 total offensive plays (63.24%) they ran against the Washington State Cougars on November 30, 1939. Out of the 43 “Man-In-Motion” plays called against the Cougars, UCLA’s two right halfbacks, Robinson and understudy RAY BARTLETT, carried the ball on a reverse around the left end a total of ten times for a combined 148 yards.
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(UCLA vs Oregon State, 1939) … the UCLA right halfback ROBINSON (# 28) already has possession of the football but the Bruins deceptive left halfback WASHINGTON (# 13) will continue to pretend that his is about to hand the pigskin off to the fullback OVERLIN (# 5) for a running play over left tackle as the Oregon State defenders seek to break through at the line of scrimmage …
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(UCLA vs Oregon State, 1939) … WASHINGTON (# 13) watches as an Oregon State defender takes the bait and tackles the UCLA fullback OVERLIN (# 5) while the Bruins quarterback MATTHEWS (# 55) leads the quicksilver ROBINSON (# 28) on a sweep around the left end — note the number of defensive players now trapped at the interior of the line of scrimmage … Robinson picked up 31 yards on this particularly succesful play.
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