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  < Back to Table Of Contents  < Back to Topic: Sporting America

article number 394
article date 11-11-2014
copyright 2014 by Author else SaltOfAmerica
We Enjoy College Football While War Looms, 1939-42
by Lamont Buchanan
   

From the 1947 book, The Story of Football in Text and Pictures.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Nothing does justice to this great book like reading the book itself. The book is laid out where pictures are near the text and the pictures have no captions. We usually put the pictures after the text.

This is the Cotton Bowl game in Dallas, Texas, 1940 issue. Those white jerseys belong to Boston College and they’re having trouble this moment, as they had all afternoon, stopping a Clemson Tiger named Banks McFadden, No. 66 in the program.

Here, All-American McFadden is just about to be hit by Henry Toczylowski, B. C.’s great signal-calling blocking back. 6-3 was the final score in favor of Clemson.

   

Another 1940 Bowl game that drew mighty interest and a mighty crowd (73,000) was the Sugar Bowl tilt between Texas A&M and Tulane. The Aggies’ 200 piece band forms an outline map of the State of Texas before play . . . and that was prophetic!

   

Jarrin’ Jawn Kimbrough, 221-pound Texas Aggie fullback shows how he’s been devastating Southwestern teams, as he crashes for a touchdown.

   

That was a fine Tulane team that day. The Green Wave had engulfed all corners in a rock ‘em sock ‘em schedule. But by the grace of Kimbrough and a successful conversion, Texas A&M took home a 14-13 win.

“Far above Cayuga’s waters,
With its waves of blue,
Stands our noble Alma Mater,
Glorious to view!”

So go the first lines of Cornell’s famous ‘Alma Mater’. Glorious to view also were the elevens Silent Carl Snavely—“from Carolina he cometh, to Carolina he returneth”—began to develop during his tenure in the scenic Finger Lakes district of upper New York.

Following Dartmouth’s two year reign at the top of the Ivy League in ‘36 and ‘37, the Big Red really got big in 1938. With Brud Holland running his terrifying version of the end-around, Roth and McKeever holding that line and George Peck doing everything a back should do, Cornell was virtually unbeatable in 1938 (only Syracuse could turn the trick); in 1939 the Ithacans were unbeatable.

It was in ‘39 that Cornell sent Eastern football prestige zooming with a last half win over the giant Ohio State squad in a 23-14 thriller which featured the spectacular passing of 160-pound Walt Scholl, “the little man who passed uphill,” and the great line play of grim-faced tackle Nick Drahos who earned a Grantland Rice All-America rating.

   

It took a forgetful referee and an inaccurate scoreboard to finally foil the Red.

   

It was the Dartmouth game in 1940 that saw the Ithacans come from behind in the closing second with a touchdown pass that was later revealed to have been thrown on fifth” down. Cornell immediately insisted that the 6-3 Big Red victory be entered officially as a 3-0 Dartmouth triumph.

Another ace who had made All-America was Missouri’s No. 44, Pitchin’ Paul Christman. In his three years at Missouri, Christman accounted for nearly 2500 yards via the flipping route.

   

Jackie Robinson, still seven years away from Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field, does his best running for the Westwood Bruins of UCLA, but those light jerseyed defenders are Washington Huskies, and Rudy Mucha, Dean McAdams and Co. buried the Uclans 41-0, and the people who didn’t fill the Los Angeles Coliseum knew it all the time.

   
   
Close-up: Jackie Robinson UCLA football.

The Coast had even better attractions. All-American tackle Bob Reinhardt, he of the wheat blond hair and the unstoppable charge was one for those who watch the niceties of line play.

   

But number one glitter of 1940 was Stanford. The sick no-can-do Indian of 1939 got fire water in his veins in ‘40, and pioneering the T formation under Clark Shaughnessy’s brilliant tutelage, that dream backfield of Albert, Gallarneau, Kmetovic and Standlee took Palo Alto wondrous places—places like an undefeated season and a Rose Bowl rendezvous.

   

You couldn’t tell anybody who’d seen him play that Stanford’s Frankie Albert wasn’t just about the best back in the land in 1940. And this was not excepting Mr. 98 himself, Tom Harmon of Michigan.

Albert properly rates as the greatest of early “T” formation major-domos. He had a quarterback’s head as well as superb ability as a passer and runner.

But Harmon, well, Harmon was one of those once-in-a-decade leather luggers who is just naturally compared with old immortals like Thorpe and Grange. Tom accounted for 237 Michigan points in his three years at Ann Arbor and against Wolverine opponents, that’s better than par for the course.

In the 1940 Northwestern game at Ann Arbor, for instance, who got the call when Michigan needed a vital touchdown? Old 98, of course, and he knifed through those white jerseyed Wildcats and over the last line.

   

From Northwestern’s standpoint it was a case of too much Harmon. Michigan won 20-13 and finished the season with a team that ranked in the first three or four nationally. And didn’t that win the Conference crown for the Wolverines?

The answer was a loud “No” spelled M-i-n-n-e-s-o-t-a. Michigan might be good, Michigan might be great but they couldn’t seem to take the Gophers from the North in their annual battle for football’s oldest trophy, the Little Brown Jug.

Coach Fritz Crisler ponders the reasons why as he contemplates his star-studded Michigan squads including such stalwarts as Mr. 98, Tom Harmon himself, Evashevski, Frutig, Westfall and others.

   

Bespectacled Crisler, fresh from working the Princeton Miracle, hurried to Ann Arbor to follow in Harry Kipke’s shoes, and to work some of his magic.

Not that Princeton collapsed completely after Crisler packed his bag of tricks and moved to Michigan. But things like this happened to the Tigers; a 46-28 lacing by Penn on Franklin Field. Men like Frank Reagan, here carrying for Pennsylvania, started the Quakers headed upward on the Ivy League ladder.

   

Nile Kinnick was the valiant star of a tremendous 7-6 win Iowa scored over Notre Dame in 1939 and took All-America honors and the Heisman Trophy the same year.

   

Kinnick was an unforgettable passer and all around gridder. His former coach Eddie Anderson said of him, “In the uniform of his country, too, Nile Kinnick gave everything he had.” It was a fitting tribute. Kinnick died a hero’s death when he crashed his Navy plane into the sea rather than jeopardize the lives of shipmates who had inadvertantly blocked his landing on a carrier at sea.

New York’s Polo Grounds was the scene of an important 1940 battle between Fordham and Tulane. The Rose Hill Rams were mighty indeed. Steve Filipowicz is doing the running above and did a lot of it, with some effective passing to help towards a 20-7 triumph.

   

Fordham played a tough list of intersectional foes, lost only to St. Mary’s, and wound up with a post-season Cotton Bowl tilt against Texas A&M.

The Fordham Ram, blinking contentedly in the sun . . . with teams like these in Maroon colors the Ram was as happy as well, as a ram can be!

   

And anyway, there was always that annual kidnapping by NYU students to be got through with on the eve of the yearly Fordham-NYU game!

Bigger even than Fordham in the Eastern and National scheme of things was the Boston College team of Goodreault, O’Rourke and Toczylowski, tutored by affable and highly capable Frank Leahy.

B.C. had made an ill-starred trip to the Cotton Bowl to be nosed out by Clemson but things were to be different the rest of 1940. Hammering Henry Toczylowski shows how as he carries against Manhattan in rain and mud that held the Boston College Eagles to a 25-0 victory margin.

   

Boston College again, this time with a stubborn Holy Cross team, in a battle that starred Eagle back Maznicki and center Chet Gladchuck. The Eagles finally won 7-0, scoring late in the game, but the crowd in Boston’s Fenway Park marvelled at the fighting Crusaders.

   

Only two Saturdays earlier in 1940’s thrill packed season, the Big Six Champions-to-be Nebraska had run into the same sort of difficulty against lightly regarded Pittsburgh. At half time the scrappy Panthers trotted out of Pitt Stadium with a 7-6 lead, and the incredulous cheers of onlookers in their ears. The Cornhuskers, though, had just a field goal, enough left to eke out a 9-7 final score.

   

George Paskvan of Wisconsin runs into too much trouble for even a Big Nine fullback as he is hit by Columbians DeAugustinis and Wood.

   

Lions edged Badgers 7-6 in this 1940 tilt but that was no disgrace for Lou Little had a good Blue and White outfit that also knocked off, among others, Colgate, Dartmouth and Georgia-plus-Frank-Sinkwich.

But the lean years were just ahead. Lou Little, one of the game’s all-time coaching greats, peers anxiously out over the field while his former back, DeAugustinis, now gone to war, spends a furlough Saturday afternoon hearing “from upstairs” how that last score was made against Columbia.

   

Still, the Lion won his share and more—until, along with many another campus, wartime manpower shortages hit Morningside Heights.

Notre Dame kept rolling. The Old Man River of football took on all corners and perennially came out better than all right. The answer, as always, was good material plus good coaching.

South Bend might let the other team have the first score, like College of Pacific ramming over here, but the Irish usually had the last laugh, as with a 25-7 victory in this game.

   

Back at Stockton, Amos Alonzo Stagg was not unhappy. His College of Pacific boys worshipped him; his classic place in the game for which he had done so much was assured for all time. Hadn’t Stagg made Chicago one of the greatest names in football, a distant but unforgettable glory?

Stagg might also congratulate himself on a number of things. He was no longer in the league that had to tackle Minnesota. His teams no longer had to face backs like Gopher Paffrath, here splitting the University of Washington defenses as Minneapolis cheered another win.

   

And Stagg might also realize that he would feel very strange indeed around Chicago in 1940. Who were those youngsters playing on famous Stagg Field? Why those were not Maroon elevens.

Chicago had played its last intercollegiate football in 1939, the Big Ten had thus shrunk to the Big Nine, and Stagg Field gathered more closely to its green bosom memories of those gigantic grid yesteryears when everybody feared Stagg and it was a joke that “Stagg fears Purdue!”

Bill Jitterbug Henderson takes a fingertip pass in typical style to break Arkansas Razorback hearts.

   

Henderson, a great end for Texas A&M, in the years when winning the Southwest crown was a habit with the Aggies (‘39, ‘40 and ‘41 conference titleholders), was also a spectacular all around athlete. In his college career the Jitterbug won 11 varsity awards in 5 major sports. He was an expert trackman, basketballer, and he was heavyweight boxing champ.

No wonder Aggie Head Coach Homer Norton scatches his head as he looks at the remnants of his Southwest champions at the start of 1941 practice.

   

But Norton, a resourceful man was he, fashioned another top drawer squad with only two varsity holdovers to start with. Again the Aggies marched.

This pass completion by Army brought the Corps of Cadets to their feet but did little lasting good for West Point in the annual Notre Dame clash.

   

Still a 0-0 draw was looked on in 1941 as a moral victory for the Point. But what the gray clad forces from up Storm King way really were worrying about was their annual season clincher with Navy. That fine long period of thirteen years covering some of the twenties and thirties when Navy had never once beaten Army was still fresh in the minds of the Pointers.

But more recently Navy had managed some wins; in ‘34, in ‘36, in ‘39 and ‘40. It was time to put a stop to this. After all, shouldn’t a good big mule be better than a not so good little goat any time?

There was a new coach on the job at Army too, and scholarly Earl Blaik, summoned from the Hanover Hills where he had turned out some great Dartmouth elevens, was not a man to fail.

But Navy had a fine coach in Major Swede Larson and a fine back in Barnacle Bill Busik. And the Middies scored their third straight win in 1941.

Bert Stiff of Pennsylvania crashes into pay dirt on his back for one of the touchdowns that humbled the John Harvards 19-0.

   

Harvard had a great guard this 1941 in Endicott Peabody and Crimson colors topped the Big Three, but Penn was really muscle man in the Ivy League.

The upsurge had started with the appointment of young George Munger as head coach. In his first year, 1938, Munger’s Red and Blue warriors knocked over Yale and Columbia, tied Navy and the tremendously powerful Cornell team in the Turkey Day classic.

Here and there Penn stumbled; 1939 saw the Quakers drop four of eight, but the way was upward, and with increasing regularity when the long shadows fell across historic Franklin Field it was Old Penn with the heaviest score.

In 1940, Munger’s squad took the Ivy crown. And in ‘41 it was a repeat performance. Only Navy could dump the Quakers this year. No wonder that gorgeously attired Red and Blue band played “Fight On, Pennsylvania!” with such gusto.

Three touchdowns in four pictures! Lansing does it for formidable Fordham with a white-jerseyed Texas Christian on his back . . .

   

. . . and Virginia’s All-American Bill Dudley crunches through a Blue crowd at Yale Bowl to score against the Elis . . .

   

. . . while the Man in the Iron Mask, the fireball from the red clay hills of Athens, Georgia, Frankie Sinkwich, highballs into the end zone despite a broken jaw,

   

. . . evading a last ditch tackle by Columbia’s Thornley Wood.

   

Led out of the doldrums by mentor Wally Butts, Georgia began to make headlines in 1940. How could they miss with Sinkwich to throw, Poschner to catch, Davis to do both and Ruark and Ellenson to hold up the front?

The Georgia bench was a happy place as the Red and Black gridders looked sideways at the conference victories and Bowl games coming up just over the horizon, while the Athens musicians tootle enthusiastically from the stands.

   

If Tennessee was a behemoth in the Southeastern conference for more seasons than opponents liked to recall, Duke was as much and more in the Southern circuit. The Blue Devils, under Wallace Wade, took or shared in the title six times in seven years starting in 1935.

It was on a shirt sleeves October Saturday in Durham that the two met to settle some arguments about who was what in Southern rankings.

The Volunteers did manage precariously to knock down a few Blue Devil passes like this one intended for Bob Gantt, fine Duke end. But the Durham team won going away 19-0.

   

People wondered that 1941 afternoon how the Wallace Wade outfit would have looked against mighty Georgia.

“Now this is what I want you to do!” Those during-the-game sideline confabs so typical of close-fought football contests, so puzzling to the spectators. Here Oregon State’s Coach Lon Stiner shoots the instructions to a Beaver substitute just about to throw off his windbreaker.

   

Stiner’s advice must have been better than good when the Orange and Black of Oregon State clashed with Duke in the 1942 Rose Bowl game transplanted to Durham. The West Coast eleven took the prize, 20-16.

The regular season of 1941 was the last one played with America still at peace. By the time the New Year’s Day Bowl games rolled around, threatening black clouds had burst into the terrible conflict of World War II.

But the game went on and the nation, taking time out from its shock and anger, turned out in traditional style to cheer its favorites even as it gathered strength for the greater struggle. People packed the Cotton Bowl to watch Russ Craft of Alabama fly over the Texas Aggie line for Crimson Tide’s first touchdown in a 29-21 win over A & M.

   

The Eyes of Texas were dim with tears at the end of this New Year’s series of Bowl tilts. While the Tide was rolling over the Aggies at Dallas, Tulsa, all-conquering in a tough ten game schedule and led by the All American Glenn Dobbs, beat Texas Tech in the Sun Bowl; Georgia whaled TCU in the Orange.

Why coaches, alumni and spectators get high blood pressure. A quick pass play snapped from front and rear by two different photographers at the same time. The teams are Southern California and UCLA.

   

The ball bounded loose but the umpire ruled “interference with the receiver” and the picture taken from the front shows this clearly. But rear photograph shows no such thing — and what a howl went up from the other side of field where they saw the play this way!

   

Besides the increasing war pinch on football manpower in 1942, there were the usual difficulties common to all grid seasons. One of the funniest for the spectators (if not the players) was this damp battle between St. Mary’s and Detroit.

A Gael back is stopped by a combined arm lock and mud pack applied by a slime-coated Detroiter. Later a safety won for St. Mary’s.

   

Here was Wisconsin’s greatest team in 30 years up to 1942. Below, Madison’s tremendous fullback, 200-pound Pat Harder, hits Marquette, one of the best of Midwest non-conference elevens in ‘42.

   

Below, Fred Negus, great Badger center stops Les Horvath of Ohio State, conference champ by virtue of Iowa’s upset win over Wisconsin.

   

But perhaps the Madison outfit’s biggest star was All-American end Dave Schreiner, here under the play and Horvath. Badger Coach Stuhldreher also had two sure winners in backs Hoskins and Crazy Legs Hirsch.

Clint Castleberry up in the air carrying the ball for Georgia Tech against the Florida ‘Gators. Here it was no gain but the Ramblin’ Wrecks prevailed 20-7.

   

The same year, 1942, they also copped a brilliant 13-6 victory over Notre Dame.

Oom Paul Governali getting ready to toss a hand grenade for the U. S. Marine Corps with the same efficiency as he used to sling the pigskin for Columbia.

   

Governali made everybody’s All-American backfield in 1942, the year he passed nearly 1500 yards — the highest yardage by far of anyone that year. Governali, like Luckman, had to compile his records and gain his glory the hard way with only mediocre support.

What other school in the country could claim two such superlative passers as Columbia’s aerial artists, Luckman and Governali, one right after another? Well, there was another school — Texas Christian. In the thirties TCU had two passers-from-heaven in Sam Baugh and Davey O’Brien.

The 1942 Southwest conference top rungers, University of Texas, take on Georgia Tech in the Dallas Cotton Bowl. White shirted Jittery Jackie Field ran the Yellow Jackets from sideline to sideline but the go-ahead gains were harder to come by.

   

Still Texas, ranking in the first five nationally, had that extra touchdown in the 14-7 victory.

Meanwhile on the Coast, Coach Babe Horrell and comedian Joe E. Brown give UCLA a last minute pep talk before their Bowl game with Georgia.

   

Players and plays are what win games and it was Georgia who took the roses out of the Pasadena Bowl. This Charley Trippi pass meant for Lamarr Davis (64) went awry but other Athens maneuvers worked as the Uclans never got a real offensive rolling. Georgia won 9-0.

   
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