Category Archives: UCLA vs USC

Still Monday-Morning Quarterbacking, 75 Years Later

ucla-39-usc-stadium(Click photo to enlarge) … This spectacular image depicting 103,303 spectators squeezing into the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on December 9th, 1939, to watch cross-town rivals UCLA BRUINS and USC TROJANS do battle for both the Pacific Coast Conference title as well as the coveted Rose Bowl invitation was shot by Beverly Hills commercial photographer DON MILTON.
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It should be noted for the historical record that UCLA Bruins first-year head coach BABE HORRELL absorbed roughly the same amount of criticism from contemporary sportswriters in the media and the average spectator in the crowd, alike, for his team’s play-calling inside the proverbial “red zone” (to put things in modern terms) as he did for the Westwooders’ controversial decision to forgo a field goal attempt from the USC Trojans 4-yard line late in the fourth quarter of a scoreless draw.

Specifically, many people thought that the UCLA bench boss and his on-field signal-caller, Bruins quarterback NED MATTHEWS, might have done more to get the football into the hands of fleet right halfback JACKIE ROBINSON. After all, it had been the talented transfer from Pasadena Junior College who had begun the Bruins’ pivotal 13-play drive late in the fourth quarter of the epic clash with the Trojans by picking up 13 yards on a reverse around the left end. But, after catching a 12-yard pass from UCLA consensus All-America left halfback KENNY WASHINGTON to move the pigskin down to the USC 26-yard line, Robinson did not touch the ball on any of the Bruins’ next eight plays which followed on this most critical march.

One reason why the individual net rushing statistics published by the “California Daily Bruin” are so vital is that they provide critical information which was almost certainly influencing UCLA’s play-calling on that famous fourth quarter drive. The speedy Robinson carried the football from scrimmage just four times against the vaunted Trojans defense in 1939 and his biggest gain, a 22-yard run in the second quarter, had only come after a lateral on a broken play when Bruins fullback LEO CANTOR was trapped behind the line of scrimmage. Indeed, UCLA utilized Robinson on his trademark reverse run around the left end just three times in the “Biggest Game” against USC — and on two of those occasions the mighty Trojans dropped the Bruins right halfback for losses totaling a combined twelve yards!

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ucla-39-usc-robinson-ball-bruins-44-55UCLA quarterback NED MATTHEWS (# 55) watches Bruins right halfback JACKIE ROBINSON (# 28), the Third Team All-Pacific Coast selection of the Associated Press in 1939 who led the entire nation in both average yards per punt return (16.4) as well as average yards per rushing attempt (12.2) that season, sprint downfield during the colossal meeting with the cross-town rival USC Trojans at the Los Angeles Memoiral Coliseum.
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Of course, USC had spent a great deal of time during the practice week preparing for UCLA’s “Man-In-Moition” offensive scheme and had even gone so far as to recruit two stars from the school’s 1939 NCAA national champion track & field squad to simulate the lightning-fast Robinson in practice. Additionally, as the “California Daily Bruin” duly noted, the Trojans also (uncharacteristically) used a 7-1-2-1 defensive formation against the Westwooders and, therefore, were well-positioned to be able to effectively deal with rushing plays designed to go around either end of their line. The UCLA quarterback Matthews would have surely recognized USC’s seven-man front immediately and this undoubtedly would have influenced his play selection strongly.

It is interesting to note that the Trojans used a seven-man line on UCLA’s fourth & goal play from the USC 4-yard line. In the video footage presented with the “1939, UCLA vs USC” article here at the blog, one can, at first, only see six Trojans at the line of scrimmage on the screen, with USC right tackle JOHN STONEBRAKER (# 38) taking a wide split and lining up directly opposite Bruins left end WOODY STRODE (# 27). However, immediately just after the snap of the football, a seventh USC player (right end BOB WINSLOW, # 73) comes into view at the extreme left on the screen and penetrates unblocked five yards deep into the UCLA backfield — clear evidence that the Trojans had the reverse play fairly well defensed.

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It is also interesting to note the distinct way in which all contemporary newspapers in the late 1930s reported individual rushing statistics — it is left up to the reader to calculate the net total!

tcb = times carried ball
tya = total yards gained
tfg = times failed to gain
yl = yards lost
app = average yards per carry

1939 UCLA vs USC : Bruins individual net rushing
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K. Washington …… 18 tcb … 49 tya … 8 tfg ….. 9 yl … 2.22 app
J. Robinson …………. 4 tcb … 35 tya … 2 tfg … 12 yl … 5.75 app
L. Cantor ……………. 12 tcb … 20 tya … 5 tfg ….. 6 yl … 1.17 app
B. Overlin …………….. 3 tcb … 11 tya … 0 tfg ….. 0 yl … 3.66 app

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California Daily Bruin Blows Out Southern California Daily Trojan

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The de facto Pacific Coast Conference championship game in early December of 1939 between the # 3 ranked USC TROJANS and the # 9 ranked UCLA BRUINS may have ended in a scoreless tie but, when it comes to the post-game coverage of this monumental sporting event from the respective school newspapers of the two intra-city rivals, there is a clear winner and by a wide margin, as well.

In the prime space just below the school newspaper’s banner, UCLA’s publication, “CALIFORNIA DAILY BRUIN”, features a headline, “Bruins, Trojans Battle To Scorelss Draw”, that stretches across almost the entire width of the front page. To compare directly with USC, the headline, “Trojans, Tennessee Selected As Rose Bowl Elevens”, has to share top billing on the front page of the “SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA DAILY TROJAN” with three other ‘regular’ news stories. One is a must-read piece about the naughty and “undesirable” Kappa Alpha fraternity being thrown out of the West Adams residential district by the Los Angeles city planning commission.

It also is interesting to note that the Southern California Daily Trojan’s main report concerning USC’s epic football contest with cross-town rival UCLA, entitled “‘Biggest Game’ Ends In 0-0 Deadlock”, does not begin until almost halfway down the front page.

ucla-39-usc-statsBoth the California Daily Bruin and the Southern California Daily Trojan ran the same photograph from the “Los Angeles Times” newspaper that shows UCLA head coach BABE HORRELL presenting his counterpart, USC bench boss HOWARD JONES, with a symbolic bowl of roses. But the California Daily Bruin has also has several photographs from the actual football game, itself, whereas the Southern California Daily Trojan features but a single ‘action shot’ from the sensational scoreless engagement. That photo does well to document the hand and leg injuries that USC consensus All-America guard HARRY SMITH heroically played through but the California Daily Bruin’s panoramic view of a jam-packed Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum probably does better to capture the overall atmosphere of this record-setting occasion.

On matters of more traditional journalistic content, the California Daily Bruin scores major points by taking the time to print the standard “Game Statistics” chart for the two teams. Most impressively, the Westwood school’s publication also provides the individual rushing statistics for both UCLA as well as USC. Indeed, the California Daily Bruin printed the standard “Game Statistics” chart for all ten of UCLA’s games in 1939 and also listed the individual rushing statistics of the two teams for each of the Bruins’ last eight games that season.

In contrast, the Southern California Daily Trojan had no such affinity for charting numbers that year and, thus, missed many opportunities to provide their readers with rather valuable information.

It is interesting to note that the California Daily Bruin report that USC star quarterback GRENVILLE LANSDELL gained 99 net yards rushing on 15 total carries against UCLA in 1939 but, in the Trojans’ official football media guide for 2013, the two-time All-America selection is given credit for 101 net yards on the same number of attempts :

http://grfx.cstv.com/photos/schools/usc/genrel/auto_pdf/2013-14/misc_non_event/footbl-supplement-2013.pdf

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For a link to the editions of the “CALIFORNIA DAILY BRUIN” that span the entire length of UCLA’s highly successful football season in 1939 as well as continuing discussions with respect to the Bruins’ famous scoreless draw with the USC Trojans that year, please refer to the following :

“MORE ON THE FATEFUL 1939 GAME BETWEEN UCLA AND USC – THE GAME AS SEEN BY THE CALIFORNIA DAILY BRUIN”

https://thesouthernbranch.wordpress.com

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History vs Human Memory

ucla-39-usc-textZooming in on one of the most critical moments in history that the UCLA BRUINS vs USC TROJANS football rivalry has ever known, it is interesting to note there is a noticeable discrepancy in terms of how the contemporary newspapers back in 1939 all reported the Bruins’ critical four-play sequence inside the Trojans 5-yard line late in the fourth quarter and how, years later, UCLA end WOODY STRODE remembered the very same event in his autobiography, “Goal Dust : The Warm Candid Memories Of A Pioneer Black Athlete And Actor”.

To the left is the second half of the post-game report from the San Bernardino County Sun (December 10, 1939) … In his article, Associated Press correspondent Robert Myers writes that UCLA sophomore fullback LEO CANTOR carried the pigskin on first down for a gain of one yard to the USC 2-yard line. Bruins senior left halfback KENNY WASHINGTON was “stopped cold” for no gain on second down. And then, on third down, the 200-pound Cantor had his number called again but was thrown for a two-yard loss back to the Trojans 4-yard line.

In his post-game summary (which is displayed at the conclusion of this report), United Press correspondent Ronald W. Wagoner credits Cantor with a one-yard run down to the USC 2-yard line also and, significantly, corroborates that Washington ran the ball for no gain on second down before the UCLA fullback lost two yards on third down.

Strode, who recovered a fumble by USC star quarterback GRENVILLE LANSDELL in the Bruins’ end zone for a touchback in the first quarter and later caught a 6-yard pass from Washington to take the ball to the Trojans 15-yard line on that famous drive in the fourth quarter, had his memoir published by Madison Books in June of 1990.

Not to intentionally embarrass the standout Bruins left end who was chosen both First Team All-Pacific Coast Conference as well as Honorable Mention All-America by the Associated Press in 1939, but Strode’s own recollection of UCLA’s four-play sequence appears to be somewhat off slightly. According to Strode, it was Kenny Washington who lugged the pigskin for no gain on first down before Leo Cantor carried the ball on two consecutive plays. The reason why this particular detail is of great interest will be discussed in a moment.

Strode makes several errors in his account of UCLA’s famous passing play on fourth down from the USC 4-yard line (video footage of this play can be seen in the “1939, UCLA vs USC” post here at this blog) :

# 1. Washington was not moving to his left and did not throw the ball back across the field — the Bruins left halfback (# 13) dropped straight back but was flushed to his right after Trojans left end BILL FISK (# 50) leapfrogged over the attempted block of the UCLA fullback Cantor (# 2)

# 2. The intended Bruins receiver who ran his route to the corner flag at the back of the end zone, right end DON MACPHERSON (# 38), never “had his fingertips on the ball”, as the video clearly reveals.

# 3. Also, it was not USC linebacker BOB HOFFMAN (# 45) but rather alert Trojans defensive halfback BOBBY ROBERTSON (# 28) who was in perfect position to swat down Washington’s pass into the end zone.

# 4. There was far more than “a little over thirty seconds” remaining in the game before the pivotal fourth down passing play — there was actually just under three minutes still left to go in the scoreless contest when USC took over on downs at their own 4-yard line and the Bruins, in fact, did get the ball back for one last possession.

The reason why it is important to note that Strode says Cantor carried the ball consecutively on second and third downs is because the UCLA left end also states that the Bruins called timeout after the sophomore fullback had been stopped at the Trojans 2-yard line (by Hoffman) on his first attempt. Strode also acknowledges that, prior to Washington’s ill-fated pass on fourth down, UCLA head coach BABE HORRELL “could have called timeout and told us to kick”. The direct implication here is that the Bruins, indeed, still had unused timeouts and the reason why this particular detail is of great significance.

This because the playing rules governing the collegiate football game are something rather different today than what was found during the Single Wing Era of the late 1930s. Substitute players coming off the bench and into the game were not allowed to speak to anyone else in the huddle for one play. Thus, it was entirely possible for a head coach on the bench to pass critical information to his signal-caller on the field, but not in an immediate manner.

One thing is certain after Cantor had been knocked back to the USC 4-yard line on third down — it would have been against the rules for the Bruins head coach to instruct his players to line-up for a field goal attempt by sending a substitute off the bench and into the game. By that point, the only way Horrell could have exerted any influence over the perplexing question of what to do on fourth down would have been to call a timeout (which head coaches could do). As has been well-documented, the UCLA players ultimately settled the issue by having a vote in the huddle.

The fact that Strode asserts the Bruins called timeout after Cantor carried the ball to the Trojans 2-yard line on second down is most intriguing — given the last-moment democracy that was to follow on fourth down, it is hard not to wonder what UCLA were actually discussing on the sidelines during the timeout that had just been called in the wake of second down (or first down, the question remains the same)… however, it is all but assured that those particular details will never be known.

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Ronald W. Wagoner, United Press
The Miami News – December 10, 1939
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NOTE — this blog post basically continues a discussion that was begun at the following fine blog which also deals with the early history of UCLA Bruins football :

http://thesouthernbranch.wordpress.com/2015/01/09/a-few-random-comments-on-the-monumental-1939-clash-between-ucla-and-usc/

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Horrell Must Take Heat For Bruins’ Historic Tie With Trojans

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UCLA Bruins head coach EDWIN C. “Babe” HORRELL (center) is flanked by two legendary head coaches who truly revolutionized collegiate football at a public function in 1940. GLENN “Pop” WARNER (left), who gleaned three national championship titles for the University of Pittsburgh (1915-16, 1918) and another while at Stanford University (1926), was the innovative architect of the Single Wing formation and other tactics such as the spiraled punt as well as the “screen” pass. AMOS ALONZO STAGG, who bagged two national championship titles on behalf of the University of Chicago (1905, 1913), is credited with being the very first head coach to ever use the “Man-In-Motion” tactic and also introduced other basic elements such as the backwards lateral.
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So, given the inconsistent results from the Bruins’ placekickers over the past two seasons as well as the most recent slump which had seen the team miss its last five extra point attempts on the trot, it is not really so surprising that the UCLA players, themselves, would be rather evenly divided over whether or not a field goal from short range should be attempted against the cross-town rival USC Trojans late in the fourth quarter of the de facto Pacific Coast Conference championship game in early December of 1939.

What is amazing, however, is the fact that first-year UCLA head coach BABE HORRELL chose to be so conspicuously uninvolved in the whole process of making a decision that had such enormous ramifications attached to it. On the line late in the fourth quarter of this scoreless battle with # 3 ranked USC, of course, was the invitation to the 1940 Rose Bowl Game in Pasadena, a lucrative event which reportedly could pay the Westwood school as much as $ 120,000 — a tidy sum which, taking into account inflation, would be worth roughly two million dollars today. That a matter of this importance would be left up to the eleven Bruins players on the field, themselves, must forever remain astonishing.

“I considered sending a man in to call for a kick before we made that first down (on the Trojans 3-yard line). But when my boys made that first down, I changed my mind. After all, these kids were doing pretty well without my help. Anything (Bruins quarterback NED) MATTHEWS did from then on was good enough for me,” Horrell was later quoted as saying by author Ken Rappoport in his book, “The Trojans : A Story Of Southern California Football”.

Edwin C. “Babe” Horrell had still only been on the job as the very first full-time ‘football only’ head coach in the history of the UCLA Bruins’ athletic program for less than one full year back in December of 1939. The consensus All-America center for the University of California Golden Bears in 1924 had been serving as the UCLA line coach for nine seasons when, seven days prior to the Bruins’ final Pacific Coast Conference game of the 1938 NCAA campaign, he was named as the man who would be succeeding long-time head coach BILL SPAULDING, who was ‘retiring’ to accept a position as the Westwood school’s athletic director. Officially speaking, Horrell formally assumed the reigns of the UCLA football program the day after the Bruins had soundly defeated the University of Hawaii 32-7 at the Poi Bowl in Honolulu on January 2, 1939.

Ironically enough, there had been also been a certain amount of confusion and controversy with respect to a late fourth quarter field goal attempt during Spaulding’s final regular season contest in charge of UCLA, according to standout Bruins left end WOODY STRODE in his autobiography, “Goal Dust : The Warm Candid Memoirs Of A Pioneer Black Actor And Athlete”. Ahead of the very last play of the game against the visiting Oregon State Beavers in 1938, Spaulding sent 170-pound left halfback RAY STURDEVANT in as a substitute so that the senior who had never played even so much as one minute during his three-year varsity career at UCLA could kick a game-winning field goal. But Sturdevant did not replace the Bruins quarterback and, therefore, in accordance with the rules governing collegiate football at that point in time, was not authorized to speak in the huddle.

Perhaps the other UCLA players already out on the field should have immediately recognized the reason why Sturdevant, a career bench-warmer who was a member of what Strode called “the live bait crew” (i.e., the proverbial scout team), had been sent in as a surprise substitute for senior left halfback IZZY CANTOR, a skillful three-year letterwinner. The Bruins all knew full well from the countless hours spent at practice that Sturdevant “could kick the football like it was shot out of a cannon”, as Strode confessed, but, apparently, this was all abruptly forgotten in the heat of battle. And so Sturdevant took his place at the line of scrimmage and served as a blocker on the wing while UCLA guard JOHN FRAWLEY missed on his 27-yard field goal attempt, forcing the Bruins to settle for a most frustrating 6-6 tie with Oregon State (whom the Westwooders had decidedly outgained 377-74 in total offensive yardage that day, according to post-game reports).

A fair number of newspapers across the nation picked up on the story that the previously unused Sturdevant had been sent in as a substitute for UCLA’s last play and incorrectly interpreted this as a very noble gesture by the outgoing head coach Spaulding to reward the dedicated Bruins senior. Horrell would have known that this was not the case, however, and might have gained some valuable experience for the future with respect to “game-planning” for field goals after UCLA’s tactical fiasco against the Beavers in 1938. Horrell would have also known all about the vital impact of but a single field goal having been a part of the various Bruins squads throughout the 1930s that lost several Pacific Coast Conference encounters by the scant margin of a 3-0 scoreline :

1932 … Washington State Cougars
1933 … Stanford Indians
1934 … California Golden Bears
1937 … Washington State Cougars

Horrell certainly deserves a good deal of praise for many of the moves he made after taking over at UCLA in 1939, the recruitment of Pasadena Junior College star JACKIE ROBINSON notwithstanding. The most noticeable development was the change from Spaulding’s Single Wing offense with the Notre Dame-style backfield shift to the “revolutionary” Man-In-Motion package, which showcased the skills of both the speedy Robinson as well as multi-talented Bruins left halfback KENNY WASHINGTON. Operating out of Horrell’s new offensive formation, Washington went on to lead the entire NCAA with 1,371 yards of total offense (rushing & passing) while no other collegiate runner with at least forty carries in 1939 was even close to Robinson’s spectacular rushing average of 12.2 yards per attempt after the new UCLA right halfback had amassed 514 yards on the ground.

Horrell’s initial Bruins team also demonstrated more than a fair amount of fighting spirit and the ability to come from behind all throughout the 1939 NCAA season, as well. On six occasions, unbeaten UCLA fell behind in the early going but were able to rally while generating four wins and two draws in the process. Surely, these results must reflect positively on not only the particular strategies & tactics employed by the Bruins coaching staff, but also on their abilities to keep their young players both calm and focused under the always stressful circumstance of being behind on the scoreboard, as well.

It should also be prominently mentioned that Horrell’s inaugural UCLA squad in 1939 had to contest what was easily the most formidable varsity football schedule the Westwood school had ever seen. The Bruins kicked off the campaign by facing (and defeating) Texas Christian University, recognized as the NCAA’s defending national champions, and later did battle with the West Coast’s so-called “King of Independents”, the nationally-ranked University of Santa Clara Broncos featuring consensus First Team All-America center JOHNNY SCHIECHL along with nine other players who were ultimately coveted by the professionals at the annual National Football League Draft. This, of course, supplementing the standard fixtures from the Pacific Coast Conference, which was judged by no less a figure than the well-respected University of Illinois economics professor FRANK G. DICKINSON to be the strongest, most well-balanced league in all of college football that year.

(In fact, the noteworthy “Dickinson System”, the very first college football ranking method to achieve widespread acceptance of both the media and the public all across the country, named the USC Trojans as the NCAA national champions for the 1939 season)

Analyzing the 1939 NCAA season as a whole, it must be said that the first-year head coach Horrell and his two assistants, backfield coach JIM BLEWETT and line coach RAY RICHARDS, did a very good job with a UCLA Bruins side that, at the beginning of September, had serious question marks concerning its blocking power at the line of scrimmage, among a few other things.

Horrell’s actions (or lack thereof) towards the tail end of UCLA’s 13-play drive which ultimately ended at the USC 4-yard line can not warrant very high marks, however. Two prime responsibilities for any head football coach at any level are to plan ahead for any plausible situations that the team might find itself confronting during the course of any given game as well as to be a resolute decision-maker when circumstances require such. Yes, the question of whether the Bruins should attempt a field goal or go for it on fourth down was a rather difficult one with no clear-cut, easy answer either way.

But, in any era, allowing the players on the field to solve the dilemma at hand by undertaking a democratic vote in the huddle certainly seems to be an amateurish method for any head coach to use in order to arrive at major decisions with such enormous consequences involved — after all, exactly why were UCLA reportedly paying Horrell a first-year salary of $ 8,000 (the equivalent of roughly $ 133,200 dollars nowadays) with a raise of one thousand dollars already guaranteed for the next season if not to have a head football coach who could reach a firm conclusion in the heat of battle even when a remunerative Rose Bowl invitation is not at stake?

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UCLA – Good Reason To Feel Uncertain About Field Goal Attempt

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UCLA first-year head coach EDWIN C. “Babe” HORRELL is flanked by the Bruins co-captains for the 1939 NCAA football season, right halfback DALE GILMORE (# 25) and right guard JOHN FRAWLEY (# 12).
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As previously discussed, hindsight does not a good historian make and so, therefore, it is necessary to try and look at the UCLA BRUINS’ monumental decision towards the end of the de facto Pacific Coast Conference championship game to forgo a field goal attempt from the USC TROJANS’ 4-yard line through some sort of lens circa 1939.

Now, to review the situation at hand rather late in the fourth quarter, the football had been spotted “directly in front of the standards (goalposts) and in perfect postition for a placekick,” as Ronald W. Wagoner of the United Press noted in his post-game report. There was no gusting wind or pouring rain or any other weather issue to be concerned with. And, yet, the majority of the eleven UCLA players in the huddle did not want any part of kicking what amounted to an extra point from precisely two yards farther back than normal!

The truth of the matter was, though, it would have been very difficult for anybody on the entire Bruins’ squad to be overflowing with the utmost of confidence in the team’s placekicking at that exact moment in time. As it was, despite being the # 9 ranked in the entire nation according to the latest Associated Press poll, UCLA had missed their last five extra point attempts in succession during their last two Pacific Coast Conference games against the Oregon State Beavers (13-13 tie) and the Washington State Cougars (24-7 win), respectively. Furthermore, after sophomore fullback LEO CANTOR scored the tying touchdown against Oregon State with roughly one minute remaining in the fourth quarter, the Bruins might have won but right guard JOHN FRAWLEY, the senior co-captain from Miles City, Montana, let the Beavers of the proverbial hook by botching the extra point kick.

Although UCLA right halfback JACKIE ROBINSON had excelled all throughout the 1939 NCAA campaign in the punt return department, the simple fact was that the placekicking element was, indeed, a very weak link in the Bruins special teams chain that season :

1939 West Coast Placekicking (final season stats)
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Stanford Indians …………………….. 7/7 XPs ……. 100.00% ……… 1 FG
Santa Clara Broncos ……………… 12/17 XPs ……… 70.59% ……… 1 FG
Washington State Cougars ……… 7/10 XPs …….. 70.00% ……… 0 FG
USC Trojans ………………………… 17/27 XPs ……… 62.96% ……… 0 FG
Oregon State Beavers …………… 14/24 XPs ……… 58.33% ……… 0 FG
Washington Huskies ………………. 6/11 XPs ……… 54.55% ………. 1 FG
Oregon Ducks ………………………… 8/15 XPs ……… 53.33% ……… 3 FG
UCLA BRUINS …………………….. 10/19 XPs ……… 52.63% ……… 1 FG
California Golden Bears ………….. 4/14 XPs …….. 28.57% ……… 1 FG

(Note — included above are the eight Pacific Coast Conference teams eligible to play in the annual Rose Bowl Game at Pasadena plus the West Coast’s so-called “King of Independents”, the Santa Clara Broncos, who concluded the 1939 NCAA season ranked # 14 in the final Associated Press poll)

Of course, the UCLA Bruins had not had all that much success with their placekicking during the preceding term, either. Indeed, the Bruins converted just 53.85% of their extra point attempts (14 of 24) in 1938, this even after changing its preferred kicker early in the season. UCLA also could have knocked off pesky Oregon State with a late “kick from placement” in the fourth quarter against the Beavers that year, too, but a 27-yard field goal try on the last play of the game from Frawley, who had displaced fullback BILL OVERLIN to become the Bruins’ first choice, was agonizingly wide.

There had been some hope before the 1939 NCAA campaign that the recruitment of the multi-talented Robinson, who kicked 20 extra points and one field goal during his last season at Pasadena Junior College, might elevate the overall quality of UCLA’s placekicking. And the Bruins new right halfback made good on his first two conversion attempts against the Washington Huskies and Stanford Indians, respectively, to begin, as well. But then Robinson failed on his only extra point try versus the Oregon Ducks and also missed on a pair of extra point kicks against the Washington State, with the second attempt having been blocked by the Cougars.

1939 UCLA BRUINS : Extra points & Field goals
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Texas Christian …….. Frawley 0/1
Washington ………….. Robinson 1/1, Kyzivat 1/1
Stanford ……………….. Frawley 1/1, Robinson 1/1
Montana ……………….. Frawley 2/3
Oregon ………………….. Robinson 0/1, Frawley 1/1 …….. Sommers 40 FG made
California ………………. Frawley 2/3
Santa Clara …………….. none …………………………………….. Sommers 38 FG missed
Oregon State ………….. Frawley 1/2
Washington State …… Frawley 0/1, Robinson 0/2, Kvitky 0/1
USC ……………………….. none

So, having taking into account all this background information, it is not so hard to see how a majority of UCLA players would not have wanted to try what, in modern terms, would be known as the classic example of a “chip shot” field goal.

As is widely known, the indecisive Bruins finally settled on what should be done about fourth & goal from the Trojans 4-yard line by taking a taking a vote of the eleven players on the field. It was UCLA quarterback NED MATTHEWS, the normal play-caller in the huddle for the Westwooders, who broke a deadlock and cast the deciding ballot. Bruins left end WOODY STRODE discusses this particular instance of democracy in his book, “Goal Dust : The Warm Candid Memoirs Of A Pioneer Black Athlete And Actor”, but, unfortunately for the sake of history, does not provide a breakdown of how each individual player voted nor does he make it known what his own preference was.

What is truly astonishing about this whole episode is not so much that the UCLA players passed on a short field goal attempt as it is that Bruins first-year head coach BABE HORRELL seems to have had no pre-arranged strategy & tactics for coping with this very situation all worked out in advance.

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1939, UCLA vs USC

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The USC Trojans’ speedy right halfback BOBBY ROBERTSON (# 28), who ended up directly involved in the most pivotal play of the entire contest late in the fourth quarter, finds himself confronted by a trio of determined UCLA Bruins tacklers — defensive back KENNY WASHINGTON (# 13), linebacker BILL OVERLIN (# 5) as well as left end WOODY STRODE (# 27) — during the legendary Pacific Coast Conference title game between two nationally-ranked, unbeaten ball clubs that was witnessed by a record-breaking crowd at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in southern California.
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December 9, 1939
Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
Attendance : 103,300

(# 9 – AP) UCLA BRUINS vs (# 3 – AP) USC TROJANS

UCLA starting line-up
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LE – # 27 … Woody STRODE ……………. LH – # 13 … Kenny WASHINGTON
LT – # 15 … Del LYMAN …………………… FB – # 5 ….. Bill OVERLIN
LG – # 11 … Jack SOMMERS …………….. QB – # 55 … Ned MATTHEWS
OC – # 6 ….. Martin MATHESON ……… RH – # 28 … Jackie ROBINSON
RG – # 12 … John FRAWLEY
RT – # 24 … Mladen ZARUBICA
RE – # 38 … Don MACPHERSON

substitutions
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E – Bob SIMPSON (# 44), Chuck CASCALES (# 54), Ray BARTLETT (# 9)
T – Ernest HILL (# 10), Jack COHEN (# 14), Cecil DYE (# 59)
G – Louis KYZIVAT (# 30), Nate DEFRANCISCO (# 31), Joe RUETTGERS (# 43)
C – Gene ALDER (# 8), Ted JONES (# 37)
LH – Chuck FENENBOCK (# 45)
FB – Leo CANTOR (# 2), Don HESSE (# 4)

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Game Statistics
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total plays from scrimmage ………… UCLA 64, USC 62
net total yardage ………………………… UCLA 161, USC 222
first downs …………………………………. UCLA 10, USC 11
net rushing yards ………………………… UCLA 89, USC 183
net passing yards ………………………… UCLA 72, USC 39
passes completed / attempted ……… UCLA 7/18, USC 5/11
passes intercepted by ………………….. UCLA 1, USC 1
fumbles recovered by ………………….. UCLA 1, USC 1
punts / average yards ………………….. UCLA 8 – 34.3, USC 7 – 33.0
kick & punt return yards ………………. UCLA 68, USC 50
penalty yardage lost …………………….. UCLA 0, USC 20

scoring plays
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none

UCLA individual net rushing statistics
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# 13 … LH – Kenny WASHINGTON ….. 18 carries … 40 yards
# 28 … RH – Jackie ROBINSON …………. 4 carries … 23 yards
# 2 ….. FB – Leo CANTOR ………………… 12 carries … 14 yards
# 5 ….. FB – Bill OVERLIN ………………….. 3 carries … 11 yards
# 55 … QB – Ned MATTHEWS ……………. 1 carry ……. 1 yard

Notes — UCLA left halfback KENNY WASHINGTON had 112 yards of total offense (rushing & passing) and added 18 yards on a kickoff return as as well as 28 yards on an interception return … Bruins right halfback JACKIE ROBINSON “turned in four runs of more than 15 yards each”, according to Ronald Wagoner of the United Press in his post-game report. This particular reference clearly includes all-purpose runs on pass receptions and punt returns in addition to rushing plays from scrimmage. Robinson, who played the full 60 minutes against USC, netted 23 yards on four runs from scrimmage and registered 48 yards from four punt returns, as well. The UCLA right halfback also caught a short pass in the flat from Washington for little if no yardage in the second quarter and a 12-yard pass from his Bruins backfield mate in the fourth quarter… UCLA starting fullback BILL OVERLIN carried the ball three times for 11 yards versus the Trojans before giving way to backup LEO CANTOR at the end of the first quarter. Overlin averaged just 30.6 yards on three punts and delivered a horrible 19-yard kick at the beginning of the game. Cantor, who punted five times in the second and third quarters combined for an average of 36.6 yards per kick, was able to raise the collective UCLA average to 34.3 yards per boot by the end of the contest.

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The photo in the upper left hand corner of this display from the 1940 edition of UCLA’s school yearbook, “Southern Campus), shows Bruins fullback LEO CANTOR (# 2), the sturdy 200-pound sophomore out of Roosevelt High School in Los Angeles who was the Westwooders’ third-leading rushing during his first varsity campaign at the collegiate level, dragging down USC third-string quarterback DOYLE NAVE (# 40), the highly regarded passer who had been the unlikely hero of the 1939 Rose Bowl Game against unbeaten and untied Duke University. Nave, the homegrown senior from Los Angeles who was the sixth overall player taken when selected by the Detroit Lions in the first round of the 1940 National Football League Draft, was one of six former Manual Arts High School players who all participated in the historic UCLA vs USC clash in 1939. Aside from the aerial artist Nave, the well-stocked Trojans also featured senior left tackle JOHN THOMASSIN and senior right halfback JIM SLATTER on its second string while the clearly underrated Bruins countered with two starters in fullback BILL OVERLIN and quarterback NED MATTHEWS as well as backup right end BOB SIMPSON.
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UCLA BRUINS vs USC TROJANS
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A riveting, length-of-the-field drive in the closing minutes of the 1939 de facto Pacific Coast Conference championship game was abruptly stopped only when a controversial fourth down pass was intentionally swatted down in the end zone as the # 3 ranked USC TROJANS were extremely lucky to escape the intra-city battle with a 0-0 tie against the # 9 ranked UCLA BRUINS and, by doing so, secure the lucrative invitation to the 1940 Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day.

Powerful USC, the defending Rose Bowl champions who had come into the contest with the second-most potent offense in all the land averaging 315.0 yards of total offense per game, completely dominated possession and field position in the opening fifteen minutes but wasted three good scoring opportunities along the way. After being stopped on downs at the UCLA 23-yard line, the relentless Trojans immediately recovered a fumbled snap by the Bruins’ consensus All-America left halfback KENNY WASHINGTON and threatened again but USC star quarterback GRENVILLE LANSDELL, who was known to be hampered by an injury to his passing hand, fumbled three yards from the goal line after a particularly hard hit by UCLA right halfback JACKIE ROBINSON. The loose ball squirted into the end zone where it was quickly scooped up by the alert Bruins left end WOODY STRODE, the homegrown senior from Jefferson High School in Los Angeles who was a First Team All-Pacific Coast as well as Honorable Mention selection of the Associated Press in 1939.

Considering how the Trojans had moved the football on its first two possessions, it must have seemed highly unlikely to most, if not all, of the 103,303 spectators on hand at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, that the UCLA Bruins defense would be capable of pitching a shutout on this early December afternoon. But Washington atoned for his earlier error on USC’s third drive by intercepting a long pass by Lansdell on the UCLA 10 and returning the ball 28 yards to, at last, provide the Westwooders with some semblance of field position. The mighty Trojans decisively outgained their cross-town rivals in total yards (64-8) during the first quarter but, much to the chagrin of head coach HOWARD JONES, were unable to put any points on the scoreboard.

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USC Trojans two-time All-America quarterback GRENVILLE LANSDELL (# 78) grimaces as the spectacular blow delivered by UCLA Bruins right halfback JACKIE ROBINSON (# 28) knocks the football loose only yards from the goal line early in the first quarter of the dramatic 1939 Pacific Coast Conference Championship Game. Standout UCLA left end WOODY STRODE (# 27), who, as a junior in 1938, had recovered a fumble by 1939 Heisman Trophy winner Nile Kinnick to score a critical touchdown against the University of Iowa Hawkeyes, ultimately secured Lansdell’s fumble in the Bruins’ end zone for a touchback. The sea of spectators behind the goalposts at the far end of the field give a good indication of exactly how jam-packed the cavernous Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum was on December 9, 1939.
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In the second quarter, the Bruins slowly began to come into the game more as evidenced by the 22-yard run from Robinson, the speedy transfer from Pasadena Junior College who made something out of nothing from a lateral in the backfield after the quick-thinking UCLA second-string fullback LEO CANTOR had been trapped behind the line of scrimmage by the USC defense. The Bruins, who came into this Battle for the Rose Bowl against the Trojans in 1939 averaging 281.0 total yards per game on offense, again reached midfield after Washington connected with quarterback NED MATTHEWS on a 29-yard passing play. In the meantime, the UCLA defense had begun to contain the USC attack, which was now steered by second-string quarterback AMBROSE SCHINDLER, the redshirt senior from San Diego who was the consensus Second Team All-Pacific Coast choice of both the Associated Press and the United Press in 1937 as well as in 1939.

(It was Schindler, of course, who went on to lead the Trojans with 75 yards rushing while running for one score and throwing a pass for another during USC’s impressive 14-0 victory over the # 2 ranked University of Tennessee Volunteers in the 1940 Rose Bowl Game; the Trojans backup QB was gobbled up by the Green Bay Packers in the thirteenth round of the 1940 National Football League Draft, which coincidentally enough, was actually conducted at the Schroeder Hotel in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on December 9, 1939 — the very same day as the colossal UCLA vs USC contest.)

Again, all throughout the week leading prior to kickoff, the vaunted USC offense had generated a great deal of hype and, reportedly, the oddsmakers had even installed the Trojans as a two-touchdown favorite over the Bruins. But, although most contemporary newspaper accounts did specifically mention the actual statistics, underdog UCLA essentially matched their cross-town rivals stride for stride after a tumultuous start. Over the last three quarters, USC barely edged their opponents 158-153 in total net yards gained from scrimmage. Throw in kick & punt return yards as well as penalty yardage lost and the Bruins come out on top in the statistical battle for turf over the final forty-five minutes of this conference title game.

However, the Trojans did accept the second half kickoff and pick right up where they had left off at the outset of the afternoon with Lansdell, who had gained 46 yards on nine carries in the first quarter alone, sweeping around right end for sixteen more yards. The drive stalled soon after crossing midfield but the UCLA fullback Cantor quickly kicked the ball right back to the men of Troy; a clipping penalty set the ball back to the USC 15-yard line but Lansdell raced around right end again for another big gain of 24 yards and, shortly thereafter, a seven-yard run by the Trojans first-team quarterback (who finished this P.C.C. title game with 101 yards on 15 carries for an average of 6.7 yards per attempt) placed the pigskin at the midfield stripe. A short pass by Lansdell, who was the tenth overall player taken at the 1940 NFL Draft when tabbed in the first round by the New York Giants, then moved the football to the UCLA 44-yard line but the Bruins defense ultimately stiffened once more to force another punt.

Washington picked up 15 yards on two running plays to leave the ball at the Bruins 40-yard line but the Trojans defense rose up to bring about another boot. USC third-string quarterback DOYLE NAVE entered the fray for the second time late in the third quarter and single-handedly marched his team across midfield by gaining 35 yards on four consecutive running plays. And incomplete toss from the Trojans’ much-publicized passing specialist would prove fatal to the drive which died on the UCLA 34-yard line, however.

In the fourth quarter, USC again got things going and advanced the football to the Bruins 25-yard line following a 10-yard completion from Nave to first-string left end BILL FISK, the Second Team All-Pacific Coast pick of the Associated Press whom the Detroit Lions snatched in the third round (21st overall player selected) of the 1940 NFL Draft. As it has done all throughout the game, though, the unheralded UCLA defense elevated its play when pressed on its own half of the field. The Trojans elected to go for the “coffin-corner” punt but Nave’s kick wound up in the end zone for a touchback.

It was at this point that the Bruins offense suddenly awoke in earnest and embarked on a famous 13-play, 71-yard drive which will live on forever in the annuals of college football history ; the UCLA left halfback Washington completed all four of his pass attempts to four different receivers on this legendary march, it shall be noted :

1939 – UCLA vs USC : Bruins’ 4th Qtr Drive
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# 28 … J. Robinson …………. 13 yard run
# 13 … K. Washington ……… 10 yard run
# 2 ….. L. Cantor ……………….. 1 yard run
# 38 … D. MacPherson …….. 18 yard pass from # 13 – K. Washington
# 28 … J. Robinson ………….. 12 yard pass from # 13 – K. Washington
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(USC penalized five yards for excessive timeouts called; ball to Trojans 21)
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# 27 … W. Strode ……………….. 6 yard pass from # 13 – K. Washington
# 55 … N. Matthews ……………. 5 yard pass from # 13 – K. Washington
# 13 … K. Washington …………. 3 yard run
# 2 ….. L. Cantor …………………. 4 yard run
# 2 ….. L. Cantor …………………. 1 yard run
# 13 … K. Washington …………. 0 yard run
# 2 ….. L. Cantor ………………. – 2 yard run
# 13 … K. Washington ………….. pass incomplete

USC right halfback BOB HOFFMAN, honored as a Second Team All-America by the New York Sun on the strength of his skills as a blocker on offense and a linebacker on defense, is credited with truly saving the Trojans’ skin by filling a gaping hole and tackling the sophomore UCLA fullback Cantor at the 2-yard line on first down. And USC consensus First Team All-America left guard HARRY SMITH, whose physical fitness and durability had been in serious doubt all throughout the week, also made a huge play in the critical goal line situation to surge forth and throw Cantor for a two-yard loss on third down. Left rather under-utilized in what is known in modern terms as “the red zone”, perhaps, was the Bruins right halfback Robinson, who did not touch the ball on any of UCLA’s last eight plays of this most impactful series.

The Bruins had to make an enormous decision (one with massive financial consequences considering the $ 120,000 Rose Bowl appearance fee involved) on fourth down. As Ronald W. Wagoner of the United Press later wrote, the ball was resting “directly in front of the standards (goalposts) and in perfect position for a placekick.” But the UCLA team, as a whole, had lost a lot of confidence in their placekickers after failing to convert their last five extra points after touchdowns in a row, including all four in the Bruins’ 24-7 win over the Washington State Cougars in their previous game. It was against the rules for coaches on the sidelines to communicate with players on the field and substitutes entering the game were not allowed to speak in the huddle for one play — UCLA first-year head coach BABE HORRELL could have called timeout and ordered a field goal attempt and elected not to do so.

Five players in the UCLA huddle wanted to try and kick what would have been a 21-yard field goal, exactly two yards longer than a standard extra point. On the other hand, five of the Bruins thought going for it would be the best option and so it was left to the quarterback Matthews to settle the issue. Certainly an astonishingly choice from a contemporary perspective, the UCLA signal-caller fatefully decided to run a conventional play from scrimmage.

Nave, who was still in the game for USC and operating as the lone safety in the Trojans’ 6-2-2-1 defensive scheme, was decidedly nervous.

“I was trying to figure out what I’d do if they tried a pass to Woody Strode, the big end. (Strode, who led UCLA with 15 catches for 218 yards in 1939) was the man I was assigned to cover. Woody stands about six-five, you know, and I’m under six feet. I couldn’t figure any way I could stop him from catching a high pass if they threw to him,” Nave was later quoted by author Steven Travers in the book, “The USC Trojans : College Football’s All-Time Greatest Dynasty”.

The athletic Strode, who paced the Bruins in receptions during each of three varsity seasons for UCLA and had caught a 10-yard touchdown pass against the Trojans as a junior in 1938, was actually listed at six-foot, four-inches in the official game program, “Goal Post”, that season. But the overriding concern of USC’s third-string quarterback/safety, who stood five-feet, eleven-inches tall, himself, remained the same. Fortunately for Nave, however, his justifiable fears never did materialize.

Matthews, who graduated from the same Manual Arts High School in Los Angeles that Nave did, called for a passing play in the Bruins huddle but the primary receiver was to be UCLA right end DON MACPHERSON, the 6’2″ junior out of University High School in Los Angeles who had caught an 18-yard pass earlier on this particular drive. It was MacPherson who had scored on a 35-yard touchdown pass against the University of California Golden Bears earlier in the season, as well. The Bruins’ preferred “Man-In-Motion” tactic was to be used on the upcoming fourth down play, but the role of the jackrabbit right halfback Robinson was that of a decoy.

Washington took the direct snap from center and faded straight back but was flushed to his right after the Trojans left end Fisk leapfrogged right over the attempted block of the UCLA fullback Cantor. The left defensive halfback in USC’s formation, BOBBY ROBERTSON, did not even really begin to bite on the half-hearted fake handoff action from Washington in the Bruins backfield at the start of the play. Thus, the speedy sophomore who went on to lead the Trojans in rushing in both 1940 & 1941 had the UCLA intended receiver completely covered and was well-positioned to easily swat down Washington’s pass in the corner of the end zone.

There were still almost three minutes left in this de facto Pacific Coast Conference championship game, though, and three consecutive running plays failed to net the Trojans a first down and so the Bruins got one last possession starting on their own 40-yard line. Washington, who, by now, had amassed enough rushing and passing yardage in this epic USC contest to surpass his two closest rivals and become the nation’s total offense leader for the 1939 NCAA campaign, maneuvered UCLA to the USC 40-yard line in the final minute. But, with roughly thirty seconds remaining, a long pass downfield by the consensus All-America left halfback was intercepted by Trojans second-string linebacker CHUCK MORRILL, who had dropped off deep into a zone coverage.

Nevertheless, Washington still left the field with about fifteen seconds remaining to a thunderous standing ovation from the 103,303 fans at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum who had watched the scoreless draw unfold that afternoon. “The sparkling play of Washington, who far outshone any back on the field, worried the Trojans,” remarked Ronald W. Wagoner of the United Press in his post-game report. High praise considering the six other backfield players on both sides that day (USC – Lansdell, Schindler, Nave, Peoples, Hoffman ; UCLA – Robinson) who also attained at least Honorable Mention All-America status in 1939 from one or more major accredited organizations.

“USC was outplayed by Robinson, Washington and the Bruins. There was no haughtiness left, no returning to the days of yesteryear in which they looked down upon the public school from Westwood. They were lucky to be going to the (1940) Rose Bowl and they knew it,” the author Travers wrote in his book celebrating the glory of Trojans football history.

The less fortunate UCLA Bruins’ amazing decision to disdain the short field goal attempt will be scrutinized forever.

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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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