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Rose Bowl of 1939

The year was 1938. The two football powers in the east were the Pittsburgh Panthers and the Duke Blue Devils. It was the day of many two-way players, many of the stars playing both offense and defense, and a time when a good defense meant a good offense.
The two teams met near to Thanksgiving Day that year, with Duke as host. It was snowing on the field that day, and the Blue Devils were sporting one of the best defenses anywhere. In the backfield, four players were outstanding; they were O’Mara, Tipton, McAfee and Spangler. Duke’s defense was almost impenetrable, and their coach was shrewd Wallace Wade, the Bear Bryant of the thirties.
Eric Tipton was a coach’s dream, starting on both offense and defense. His super job of punting, along with Duke’s strong defense was close to perfect, which allowed Duke to keep Pitt hemmed in between their own goal line and ten yard line all afternoon. It requires a great team and a confident coach to get by with punting on third down, but the Blue Devils did that consistently, and when the snow cleared away that afternoon, the Duke Blue Devils had defeated the highly esteemed Panthers by the score of 7-0. This was the final game of the regular season. Duke was undefeated, un-scored on, and untied.
In those days the invitation to the Rose Bowl was not confined to the Big Ten Conference, and Duke’s reward that year was an invitation to the cherished Rose Bowl. Their opponent would be the best of the west, the Trojans of Southern California.
In my estimation that 1938 Duke football team was the greatest group of football players ever assembled on one team. I can’t understand why I had such an admiration for the Blue Devils, because I didn’t know, nor had I ever seen one of the players in person.
Throughout New Year’s Day, 1939, I was nervous, and by the time the game was underway, I was exhausted. No, I didn’t attend the game, and there was no such thing as television to watch it on, but my brothers and I huddled over a battery operated radio, and with youthful imagination placed ourselves on the 50 yard line. That was as close to a college football field that I had ever been, yet it was the most exciting football game I ever experienced.
Tony Ruffa was an accurate field goal kicker in the thirties, and early in the game, Coach Wade called on him when an opportunity arose when a field goal was necessary. Ruffa kicked it, and Duke led by three. They held on to this lead until late in the game. It seemed as though the game would end with a three to nothing score, as the two teams pushed the ball up and down the field without either scoring.
Football miracles are the result of disciplined play by the players, and great coaching, Sometimes they come as a result of pure luck.
As the game neared its end there was much rejoicing all over the country by Duke fans. With less than a minute left in the game, Duke was still ahead 3-0. The Trojan coach reached deep into his list of reserves. He would change quarterbacks. He came up with fourth string quarterback, Doyle Nave, and sent him in to the game. The hearts of thousands of Trojan fans almost stopped, as young Nave dropped back and passed from deep in his own territory and threw a pass that was complete. He surprised himself by throwing three more, and his team was in Blue Devil territory, dangerously close to the Duke goal line.
He backed up for a final desperation pass. An offensive end by the name of Krueger streaked down the sideline, and didn’t stop running until he was over the goal with the ball in his hands, for a touchdown. No flag, no penalty.
What I experienced that day made me a football fan for life. Maybe something similar will happen tonight, as millions of fans watch the Super Bowl game all over the world. I like the Steelers.
Lloyd Mathews is a retired land surveyor and a historian who lives in Pulaski.

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Rose Bowl of 1939

The year was 1938. The two football powers in the east were the Pittsburgh Panthers and the Duke Blue Devils. It was the day of many two-way players, many of the stars playing both offense and defense, and a time when a good defense meant a good offense.
The two teams met near to Thanksgiving Day that year, with Duke as host. It was snowing on the field that day, and the Blue Devils were sporting one of the best defenses anywhere. In the backfield, four players were outstanding; they were O’Mara, Tipton, McAfee and Spangler. Duke’s defense was almost impenetrable, and their coach was shrewd Wallace Wade, the Bear Bryant of the thirties.
Eric Tipton was a coach’s dream, starting on both offense and defense. His super job of punting, along with Duke’s strong defense was close to perfect, which allowed Duke to keep Pitt hemmed in between their own goal line and ten yard line all afternoon. It requires a great team and a confident coach to get by with punting on third down, but the Blue Devils did that consistently, and when the snow cleared away that afternoon, the Duke Blue Devils had defeated the highly esteemed Panthers by the score of 7-0. This was the final game of the regular season. Duke was undefeated, un-scored on, and untied.
In those days the invitation to the Rose Bowl was not confined to the Big Ten Conference, and Duke’s reward that year was an invitation to the cherished Rose Bowl. Their opponent would be the best of the west, the Trojans of Southern California.
In my estimation that 1938 Duke football team was the greatest group of football players ever assembled on one team. I can’t understand why I had such an admiration for the Blue Devils, because I didn’t know, nor had I ever seen one of the players in person.
Throughout New Year’s Day, 1939, I was nervous, and by the time the game was underway, I was exhausted. No, I didn’t attend the game, and there was no such thing as television to watch it on, but my brothers and I huddled over a battery operated radio, and with youthful imagination placed ourselves on the 50 yard line. That was as close to a college football field that I had ever been, yet it was the most exciting football game I ever experienced.
Tony Ruffa was an accurate field goal kicker in the thirties, and early in the game, Coach Wade called on him when an opportunity arose when a field goal was necessary. Ruffa kicked it, and Duke led by three. They held on to this lead until late in the game. It seemed as though the game would end with a three to nothing score, as the two teams pushed the ball up and down the field without either scoring.
Football miracles are the result of disciplined play by the players, and great coaching, Sometimes they come as a result of pure luck.
As the game neared its end there was much rejoicing all over the country by Duke fans. With less than a minute left in the game, Duke was still ahead 3-0. The Trojan coach reached deep into his list of reserves. He would change quarterbacks. He came up with fourth string quarterback, Doyle Nave, and sent him in to the game. The hearts of thousands of Trojan fans almost stopped, as young Nave dropped back and passed from deep in his own territory and threw a pass that was complete. He surprised himself by throwing three more, and his team was in Blue Devil territory, dangerously close to the Duke goal line.
He backed up for a final desperation pass. An offensive end by the name of Krueger streaked down the sideline, and didn’t stop running until he was over the goal with the ball in his hands, for a touchdown. No flag, no penalty.
What I experienced that day made me a football fan for life. Maybe something similar will happen tonight, as millions of fans watch the Super Bowl game all over the world. I like the Steelers.
Lloyd Mathews is a retired land surveyor and a historian who lives in Pulaski.

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