Analyzing ’39 Stanford vs UCLA Video Highlights – Part Two, Bruins Defense

The above photograph is a still frame image taken from a movie newsreel, the forerunner to the modern television news broadcast, which features extensive highlights — including all four of the touchdowns scored in the game — of the Pacific Coast Conference clash between the intra-state rival Stanford Indians and the visiting UCLA Bruins that took place in Palo Alto on October 14, 1939.

This was the thrilling, early season PCC contest that saw a late fourth quarter interception and subsequent 51-yard return by Bruins right halfback JACKIE ROBINSON (# 28) “Save The U.C.L.A. Cause”, this to quote the headline that ran in the Los Angeles Time newspaper the very next day. What’s more, thanks to the incoming Pasadena Junior College transfer’s pivotal extra point kick  — certainly no sure thing even at the professional level during the pre-World War II era of gridiron football — the widely favored, if not perhaps a bit overconfident UCLA Bruins were able to salvage a 14-14 draw with their stubborn hosts in northern California. As had been the case the previous week during the road win over the Washington Huskies, it was a spectacular piece of late second half heroics from Robinson which proved to be absolutely critical to the ultimate fate of the visiting Bruins.

As was already discussed in “Part One, Bruins Offense”, the video’s first three plays show UCLA in possession of the football but then the Stanford Indians rattle off seven plays in succession while scoring two touchdowns on passes thrown by the left-handed Frankie Albert in the process; the UCLA Bruins defense are deployed in a classic 6-2-2-1 formation, which was the preferred norm for the overwhelming majority of teams during the Single Wing era of the late 1930s.

Stanford’s first play from scrimmage features a run over left tackle by fullback Norm Standlee, the beefy 217-pound junior whom the Chicago Bears would make the third overall player taken in the 1941 National Football League Draft. Combining to stop the Indians ball carrier for UCLA are the left linebacker BILL OVERLIN (# 5) and the right defensive halfback NED MATTHEWS (# 55). The front six for the Bruins on this particular play were, from left to right : end WOODY STRODE (# 27), tackle DEL LYMAN (# 15), guard MARTIN MATHESON (# 6), guard JOHN FRAWLEY (# 12), tackle JACK COHEN (# 14) and end DON MACPHERSON (# 38).

Stanford’s second play is a run over right tackle by reserve fullback Thor Peterson, who is tripped up by LEO CANTOR (# 2), a substitute at left linebacker for Overlin. Other changes to the UCLA defensive unit for this play were MILT WHITEBROOK (# 52) in for Matheson at left guard and MLADEN ZARUBICA (# 24) replacing Cohen at right tackle. The Indians’ third play from scrimmage in the video footage shows another run over right tackle by Standlee, who powers his way to another first down before being stopped by the left linebacker Overlin as well as the Bruins right linebacker, JACK SOMMERS (# 11).

A pair of touchdown passes to Stanford right halfbacks Jim Perry and Hugh Gallarneau sandwich yet another run by Standlee, who was the game’s leading ball carrier with 115 yards on a whopping 32 attempts against UCLA. On the Indians’ first scoring play, two Bruins players each had a reasonable chance to halt the receiver but Perry easily ran through the attempted tackle of Sommers before issuing a stiff arm to Matthews at the visitors’ six-yard line. On Stanford’s second scoring toss, UCLA right linebacker TED JONES (# 37), the 180-pound sophomore from Abilene, Texas, who operated as a center on the offensive side of the football, was simply no match in coverage for Gallarneau, the junior whom the Chicago Bears would choose in the third round of the 1941 NFL Draft.

It is most interesting to note that both of the Indians’ pass completions for touchdowns occurred on the right hand side of the field for the Bruins defense. In other words, the very same side of field on which UCLA star KENNY WASHINGTON (# 13) was not stationed. This blog has speculated before that one of the primary reasons that Kenny the Kingfish’s interception total actually decreased from season to season over the course of his collegiate career is because opponents simply began to avoid throwing the football in his direction more and more often.

Albert, the 166-pound sophomore who was destined to become the first round pick (# 10 overall) of the Chicago Bears at the 1942 NFL Draft, went to the air one too many times late in the fourth quarter at Stanford Stadium and the sure handed in addition to fleet footed Robinson, who functioned as the lone safety in the 1939 UCLA Bruins preferred defensive scheme, made the upset-minded Indians pay dearly.

It is this blog’s belief that the above photograph, which also appeared with the first installment of this two-part series, actually shows Jackie Robinson running with the pigskin in the open field at the roughly one-third full Stanford Stadium immediately after his very first career interception for the UCLA Bruins led directly to the tying touchdown in Palo Alto.

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