1939, UCLA vs USC : Play-By-Play

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(United Press photo – The Miami News, December 10, 1939) ………………………. UCLA fullback BILL OVERLIN, who punted the ball away on third down three times in the first quarter alone because the Bruins could only muster eight yards of total offense against the # 3 ranked team in the country, is flanked by the two bookend tackles of the USC Trojans, HOWARD STOECKER (# 68) and PHIL GASPAR (# 44), as he dives headfirst if only to pick up very short yardage during the de facto Pacific Coast Conference championship game witnessed by the record-setting crowd of 103,303 spectators at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on December 9, 1939.
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During the 1930s, it was not uncommon at all for newspapers all across the country to print post-game accounts that actually went to the trouble of detailing every single play in terms of how the ball was moved and what yardage was gained or lost. It was, of course, a time period in history well before college football games were routinely broadcast on television. It should also be prominently remembered that, during this same time period, the overwhelming majority of American households did not even have a TV set, anyway.

“Berkeley Daily Gazette” – December 9, 1939

UCLA BRUINS vs USC TROJANS : “Play-By-Play”
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BRUINS – 1st possession, 1st quarter
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kickoff returned 18 yards by # 13 K. Washington to UCLA 28
# 13 … K. Washington ………… 0 yard run
# 13 … K. Washington………. – 1 yard run
# 5 ….. B. Overlin ……………… 31-yard punt to USC 42

TROJANS – 1st possession, 1st quarter
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# 78 … G. Lansdell ………………. 5 yard run
# 78 … G. Lansdell …………….. 13 yard run
# 78 … G. Lansdell ………………. 4 yard run
# 78 … G. Lansdell ………………. 4 yard run
# 28 … B. Robertson …………… 4 yard run
# 78 … G. Lansdell ………………. 8 yard run
(UCLA Bruins call timeout)
# 28 … B. Robertson ………… – 5 yard run
# 78 … G. Lansdell ………………. 3 yard run
# 78 … G. Lansdell ……………. – 1 yard run
(UCLA Bruins take over on downs at UCLA 23)

BRUINS – 2nd possession, 1st quarter
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# 5 ….. B. Overlin ……………….. 7 yard run
# 13 … K. Washington ………. – 2 yard run – fumble
(USC Trojans # 80 – E. Dempsey recovers fumble at UCLA 28)

TROJANS – 2nd possession, 1st quarter
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# 21 … B. Peoples ……………….. 4 yard run
# 21 … B. Peoples ……………….. 0 yard run
# 28 … B. Robertson …………… 5 yard pass from # 78 – G. Lansdell
# 78 … G. Lansdell ………………. 2 yard run
# 21 … B. Peoples ………………… 6 yard run
# 78 … G. Lansdell ………………. 8 yard run – fumble
(UCLA Bruins # 27 – W. Strode recovers fumble in UCLA end zone, touchback)

BRUINS – 3rd possession, 1st quarter
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# 5 ….. B. Overlin ……………….. 1 yard run
# 13 … K. Washington …………. 1 yard run
# 5 ….. B. Overlin ……………… 19-yard punt to UCLA 42

TROJANS – 3rd possession, 1st quarter
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# 78 … G. Lansdell ………………. pass intercepted on UCLA 10
(UCLA Bruins # 13 – K. Washington returned interception 28 yards to UCLA 38)

BRUINS – 4th possession, 1st quarter
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# 5 ….. B. Overlin ……………….. 3 yard run
# 13 … K. Washington ………. – 1 yard run
# 5 ….. B. Overlin ………………. 42-yard punt to USC 18
(USC Trojans # 78 – G. Lansdell returned punt 14 yards to USC 32)

TROJANS – 4th possession, 1st quarter
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# 33 … J. Banta ………………….. 3 yard run (end of quarter)
# 24 … A. Schindler …………… 0 yard run
# 24 … A. Schindler …………… 0 yard run
# 24 … A. Schindler …………. 40-yard punt to UCLA 25
(UCLA Bruins # 28 – J. Robinson returned punt 8 yards to UCLA 33)

BRUINS – 5th possession, 2nd quarter
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# 13 … K. Washington …………. pass incomplete
# 2 ….. L. Cantor …………………. 1 yard run
# 28 … J. Robinson …………… 22 yard run (after lateral from Cantor)
(USC Trojans call timeout)
# 28 … J. Robinson …………. – 4 yard run
# 2 ….. L. Cantor …………………. 1 yard run
# 13 … K. Washington …………. pass incomplete
# 2 ….. L. Cantor ……………….. 35-yard punt to USC 12
(USC Trojans # 24 – A. Schindler returned punt 4 yards to USC 16)

TROJANS – 5th possession, 2nd quarter
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# 24 – A. Schindler …………….. 1 yard run
# 24 – A. Schindler …………….. 2 yard run
# 24 – A. Schindler …………….. x-yard punt to UCLA y
(# 28 – J. Robinson lateraled to # 12 – J. Frawley who was stopped on UCLA 36)

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The “Berkeley Daily Gazette” was an ‘evening newspaper’ and so this is where their ‘play-by-play’ account ends; it is interesting to note that the UCLA Bruins vs USC Trojans game at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on December 9th, 1939, was scheduled to begin at two o’clock in the afternoon local Pacific time.

“Tight Defense Shown By Two Squads” was an appropriate enough headline for a contest that remained scoreless as the Berkeley Daily Gazette went to press. Perhaps the real story of the first quarter, though, had been the failure of the mighty USC Trojans offense — ranked second in the entire nation averaging 315.0 total yards per game — to score any points despite having good field position in UCLA Bruins territory on three separate occasions. Statistics can often be misleading but, this time, the numbers painted a rather accurate picture of what had transpired in the opening fifteen minutes :

total offensive plays …………………… USC 17 – UCLA 8
net total yards from scrimmage …… USC 64 – UCLA 8
net rushing yards ……………………….. USC 59 – UCLA 8
net passing yards ………………………… USC 5 – UCLA 0
completions / attempts ……………….. USC 1/2 – UCLA 0/0
passes intercepted by ………………….. USC 0 – UCLA 1
fumbles recovered by …………………. USC 1 – UCLA 1
stopped on fourth down ………………. USC 1 – UCLA 0
punts / average …………………………… USC 0 / 0.0 – UCLA 3 / 30.7

Credit must be given to the bend-but-don’t break UCLA Bruins defense which had to play the entire first quarter on its own half of the field. The Trojans initially looked every bit the part of a two-touchdown favorite on their first possession of the game after moving the football 38 yards on six consecutive rushing plays (6.3 average per carry) but the resilient Bruins were able to stop USC on downs at their own 23-yard line after calling timeout to catch their breath. The Trojans marched to within the shadows of the UCLA goalposts on their next drive but Bruins right halfback JACKIE ROBINSON laid a jarring hit on USC star quarterback GRENVILLE LANSDELL, who was nursing an injury on his passing hand, and the Westwooders’ left end WOODY STRODE recovered the resulting fumble in the end zone for a touchback.

And then, almost immediately, the Trojan found themselves on UCLA’s side of the football field yet again after Bruins fullback BILL OVERLIN produced a very poor 19-yard punt on a third down “quick kick” play. USC sought to capitalize right away as Lansdell uncorked a long pass downfield but his old cross-town nemesis, KENNY WASHINGTON, was on hand to intercept the ball at the Bruins 10-yard line. Thus, the reigning Rose Bowl champions were thwarted once more.

The timely pick was the sixth interception in Washington’s distinguished collegiate career — but the first of that 1939 NCAA campaign for UCLA’s consensus All-America left halfback. The 28-yard return to the Bruins 38-yard line also gave the decided underdogs what was, by far, their best field position of the game to this point and the subsequent 42-yard punt from fullback BILL OVERLIN did much to take the immediate pressure off of what was surely an already beleaguered defense. Washington’s runback on the interception would actually prove to be UCLA’s second-largest ground-gaining play on the entire day, only just behind the Bruin backfield star’s 29-yard pass completion to quarterback NED MATTHEWS later on in the second quarter.

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(Acme Telephoto – The Pittsburgh Press, December 10th, 1939) ……………….. USC left end BILL FISK (# 50), the senior who was a Second Team All-Pacific Coast as well as Honorable Mention selection of the Associated Press in 1939, watches as fullback BOB PEOPLES (# 21), the junior from Oklahoma City who was named Honorable Mention All-America by the Associated Press, the NEA Sports Syndicate and the Uited Press, is brought down by hard-to-see UCLA Bruins defensive back Ned Matthews after breaking through the line during the first-ever Battle for the Rose Bowl in the City of Angels.

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