’39 UCLA Bruins – Statless In Seattle

On the subject of sports photography on display in contemporary newspapers of the late 1930s, it was certainly not uncommon at all for local editors to enhance the reader’s visual experience by identifying many, if not all, of the different individual players appearing in any given game photo. The above exhibit showing UCLA Bruins right halfback JACKIE ROBINSON (# 28) turning the corner on his way to a 22-yard run during the first quarter of the Pacific Coast Conference contest against the University of Washington Huskies that was played in Seattle on October 7, 1939, would be just one example. For the purposes of historical research, such ‘labeled game photos’ are oftentimes quite convenient for what should be obvious reasons.

The Bruins’ landmark 14-7 victory over the hosting Huskies on the first Saturday of October in 1939 was actually rather noteworthy for a variety of different reasons. For starters, this occasion marked the very first time in history that a visiting UCLA squad had ever defeated a host Washington team in Seattle, this after having endured consecutive shutout losses by the combined score of 36-0 on two previous trips to the upper Pacific Northwest. Furthermore, it was this very same game that effectively served as the NCAA Division I breakout party for one Jackie Robinson, the highly touted incoming transfer from Pasadena Junior College who certainly lived up to all the preseason hype by amassing more than 150 total all-purpose yards on rushes, receptions and returns for the Bruins at Husky Stadium.

Regrettably, as noted in a recent article, the ’39 Washington vs UCLA contest is especially conspicuous because it is the only one of the ten “Game Reports” from that historic Bruins season on file here at this blog that does not have a breakdown of the individual rushing statistics for the Warriors of Westwood. The Los Angeles Times newspaper first began to publish thorough reports detailing the individual rushing statistics for UCLA Bruins’ games during the 1932 NCAA season although there would be some notable exceptions to this policy in the immediate years that followed. The Daily Bruin and Berkeley Daily Gazette, the two other contemporary media publications which can be cited as sources for individual rushing statistics in the Game Reports presented here at this blog, are also of no assistance in this particular matter.

As explained elsewhere in previously published articles here, from various other sources (including the archives at the official UCLA football website) it is known that UCLA left halfback KENNY WASHINGTON racked up 142 rushing yards on 25 carries and that Robinson added 45 yards rushing on six attempts in that PCC game against the Huskies in October of 1939. Washington and Robinson’s combined total of 187  net yards rushing is extremely thought-provoking considering that the UCLA Bruins, as a team, ended up with a net rushing total of ‘only’ 159 yards in that historic 14-7 victory over the Washington Huskies.  Almost needless to say, simple mathematics demand that there must be losses to account for and, indeed, as gleaned from various contemporary newspaper sources and then referenced in the applicable Game Report published here, the Bruins certainly did concede some considerable amounts of real estate on at least two of their possessions during that contest in Seattle.


The early first quarter fumble from UCLA second-string left halfback CHUCK FENENBOCK that was recovered by the Washington Huskies defense on the Bruins 4-yard line actually culminated a backwards march which had commenced on the Bruins 33-yard line! And it is also known from contemporary newspaper reports that UCLA, after moving the football down to the Washington 14-yard line thanks to a Fenenbock to Robinson pass play that covered 43 yards, once again the Bruins went in the wrong direction before surrendering the ball on downs at the Washington 32-yard line. So from just those possessions alone, it can be correctly determined that the visitors accumulated nearly fifty yards worth of losses and that sum right there could adequately explain how Kenny Washington & Jackie Robinson’s combined net rushing total could have possibly exceeded that the entire UCLA team as a whole.

But, as the legendary college football coach and television analyst Lee Corso would be wont to say, “Not so fast, my friend!” It is also well documented that, on a razzle dazzle play which involved multiple backwards lateral passes and gained a total of 52 yards altogether, two UCLA interior linemen, tackle DEL LYMAN and guard JACK COHEN, collectively advanced the football 32 yards after originally getting the pigskin from Robinson. And this particular sum, of course, must be accounted for in the Bruins’ net rushing total, as well.


From the statistical information that is available, it is known that the Washington Huskies punted the football eleven times, threw three forward passes that were intercepted by the defense and took advantage of that early first quarter turnover to score its one and only touchdown. Therefore, after factoring in the two kickoffs which come at the start of each half, it is easy to conclude that the UCLA Bruins had a grand total of fifteen possessions over the course of that entire contest that was played in Seattle. But just two of those possessions actually resulted in touchdowns, the first of which only came in the latter part of the third quarter after Robinson had returned a punt 64 yards to set up a short scoring run by Kenny the Kingfish, so clearly there is plenty of room for still even more negative yardage futility on some of the Bruins’ thirteen other offensive possessions.

Fenenbock, the versatile junior from Pittsburg who had demonstrated potential during the 1938 NCAA season by rushing for 312 yards and two touchdowns as a sophomore, is definitely on the hook for at least some of the UCLA negative rushing yardage versus Washington in question here as a result of his disastrous fumble early in the first quarter. It should be noted that Fenenbock’s production on the ground dropped off dramatically during his junior season in 1939, as evidenced by his paltry rushing total of just 69 yards in the Bruins’ nine other games that term against teams not nicknamed the Huskies. Indeed, after averaging 4.22 yards per carry on 74 rushing attempts as a sophomore in 1938, Fenenbock averaged only 2.65 yards on a mere 26 rushing attempts as a junior in 1938.

It is strongly suspected by this blog’s production staff that the Washington Huskies were actually able to tackle Fenenbock while the UCLA second-string left halfback was attempting to pass on at least a few occasions. It should probably also be mentioned that, just one short week later, the Bruins’ would be consensus All-America left halfback, Kenny Washington, lost 28 yards on one single play when he was “sacked” by the upset-minded Stanford Indians. The bottom line is that it is this blog’s belief that Fenenbock’s individual rushing statistics from the Washington vs UCLA contest in 1939 simply are not pretty.



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