A Season in Time: Stanford Indians 1940
In 1940, Stanford had a dream season that impacted college football because of the revolutionary offensive formation they used.Reference: The Wow Boys: A Coach, a Team, and a Turning Point in College Football, James W. Johnson

Part I - New Sheriff in Town

Stanford Coach Clark Shaughnessy
Clark Shaughnessy


Coach "Tiny" Thornhill
C. E. "Tiny" Thornhill






Coach "Pop" Warner
"Pop" Warner




Stanford assistant Marchie Schwartz
Marchie Schwartz

"Boys, I am not to be addressed as 'Clark' or, especially, 'Soup.' To you, I am 'Mr. Shaugh­nessy' or 'Coach.' Nothing else. I am a professor of football. Now, I have a formation for you that, if you learn it well, will take you to the Rose Bowl."

  • With those words, Clark Shaughnessy introduced himself to his new squad at Leland Stanford University in April 1940. ("Soup" was a name a sportswriter hung on him because he thought that's what Shaughnessy would be in at his new post.)
  • The formation the coach referred to was the T, of which Shaughnessy was a chief developer. The team did learn it well and, as we shall see in this series, made it to the Rose Bowl, as he promised.
  • After playing fullback at Minnesota from 1911-1913, Clark served as head coach at Tulane from 1915-1926, Loyola (New Orleans) 1927-1932, and the University of Chicago 1933-1939.
  • While in the Windy City, Shaughnessy developed a friendship with Bears head coach George Halas, whom he helped implement the T in the NFL. Halas thought so highly of Clark that he paid him $2,000 for his consulting services.

As is usually the case when a new coach takes over, Stanford had not done well in recent years.

  • The Indians had finished 1-7-1 in 1939 running the standard single wing of the day under C. E. Thornhill. The team had scored only 54 points, the lowest at Stanford since 1919.
  • Stanford made three straight trips to the Rose Bowl from 1933-1935. Those teams had been called the "Vow Boys" because they vowed never to lose to Southern Cal and didn't.
  • But in the next four years, Thornhill became lax in his discipline and the only winning record was 4-3-2 in 1937.
  • What Shaughnessy quickly discovered in watching films of the 1939 season and then working with his new team was that the players had talent but had been misused. He thought his new approach would allow them to maximize their potential.

Shaughnessy was not well received in some quarters at Stanford.

  • "We just got the only coach in the world who had a worse record than Tiny Thornhill," said HB Hugh Gallarneau, echoing the views of some West Coast sports writers.
  • Shaughnessy had actually finished a half game better than Tiny at 2-6 in 1939. How­ever, Chicago was in process of reducing its football program to nothing as it aban­doned the sport at the end of the season and would soon leave the Big Ten altogether. Clark didn't use the T at Chicago because he didn't have the personnel for it.
  • Still, one couldn't ignore the embarrassing losses: 85-0 to Michigan, 61-0 to Har­vard, Illinois 46-0, and Virginia 47-0.
  • But Stanford President Ray Wilbur had watched the 1939 NFL playoff game and was impressed by the Bears' offense. Those who had been following football knew that Knute Rockne once called Shaughnessy "one of the two best coaches in America," a man whose Loyola team had led Notre Dame 7-0 at the half in 1928 before losing 14-7.
  • Shaughnessy had provoked further derision from some writers when he announced he would implement the T in Palo Alto. "The T? The old-fashioned T that had gone out before nose guards and moleskin pants came in?" Others claimed that college players could not execute the complicated plays that the Bears used.
  • Legendary Coach "Pop" Warner, who had headed the Stanford program before hand­ing the reins over to Thornton, proclaimed: "If Stanford ever wins a single game with that crazy formation, you can throw all the football I ever knew into the Pacific Ocean. What they're doing is ridiculous." Those words would later be used as an indictment of Pop to show that the game had, indeed, passed him by.
  • Stanford T Jack Warnecke later admitted that he thought, "Shaughnessy killed off football at Chicago and now he's hired to kill the game at Stanford. Who in the world hired him, and why? What were they thinking?"

Shaughnessy hired his staff and went to work.

  • "Marchie" Schwartz, an All-American HB at Notre Dame who had spent one year under Clark at Chicago before coaching Creighton for five years, would serve as backfield coach.
  • The line coach would be Phil Bengston, an All-American T on Minnesota's 1934 national champions.
    Bengston would become Vince Lombardi's D coordinator and successor at Green Bay.
  • Clark brought in former Bears QB Bernie Masterson to tutor Frankie Albert in the T-formation during spring practice.
  • Two coaches from Thornton's staff were retained: Jim Lawson, an All-American E at Stanford in 1924, and "Husky" Hunt, who had been Tiny's chief scout.
  • Shaughnessy also kept Harry Shipkey, another alumnus from the Stanford 1924 Rose Bowl team, as coach of the freshman team, which had gone 5-1 the previous season.
  • The new head coach first had to train his assistants in the T. In doing so, he immediately established a demanding work ethic.

When spring practice began, players noticed a difference immediately.

  • Shaughnessy introduced a discipline and seriousness to practices that had been lacking. Stanford publicist Don Liebendorfer stated:

No reflection on Warner or Thornhill, you understand, but Shaughnessy conducts the most business-like practices I've ever seen. He has everything planned ahead and operates on schedule with each assistant keeping a group of boys occupied with instructions of some sort at all times. There is no lost motion, no delay.

  • The staff found most of the players eager to improve. Within three days, Shaughnessy had his starting backfield picked out, and it would stay intact the whole season except for injuries.
    • The QB would be left-handed Frankie Albert, a junior. The 5-9 170-pounder was ill-suited for the single wing. Shaughnessy: "He couldn't run or block worth writing home about. He was too slight, almost delicate. He was, however, a superlative ball handler, a great kicker and passer, and he could really call signals." Frankie perfected the bootleg. He would often not tell the team he was going to keep the ball so that they would carry out their fakes better. In short, the T-formation was made for Frankie Albert and vice-versa.
    • Senior FB Norm "Chief" Standlee from Long Beach CA was a bruising runner with the speed to go outside. Shaughnessy built his offense around Standlee who was as great a blocker as he was a runner. Unfortunately, Norm would be bothered by injuries during the 1940 season.
    • Junior HB Pete "Jackrabbit" Kmetovic from San Jose fit Shaughnessy's man-in-motion position because he was dangerous in the open field, especially when catching a pass in the flat. At 5-8 170, he had been another one who was useless in the single wing, where he was required to block and pass.
    • The other HB would be senior Hugh "Duke" Gallarneau, 6-0 190, who had played high school football in Chicago and had dropped out for awhile to help support his family. He was even faster than Jackrabbit, with 9.6 second 100y dash to his credit. Wasted at blocking back by Thornhill, Duke became "my secret weapon" according to the coach because Albert and Standlee would draw the opponent's attention.
  • The line would be lighter than most opponents' forward wall but proficient in the brush blocking technique that called for each man to initiate contact with one defender, then move off him to block another.
    • Chuck Taylor, 5-10 190, quarterback on the freshman team but now moved to guard;
      Taylor would serve as head coach at his alma mater from 1951-1957.
    • Vic Lindskog, 24 and married, a transfer from Santa Ana JC who grew up in Montana, another convert from backfield to center;
    • 6-2 215 Ed Stamm, a sophomore from Portland OR, moved from end to tackle;
    • G Bruno Banducci, 5-11 210 sophomore from Richmond CA who proved to be a terrific blocker and a savage noseguard on defense;
    • T Dick Palmer from Oklahoma City, a giant at 6-6 205, who served as defensive signal-caller.
  • The staff cut the squad down to 45. Because the substitution rules forced players to play both ways, not as many bodies were needed as today.
Under a rule in effect since 1922, a player who left the game could not return that half.
  • Still, the team adapted to the T so slowly that Shaughnessy considered returning them to the single wing. In the final spring scrimmage, the varsity beat the freshmen only 6-0.

Little did anyone dream that Stanford's 1940 campaign would go down as one of the most pivotal in football history.

QB Frankie Albert
Frankie Albert

FB Norm Standlee
Norm Standlee

HB Hugh Gallarneau
Hugh Gallarneau


G Chuck Taylor
Chuck Taylor

C Vic Lindskog
Vic Lindskog

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Part II - Games 1 & 2

1940 Street and Smith Football Yearbook

1940 Football Illustrated Annual


QB Frank Albert
Frank Albert





FB Norm Standlee
Norm Standlee


HB Hugh Gallarneau
Hugh Gallarneau

During fall practice before the 1940 season opener, the Stanford varsity, with their new T-formation in place, scrimmaged the freshman team again.

  • QB Frank Albert recalled: "They beat us. They pushed us all over the field. They didn't have trouble finding the football and I'm sure the coaches felt the same as we did - very disappointed."
  • Of course, they may not have been accounting for the fact that the freshmen constantly practiced against the offense. An opponent that had not seen Shaughnessy's system would not defense it as well.
  • The staff had installed 60 plays and also had the squad in great condition. There was no weight lifting in those days but plenty of running during and after practices, which were closed to the public.
  • The San Francisco Chronicle's sports editor, Bill Leiser, watched the final scrimmage and was impressed. "It wasn't the material. Others have more of it. What impressed ... was the new method and purpose of the boys on The Farm. Their offense is different. It is calculated to keep a step in front of the defense at all times." As a result, he wrote that Stanford "might have the surprise team in the Pacific Coast Conference."
  • Leiser was alone in that view. The preseason football magazines didn't give Stanford a chance.
Kezar Stadium
Kezar Stadium, home to the San Francisco 49ers (1946-70)

Game One: September 28 vs. San Francisco @ Kezar Stadium

USF rated a 10-8 favorite to defeat Shaughnessy's club.

  • The Dons had their best season in '39, tying Santa Clara, which won the Sugar Bowl, and beating St. Mary's. Coach George Malley expected to have a stronger team in 1940. Malley had no fears in facing the T, considering it an experiment by a desperate coach of a weak team.
  • Showing his attention to detail, Shaughnessy had worked out his squad on Friday in their brand new uniforms, instructing them to fix any equipment problems in advance. The players remarked on how light weight their new togs were.
  • Many Indians fought pre-game jitters, uncertain of what to expect. Balducci had his own problem, an injury that prevented him from raising his right arm above his head. He would wear a harness all season.

Stanford didn't start fast.

  • USF took the opening kickoff and drove from its 17 to the 49 before punting out on Stanford's 6. As was typical of strategy in that era, Shaughnessy decided to punt right back. Standlee booted the first punt of his career to midfield.
  • Stanford held but on their next possession looked confused, with two penalties and mix-ups in the backfield. Standlee boomed a 61-yarder to pin the Dons deep. In another common ploy, USF quick-kicked, and Albert returned it 10 yd to the enemy 41. That's when the Indians put their jitters aside and began to move.
  • On the second play, Gallarneau went in motion. Albert took the snap, froze the D with a fake, and hit Duke wide open in the flat. He ran to the 28. On the next play, Duke went in motion again, but Albert handed the ball to Standlee who followed the wedge blocking through an opening between C and G to the 8. In the huddle, Albert enthused, "Hey, this stuff really works." Two plays later, three backs moved left but Albert handed to Kmetovic on a counter through LG for the TD. Afterwards, Jackrabbit said, "You could tell by the holes we had that somebody was confused. We were running right by people who didn't know we had the ball." Albert place-kicked the PAT. Stanford's second platoon scored with 3 minutes left in the half. Sophomore HB Eric Armstrong raced 37 yd over LG. The EP made it 14-0 at the break.
  • Senior E Stan Graff recalled, "I was struck by the extremes in coaching methods that Shaughnessy and Thornhill used. Halftimes under Tiny were sort of disorganized rest periods. Shaughnessy's sessions were like a classroom, chair rows to sit in, and a blackboard on which he would describe, chapter and verse, as to what would or would not work and why."
  • Stanford struck swiftly with a 62-yd march when the first string returned midway through Q3. Albert hit E Stan "Bosco" Graff for 24, Gallarneau broke for 25, and the Albert-Graff connection earned 13 to the 6-inch line. Standlee slammed over from there. Albert's conversion was blocked.
  • Shaughnessy let some third-stringers play, but still USF couldn't get a drive cranked up. Kmetovic spread the icing on the cake with a 59-yd punt runback four minutes into Q4. Albert booted the point to make the final score 27-0.

Stanford won the rushing battle 209-33 while USF outgained in the air 80-63. Standlee led all ball carriers with 86 yd in 11 tries.

Bill Tobitt waxed eloquent in the Oakland Tribune.

Stanford accomplished more in sixty minutes of football here this afternoon than it did in almost its entire 1939 season. It won a game ... and scored four TDs doing it. ... They began a new era. They had Head Coach Clark Shaughnessy on the bench. And they had a gang of rough-shod fancy dans cutting didoes on Kezar's turf and the Dons' hides. There was power - when needed. But more than that, there was such a thorough application of fundamentals that the Stanfords seemed to perform without effort.

Tex Oliver, coach of Stanford's next opponent, Oregon, said Albert did "everything but swallow the ball ... I saw so much that I can't go to sleep now. That stuff requires defense." Little comment was made about the Indian D holding Frisco scoreless.

On this same day, across the bay at Berkeley, the great Tom Harmon cavorted for Michigan against California.

Coach Tex Oliver, Oregon
Oregon Coach Tex Oliver

Stanford Stadium
Stanford Stadium

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Game Two: October 5 vs. Oregon @ Stanford Stadium

Oliver brought 31 players to Palo Alto the following Saturday. While Stanford had revealed its new look, little was known about the Ducks, who had beaten the San Diego Marines 12-2 in their first contest. The preseason prognostications had given Oregon a much better chance at winning the conference than the Indians. The skeptics wanted to wait until after Stanford's first conference game to revise that conjecture.

Oliver planned to use a 6-2-2-1 D, sometimes shifting to 5-3-2-1. He was confident his team would score against Stanford. "In fact, I know we will. This is apt to be a high scoring game, 28-21, or something like that. ... I'm not saying we'll win, only that each team should score more than once." He proved to be half right.

  • The crowd of 20,000 on a sunny autumn day in Stanford's 90,000-seat stadium watched Oregon dominate the first five minutes. After forcing a punt to their own 45, the Webfeet rolled to the 9, where HB John "Duck" Berry fumbled and Gallarneau recovered. "That was the high tide for Oregon," to quote the United Press dispatch. Berry was kicked in the head on the play and left the game for good with a mild concussion.
  • After an exchange of punts, starting their "daring, fast breaking attack" from their 28, the "care-free Cardinals whipped out a brand of football that had Stanford rooters talking about the 'vowing sophomores' who went to the Rose Bowl three times running." Mixing passes and runs with a flanker in motion on every play, Stanford stormed to the 18. A key play saw Standlee and Albert reverse roles. In punt formation on third down, Norm passed to Albert who bobbled the ball into the air. Several players collided going for the pigskin, allowing Albert to grab it and race to the Duck 46. Albert then returned the favor to Standlee for 13. Then Kenny rolled out to the left to the 18. Three plays later Norm bulled over T to the 3, then got another yard before Kmetovic lunged over T to the EZ. Albert's PAT put Stanford up 7-0 with a minute left in the opening period.
  • In Q2, Gallarneau broke loose for 51 to the 15. But two incompletions and a 15-yd illegal use of hands penalty forced Albert to try a 37-yd FG that barely missed. Starting again on their 28, the Indians rolled 72 yd to their second score. Gallarneau turned the corner for 26. Standlee and Gallarneau made a first down on the 36. Then Standlee and Albert reversed roles again, with Norm in short punt formation on third down lateraling to Ken who ran to the 21. Albert got 4 and then Armstrong took a lateral to the 1. Albert sneaked it over but missed the conversion with 6 minutes left in the half.
  • Both offenses were frustrated in the scoreless second half. An INT stopped one Stanford possession on the Oregon 38. In Q4 Albert fumbled and Floyd "Scrappy" Rhea recovered for the visitors on the 20. But Oregon went nowhere. Standlee boomed punts of 60, 55, and 50 to keep the Ducks at bay. Tommy Roblin intercepted two Albert passes in Oregon territory.
  • "Stanford's loosely shifting defense smothered Oregon's passing attack, rated one of the best on the coast. The Stanford linemen charged deep on every play, leaving the secondary to fill the gaps, and smeared most of Oregon's reverses." Stanford had 14 firsts to Oregon's 6, 199 rushing to 128, and 72 passing while Oregon went 0-for-9. Stanford used only 14 plays in the game, three more than the first contest, but less than 1/3 of the 60 they had practiced.
  • Once again, writers marveled at Stanford's "razzle-dazzle" O and hardly mentioned the fact that Bengston's D had yet to allow a point in eight quarters. Oliver pontificated: "Until I see a better team, Stanford is the best on the coast." But the winning coach wasn't satisfied, feeling his squad had been ragged in the 13-0 victory.

In Los Angeles that same afternoon, Santa Clara defeated UCLA and Jackie Robinson 9-6 to clear the decks for their Bay Area showdown with Stanford.

Part III - Games 3 & 4

Game Three: October 12 vs. Santa Clara @ Stanford Stadium

55,000, more than double the previous week's crowd, gathered to watch the only two remaining undefeated-untied teams on the Pacific Coast.

  • The Broncos were a football power under Buck Shaw, having won two Sugar Bowls against LSU in 1937 and 1938.
  • Shaw had never lost to Stanford, having beaten them four years in a row. Of course, he ran the same single wing that almost everyone else did in those days.
  • Buck designed a defense he thought would stymie Stanford. He called it the "X defense," which was the 5-2-2-1-1 with the RE playing about 5 yd behind the linebackers. It succeeded in holding down Shaughnessy's high-powered O.
Standlee, Albert, Shaw Norm Standlee, Frankie Albert, and Buck Shaw when Shaw coached them on the San Francisco 49ers

Once again, Stanford got off to a shaky start.

  • Santa Clara received the kickoff and, after one play, quick-kicked all the way to the Stanford 10. Kmetovic ran it back to the 17. On second down, Albert and Jackrabbit messed up a handoff, and the Broncos recovered at the 22. On first down, Banducci and Meyer chased a sweeping back to the 35, where he threw the ball out of bounds, drawing a 15y penalty. The threat ended with a punt into the EZ. Still another Indian fumble gave SC good position on the 33. Seven plays, with TB Jim Johnson carrying most of the mail, made it first down on the 11. On the next play, SC was penalized 15y for not being set for a full second after shifting. This would not be the last penalty that would play a large role in the outcome of the game. The possession ended with several incomplete passes.
  • In the first five minutes of Q2, Stanford got good field position after a poor kick that Albert returned across midfield to the 47. On second down from the 44, Kmetovic raced around RE down the sidelines to the 19, where LB Dick Clark tackled him. Clark was then taken off on a stretcher with a broken leg. According to Art Cohn, sports editor of The Oakland Tribune, "The play that broke Santa Clara's back was the play that broke Clark's leg. ... The Broncos could not regain their poise." On second-and-9, Gallarneau rammed LT for 8. After Kmetovic failed to gain at LE, Standlee made the play of the game on fourth down. Albert sent Hugh in motion to the left, then handed the ball to Norm up the middle. You can follow his run from the sequence of pictures below. Hit inside the five, Standlee fell across the goal. Albert split the uprights with what became the crucial EP.
Stanlee's TD Run vs. Santa Clara
Standlee's TD run as shown in The Oakland Tribune
  • Santa Clara struck quickly early in Q3 after Stanford's fourth fumble. Following a loss of 3, Ken Casanega fired a pass to Jim Thom who caught it on the 1 just before Gallarneau wrapped his arms around him too late to prevent the TD. It was the first points scored on Stanford in 1940. Johnson, hero of the UCLA game with the winning FG, missed wide right under pressure from the front wall. Holding onto a 1-point lead, Stanford failed to take advantage of two golden opportunities. First, they marched 61 yd in six plays for a first down on the 7. Standlee had made the last 30 with two men on his back part of the way. But Kmetovic fumbled at the 4, and Nubby Wright recovered for the Broncos. On the next sequence, the Indians started at the SC 36 and moved to the 10. Standlee cracked to the 8, but Stanford was penalized 15 for holding. Three plays later Ward Heiser intercepted Albert's pass on the 8 to seemingly choke off another threat. But wait. On the very next play, Wright muffed the snap and Banducci recovered on the 1. "But the over-zealous officials called the play back on a questionable off-side," wrote Cohn who called it "the most over-officiated game these aging eyes have seen in years." SC punted out of danger to close Q3.
  • Q4 started with another break for Stanford nullified by the officials. Frank Peterson fumbled Standlee's punt when hit by Armstrong, and Stanford recovered on the Bronco 30. But the official ruled Peterson already down before he lost the ball. At this point, "the taciturn Shaughnessy, football's most reserved character-builder, rushed out on the field to protest." After that, the game see-sawed with neither team threatening. Finally, with less than a minute left, Albert intercepted Johnson's desperation pass on the SC 30 and returned it to the 11. Satisfied with a one-point win, Shaughnessy did not use his timeouts, and the game ended two plays later. "He and everyone knew that Stanford was more than one point better than Santa Clara,"wrote Cohn.
  • The stats didn't verify Cohn's claim. The Broncos led in first downs 7-4 and yardage 155-115 primarily because of a 114-53 margin in passing. The officials called 12 penalties for 100y, with 70 of them against SC. Standlee continued his outstanding punting, averaging 48.2 on nine kicks. Each side fumbled six times in the viciously-fought affair. Stanford recovered only one of its bobbles.
  • Shaw offered some interesting post-game comments: "I'm glad, as it was played, that Stanford won. Stanford deserved to win, and if we had tied the game, under the circumstances, there would have been a lot of discussion in the papers I would not like to read." Presumably, he was referring to the officiating. Later in the week, Buck added: "The best team on the field that day won. It should have been a larger score against Santa Clara than only 7 to 6."
Hugh Gallarneau
Hugh Gallarneau

Game Four: October 19 vs. Washington State @ Pullman WA

The Stanford Indians, ranked #10 in the latest AP poll, boarded a train on Friday the 18th with 1200 students cheering them at the station. They stopped in Portland for a workout, then continued northeast to Pullman, where a dangerous foe awaited.

  • State rarely lost at home and boasted one of the best passers in the nation in Billy Sewell, a 24-year-old ex-brewery worker.
  • Stanford assistant Jim Lawson, who had scouted the Cougars, called Coach "Babe" Hollingbery's passing attack the best he had watched this year.
  • Shaughnessy admitted he was worried about this game. "I cannot afford to fire up the players every week, for after Washington State come in quick order the Trojans, the Bruins, and the Huskies. There's no rest for the weary."

A homecoming crowd of 24,000 watched the white-clad Indians fall behind for the first time all season.

  • The Cougars capped a 68y advance with a 16y run to paydirt around RE by Felix Fletcher four minutes into the game. Stan Johnson kicked the 7th point. The key play in the drive was a Sewell pass that Fletcher caught at the Stanford 42. When hit by Gallarneau, Fletcher fumbled forward to the 22, where Johnny Rutherford grabbed it and ran to the 17. Later in the period, Albert made a leaping INT over his shoulder at his own 38. On the first play, Kmetovic burst through LT and veered toward the sideline. He made it to the 10 before being tripped up. Standlee swept LE untouched into the EZ. Albert kicked the tying point.
  • Sewell passed the home team to the 22 before being stopped. After an exchange of punts, Albert & Company took over on the 17. With the ball on the 32, the Indians lined up in punt formation on 2nd down. But Lindskog snapped the ball to sophomore FB Milt Vucinich who passed 36y to Clem Tomerlin. Three plays later, Albert connected to 5-7 HB Eric "Hoot" Armstrong for a 27y TD that gave the visitors a lead they never relinquished. Albert converted again. Shortly thereafter, two pass interference penalties that upset the home crowd moved Stanford to the 24, but nothing came of it.
  • After the half, Stanford scored again, driving 73y on only four plays. Meyer made a difficult catch of an Albert pass from the 33 while being tackled by Sewell in the EZ. No PAT this time because of a bad snap. Later in Q3, Lindskog caused a fumble with a vicious hit and recovered on the Cougar 30. It took Stanford only three plays to score this time. Two runs put the ball on the one-foot line enabling Albert to sneak in. Once again, the EP try failed.
  • Still fighting gamely, WSU pushed across another TD in Q4. Taking over on Stanford's 46 after a weak punt by Al Cole, the Cougars took nine plays to reach the EZ. Dick Renfro popped in from the 1. Johnson converted to make the final score 26-14.
  • For the second week in a row, the opponent made more firsts than Stanford but by only 15-14 this time. But net yardage reflected the score: Stanford 230, WSU 146. Sewell outpassed Albert 149-120 but suffered 4 INTs.
  • Hollingbery called Shaughnessy's club "the best team we've met yet, particularly in the line." He added, "Stanford backs were just too fast."

Stanford moved up one spot to #9 in the next AP poll.

Billy Sewell, Washington State
Billy Sewell

Coach Babe Hollingbery
Coach "Babe" Hollingbery

Milt Vucinich
Milt Vucinic

Part IV - Games 5 & 6

One skeptic who had started to appreciate Shaughnessy's coaching was former Stanford coach Pop Warner. He told a pep rally the night before the Trojans came to town:

The Stanford team is being very capably handled and coached. There never has been so much gotten out of this system [the T-formation] as Shaughnessy gets now. I have confidence in the boys' ability to come through Saturday, and I want to see Stanford in the Rose Bowl.

Game Five: October 25 vs. USC @ Stanford Stadium

The Trojans would provide an excellent measuring stick for Stanford's progress under Shaughnessy.

  • Howard Jones' club enjoyed a streak of 18 games without tasting defeat. They had won the last two Rose Bowls over Duke and Tennessee.
  • USC's running attack, averaging over 200 per game, worried Bengston. "We don't expect to hold them scoreless. The only way to beat them is to score more points than they do and keep the ball as long as we can."

Let the eloquent Art Cohn summarize what happened to USC that beautiful fall afternoon.

Their dreams of making it three in a row at the Rose Bowl were shattered in the last 67 seconds of one of the most dramatic struggles these aging eyes have or ever hope to see ... [Stanford] exploded in two astounding touchdowns scored within a space of 22 seconds. And thus, in a finish that beggars fiction, Stanford becomes the undisputed leader of Pacific Coast football, undefeated and untied after five stirring victories ... each over a previously unbeaten opponent.

  • For once, Stanford started strong, scoring after only 6:40 had elapsed. The key play came from the Indians 40 when Albert faded back to the 27 and rifled a strike diagonally across the field to Kmetovic at the Trojan 33. He snagged the ball in stride and didn't stop until he crossed the goal line for the Cardinals' first TD against USC since 1937. (See sequence below.) The play had been made up by Shaughnessy after seeing the 5-1-2-2-1 D and sent in on a 5x7 index card. Albert kicked the point to make it 7-0.
Albert-to-Kmetovic for 1st TD vs. USC
Albert to Kmetovic for the first TD
  • By coincidence, USC scored 6:40 into Q2. Starting on the Stanford 41, the Men of Troy took six plays to reach 4th-and-8 on the 28. Sub QB Ray Woods let fly a pass into the EZ intended for RE Joe Davis. Gallarneau went up with him, but neither touched the ball. The crowd of 60,000 cheered Stanford's taking possession. Not so fast, my friends. The field judge called interference and awarded USC the ball on the 1. On the very first play, Jack Banta catapulted over LG into the promised land. 225-lb T Bob de Lauer booted the tying point.
  • At halftime, the Stanford rooting section had fun with their card stunts, a staple at West Coast football games. One display showed a picture of a pregnant woman with the slogan reading, "Trojans are no damn good." Another one said, "No Third Term," a reference to Franklin Roosevelt's campaign that fall to be reelected president for an unprecedented second time. (He succeeded.) Of course, the cheerleaders said the slogan referred to denying USC its third straight PCC championship and Rose Bowl berth.
  • The game remained deadlock through Q3 and well into the last period, although Stanford dominated, with USC never penetrating enemy territory the entire second half. The Trojans, who didn't complete a pass all day except for the interference call, moved the ball on the ground, amassing 188 rushing yd to Stanford's 143. By contrast, the Indians favored the passing game, garnering 208 on 10 completions.
  • On its first possession of the second half, Stanford moved the ball to the 20, with all but one play a rush. But Bob Peoples intercepted Albert's pass on the goal line. After holding and returning the punt to the 40, Albert threw another INT. At the beginning of Q4, Peoples struck again, this time snagging an Armstrong aerial on a trick play. Another drive reached the 11, but Albert, not having a good game, missed a FG wide right.
  • Finally, Stanford took over on its own 20 with 4:30 left. Appearing worn down by the heat and the bigger Trojans (Lindskog lost 13 lb during the fray), the offense rose to the occasion with an 8-play drive to the end zone. Al "Midget" Cole, Kmetovic's backup at LH, got the ball rolling with a 9-yd smash over LG. Gallarneau gained 3 and a first down. Ken Robesky, reserve G, saved the day on the next play by recovering Albert's fumble as he went back to pass. That made it 2nd-and-19. In the huddle, Kenny told Cole (5-8 160), "I'm pitching it to you. Don't miss it." The QB lobbed a wobbly pass that Cole leaped and caught over a defender at midfield. Then it was Clem Tomerlin on the receiving end for 25. Albert next threw to Meyer who was tightly covered. Stanford fans yelled for interference to no avail. In the huddle, Albert said, "The same play, same place; and, Meyer, you are going to catch this one." With Peoples hanging on him, Meyer did as ordered at the 4. Standlee, despite suffering a charley horse that would plague him the rest of the season, crashed over for a 14-7 lead after Albert's PAT.
  • With only 1:07 left, USC had to take to the air. With the ball on the 12, Woods threw a pass that Albert grabbed at the 13 and returned to the EZ. Two TDs within a space of 22 seconds produced the 21-7 victory. Shaughnessy took Albert out and lifted him off his feet with a big hug and kissed him on the forehead. When the game ended, thousands of Stanford fans stormed the field.
  • Like other vanquished coaches before him, Jones gave credit to Stanford. When someone suggested USC should have had a tie, he retorted: "No, we never deserved a tie against that ball club. The score tells the true story; a tie would have lied." And further, "That's about as smartly a coached team as you'll see this year."

Cole Snags Albert's Pass
Cole comes down with Albert's pass
on 2nd-and-19



Game Six: November 2 vs. UCLA @ Los Angeles Coliseum

Stanford moved up three spots to #6 in the AP poll. That put a bigger bulls-eye on their backs as they headed south. to battle the other Los Angeles school.

  • UCLA was the only PCC team with "colored boys" (as articles at that time referred to them). Several years before, the Bruins had four: Kenny Washington (often called "Kingfish" in the L.A. Times), Jackie Robinson, Woody Strode, and Ray Bartlett. By 1940, only Robinson and Bartlett were left.
  • The Bruins had yet to win a game, but their D had yielded no more than 9 points in any game. They would be fired up for homecoming.
  • Coach Babe Horrell held secret practices but admitted that he planned to pass the ball more against the Indians. He also announced that all his injured players would be ready. "If we lose, no alibis."
  • Once again, Stanford would be outweighed, knitting Shaughnessy's brow with worry about the week-to-week pounding his thin team endured. Robesky would replace Taylor at G. Knowing he could not lose his QB, Clark ran behind Albert during practice, blowing his whistle just before Kenny was tackled.

Hundreds of Stanford fans made the trip to L.A.

  • They rode a special Southern Pacific train to the game, departing Friday night and returning Monday morning.
  • The accomodations at the Arcardy Hotel cost $2/night while the Chapman Park was an extra $1.

The Indians and Bruins staged another tight, hard-fought PCC contest.

  • Another forcing a punt, Stanford drove from the 44 to the 18, where Kmetovic fumbled. But the visitors got the ball right back and drove 66 in four ground plays for a TD. Pete gained 33 on one play, speeding around RE into the clear until Robinson drove him out on the 5. Gallarneau followed Banducci and Palmer into the EZ. Albert's PAT made it 7-0. After both teams failed to move, Standlee rocketed a 60 yd punt that Robinson took over his shoulder at the 25 and set sail upfield. He made it to the Stanford 35 before Lindskog pulled him down. UCLA moved to the 13 before running out of gas and downs.
  • Stanford embarked on another long march. On the second play, Standlee burst off RT, shook off a tackle, got a great block by Warnecke on Robinson, and rumbled to the Bruin 38. The 44-yd ramble would be Norm's longest of the season. Gallarneau gained 14, but penalties thwarted the Indians. On 3rd-and-14 at the 16, Albert rolled left and threw a jump pass that Tomerlin jump-caught over Robinson and Bartlett in the EZ. PAT Albert. 14-0 at the intermission.
  • Q3 remained scoreless until 25 seconds remained. UCLA's TD resulted from a series of plays starting with Jack Cohen batting the ball out of Albert's hands and Jack Findlay recovering on the Bruins' 33. UCLA scored in 10 plays. A rare clipping penalty against the D aided the drive. Leo Cantor at LH, with Robinson shifted to RH, passed to Milt Smith who fumbled when tackled, but Don MacPherson recovered to keep possession. After a 2-yd run, Cantor's pass was broken up by Cole, who had entered the fray a few plays earlier along with four other reserves. But Cantor tried again and nailed MacPherson all alone in the left flat. He ambled 22 yd untouched to paydirt. Robinson converted to cut the Stanford lead in half.
  • Shaughnessy put the first unit back in to start Q4. Albert directed a drive that ran out of downs at the Bruin 2. A few plays later, Stanford was back in business at the enemy 41, and this time they would not be denied. On fourth-and-3 at the 34, Albert elected to pass instead of punting, and the strategy worked. He lobbed the ball to a streaking Kmetovic who was tackled at the 11. Gallarneau hit the center twice, first for 6, and then for the remaining 5. Albert's kick went wide, but the Indians had a commanding 20-7 lead. When Kenny came to the sidelines, Shaughnessy asked him out of curiosity why he hadn't punted. "Coach, if I'd kicked, the chances were I'd gone over the goal. I decided to gamble the ten yd against a first down; besides, I felt positive I had that spot open."
  • UCLA scored in the dying moments. Shaughnessy's first platoon was driving again at the Bruin 28. Albert went back to pass, started to run, fumbled when hit but recovered, circled back into midfield where he let go with a long one in the general direction of Gallarneau. But up came Robinson to intercept and return it to the 33. On first down, Jackie dropped back to his 20 but, finding no one open, ran all the way to the Stanford 22. After a 3-yd gain, Jackie faked a run, then passed to Smith who tumbled into the EZ with one minute remianing. Robinson added the EP. Stanford ran out the clock for a 20-14 victory.
  • Stanford had beaten UCLA at its own game, rushing for an incredible 372 yd against only 102. The Chief accounted for 136 of the infantry advance with Hugh adding 114. Through the air, Frankie connected on only 2 of 10 for just 38.
  • Shaughnessy praised the man who seven years later would break MLB's color barrier. "Once a year is too much for me with that boy on the other side. A very dangerous back. One of the best I have ever seen. We saw two of the best backs on the Coast out there today. Robinson and Standlee."
  • As further evidence of the unconscious racism of that era, Bill Tobit wrote this in his Oakland Tribune article: "There seemed no evidence of dissension on the Bruin club. The kids blocked for Robinson today - as best they could against the fleet-footed Stanfords."


Jackie Robinson, UCLA
Jackie Robinson







Norm Standlee with 49ers
Norm Standlee with 49ers

Part V - Game 7

Game Seven: November 9 vs. Washington @ Stanford Stadium

Coach Jimmy Phelan's Huskies presented Stanford's biggest challenge of the season.

  • UW had lost only one game, their opener at #1-ranked Minnesota 19-14. Since then, they had allowed only 6 points in five games.
  • Both coaches admitted they wouldn't be able to stop the other's high-powered O but hoped they could outscore the opposition.
  • Phelan was not surprised by Shaughnessy's success. He had told his assistants in the spring that "From here on, those Stanford kids are going to be tough."
  • Washington boasted three potential All-Americans in C Rudy Mucha, G Ray Frankowski, and HB Dean McAdams, the centerpiece of the single wing attack. Their first eleven included six other returning starters from the 1939 squad. In addition, the Huskies enjoyed a week off, which gave Phelan's staff more time to develop a game plan. He decided to deploy a 6-2-2-1 D with occasional shifts to 5-3-2-1.

The two remaining teams with unblemished PCC records would play for the league title and the host spot in the Rose Bowl. Other than that, nothing was on the line before 65,000 fans who paid $1.50 for reserved seats and $1.10 for EZ ducats.

  • With 5:30 left in Q3, Washington led 10-0 and had the ball on Stanford's 30 with 1 to go for a first. The Chief had left the field with a leg injury in Q1 and wouldn't return. It appeared that the day belonged to the visitors from the north. But that's when the turning point occurred. But let's retrace how the game reached that crescendo.
  • After Stanford did nothing with the opening kickoff, Albert boomed a 62-yd punt to the 3. That led to better field position at the 39 after the UW boot. The Indians moved all the way to the 7 but bogged down, and Albert missed a FG try. On the ensuing possession, Standlee received a vicious crossblock that injured his ankle. Vucinich replaced him. Shaughnessy decided that RH Gallarneau would run Standlee's FB plays.
  • Q1 rocked along with neither team scoring. Albert recovered a Huskie fumble at his own 45 leading into Q2. Stanford advanced to the 23, but Tomerlin dropped a 4th-down pass when hit. The teams traded punts, with Albert booting a nice one to the 9. But that's when the first big play of the struggle took place. TB Jack Stackpool broke loose from Taylor behind the line and romped 55 yd to the 36 before Kmetovic ran him down. On 3rd down, McAdams lofted a pass to Earl Younglove for the first score of the day. (See below.) The kick put Washington in front 7-0.


Banducci recovers Stanlee's fumble.
Banducci recovers Stanlee's fumble.

Meyer Receives Albert's Pass
Meyer receives Albert's pass in Q2 to Huskie 25.

Washington's first TD
  • Stanford responded with another march, reaching the 22. Albert tossed to Kmetovic at the 5, but McAdams snared the pigskin instead. Vucinich hit him immediately, causing a fumble that Steele of Washington recovered on the 6. Thus ended the Indians' third scoring opportunity. But another one popped up immediately. Steele fumbled on the next play, Fred Meyer capturing it for Stanford at the 12. But in four plays, Albert & Company went backwards 7 yd. - more frustration.
  • Stanford went to the locker room behind for the first time all season. Shaughnessy didn't yell at anyone. Instead, he went over plays he thought would work. As a surprised reserve G John Kerman remembered, "No tirade, no threats, just relax and get ready for the second half."
  • The tide didn't turn for Stanford right away. In fact, it threatened to drown them. After the first possession failed to gain a first, Albert retreated into punt formation. C Lindskog, playing with a bandaged hand from a bad cleat cut, sent the ball flying over Kenny's head. All he could do was fall on it on the 19. Seven running plays put the ball on the 9 where John Mizen kicked a FG on 4th down. The scoreboard now read Visitors 10 Stanford 0.
  • Things got worse. The Indians managed one first down to the 42 but had to punt. This time Albert got the snap just fine but kicked only 22 yd. McAdam found Younglove again to the 39, where Albert knocked him out of bounds. Stackpool gained 9. And that brings us to the turning point mentioned earlier. With three tries to make a measly 1 yd, the Huskies can't do it as Taylor gets by Mucha every time to make the tackle. Washington would get the ball six more times but gain only 9 net yd.

McAdams Intercepts Albert
McAdams intercepts Albert's pass
intended for Kmetovic.

Chuck Taylor
Chuck Taylor

  • Of course, heroic defensive efforts would mean little if the offense didn't get untracked. Gallarneau got 5, then 9 for a first down at the 43. Time for a pass. Albert pitched one to Kmetovic on the 30. Using "an astonishing change of pace coupled with an equally amazing outburst of speed," he ran away from the defenders for a TD. Albert converted to cut the deficit to 3. The stop-go TD pass was one of the plays that Shaughnessy "dug out of the bag between halves."
  • On third down after receiving the kick, McAdams pulled the Statue of Liberty play out of mothballs. The HB running across, Bill "Bomber" Gleason in this case, took the ball off McAdams' shoulder. With a choice of running or passing, Gleason unwisely chose the latter. Albert intercepted at the 46 and returned it to the 42. Kenny kept the momentum going with a 13-yd strike to Meyer. Vucinich gained almost 10 up the middle to end Q3.
  • Albert sneaked for a first down at the 16. After Hugh gained 2, Cole lost 5 when he tripped. Facing a crucial third-and-13, Albert fired a strike to Tomerlin between two defenders for 11. Eschewing the FG, Albert The Riverboat Gambler handed to Gallarneau who picked up 4 behind Vucinich's block. Gallarneau again to the 1, then Albert sneaked for 0, but then Hugh for -1. On fourth down, Gallarneau, filling Stanlee's shoes, bulled over against an 8-man front for the TD. Stanford finally led 4:15 into Q4. Albert kicked the score to 14-10.
  • When the Cardinals got the ball back on their 26, they made a first down on the 40. Then Albert faked to a HB and ran the bootleg the opposite way to the UW 46. Actually, Kenny made the most of a busted play because Vucinich went by him before he could give him the ball. But on the next play, Kmetovic fumbled, and the Huskies recovered on their 44. After an exchange of punts, tried a pass to Younglove, but Kmetovic, atoning for his bobble, got his hands on it at the 43, gained control on the 40, and raced down the sidelines for the clinching TD with 2:30 left. Albert's PAT was blocked. The game ended soon after: 20-10.
  • Stanford dominated the stats: 76 plays to 45, 297 total yd to 188, 135 passing (8-for-18) to 60.
  • Coach Phelan opined that Stanford played better without Standlee. "Not that Standlee isn't good, but when he was removed, the Stanford team just seemed to say, 'Well, The Chief is out, now we've got to play twice as well to make up for it.' And that guy Vucinich, who took Standlee's place, wasn't a statue. He almost pulverized my ends a couple of times." Asked to compare Stanford with the Golden Gophers, Phelan equivocated somewhat: "I wouldn't pick any team over Stanford. The Indians beat us today. Minnesota was lucky to beat us."



Gallarneau scores go-ahead TD.
Gallarneau scores go-ahead TD.

Kmetovic runs vs. Washington
Kmetovic running against Washington.


Part VI - Game 8

Coach Lon Stiner
Coach Lon Stiner

Vic Sears
Vic Sears, OSC T who played 12 years in the NFL

Milt Vucinich
Milt Vucinich

Frankie Albert
Frank Albertt

Chuck Taylor
Chuck Taylor, who would later coach Stanford

Hugh Gallarneau
Hugh Gallarneau

Top of Page

Game Eight: November 16 vs. Oregon State @ Stanford Stadium

Coach Lon Stiner's eighth Oregon State College squad had lost only one game - to Washington 19-0 - and tied USC. The undefeated Indians could not afford to let their guard down.

  • OSC fielded a big bruising team that played a four-man front with three LBs in hopes of keeping Stanford's quick-opening plays from producing big gainers.
  • The Beavers featured three excellent passers in their single-wing power O. QB George "Little Abner" Peters was second-string All Coast behind Albert, although their positions could not be compared since Peters functioned mostly as a blocking back.
  • Stiner's best player was 195lb FB Jim Kisselburgh from Hollywood CA. He was second-team All-Coast (behind Stanlee) and third-team All-American. The Beavers also boasted two All-Coast linemen in LT Vic Sears and RG Leonard Younce.
  • Stiner had confidence in his second string, giving him depth to wear down opponents.
  • The Indians would compete without their star FB Norm Standlee, on crutches after an ankle injury. Milt Vucinich, no slouch himself, would take over the position.

A disappointing crowd of 33,000 turned out "under a slate sky through which the sun peeps only fitfully" for the last home game. OSC was not a big draw, and fans were looking ahead to the Big Game against Cal.

  • Stanford received the opening kickoff and drove 71y to paydirt.
  • If the opponent was expected more passing with Stanlee out, they were in for a rude awakening. Instead, Shaughnessy had the Indians run right at the Beavers.
  • The march consumed 4 1/2 minutes. Pete Kmetovich ripped off gains of 29 and 12.
  • With the ball on the 1, Vucinich powered over LT, fumbled, and while sitting in the EZ caught the ball for the TD. Albert kicked the PAT.
Vucinich scores
Vucinich scores Stanford's first TD.

Oregon State tied the score later in the period.

  • Replacing Stanlee as punter, Albert boomed a 55y punt from deep in Stanford territory.
  • OSC then mounted a drive from their 41. HB Dan Durdan broke loose for 20y until Albert grabbed Durdan's straight arm and pulled him down on the 35.
  • With the ball on the 30, Durdan, like Albert a southpaw, started to run around RE, then stopped and passed over Kmetovic's head to Peters, who ran untouched into the EZ.

The teams battled toe-to-toe in the scoreless Q2.

  • Albert rocketed an 89y punt into the EZ. Frankie would average 52.6 despite one lame coffin corner attempt that traveled only 14.
  • Kmetovic slashed off tackle from the Stanford 40, veered right toward the home sideline, and continued into the EZ. However, field judge Lee Eisen, who was knocked into the pole vault pit by an OSC player, noticed as he got up that Kmetovic stepped out of bounds by inches on the 50.

Stanford regained the lead on its first possession of the second half.

  • After holding the Beavers, the Indians started at midfield.
  • On fourth and 1, Albert decided to go for it. He handed to Hugh Gallarneau for the first down.
  • On the next play, Kmetovic took a lateral from Albert but appeared to be in trouble 10y behind the line. But a crushing block by Chuck Taylor freed Jackrabbit who sailed downfield. He made a move that froze DB Bob Dethman at the 26 and allowed him to complete the 39y run untouched.
  • Albert's PAT made it 14-7.

It didn't take the Indians long to score again.

  • From the 23, Durdan took a reverse and gained 10y before Fred Meyer's hit caused a fumble that Kmetovic covered at the 33.
  • Three plays later, Stanford found itself back at its 39. So Albert threw one of his four passes for the game. He hit Gallaneau at the 1. Hugh stumbled and fumbled as he fell into the EZ. The officials ruled he had possession as he crossed the goal. The pass was Frankie's only completion of the contest.
  • Albert's conversion made it 21-7.

Three minutes later, Stanford salted the game away.

  • The Beavers took to the air to catch up. But Kmetovic intercepted a long pass at the Stanford 30 and ran it back to the 39.
  • Gallarneau and Albert ran the ball to the enemy 40. Then backup senior FB Rod Parker circled RE for 12 more. Al Cole gained 10 on a shovel pass to the 18.
  • Albert then rifled a pass to Cole, who dropped it. Then Frankie barely overthrew Meyer at the goal line.
  • So Albert gave the ball to Parker who started left, cut back through the center, and smashed into the EZ. Frankie went 4-for-4 on PATs.

Coach Shaughnessy subbed freely which allowed the Beavers to score a second TD.

  • OSC recovered a fumbled lateral at the 19.
  • Two plays later, Dethman hit E John Leovich for an 11y TD to make it 28-14.
  • In the final minutes, Albert intercepted Dethman's pass at his 21 to allow the Indians to run out the clock.
  • Stanford outgained the visitors 337-268. The Indians intercepted more passes, 5, than they threw, 4.

The victory gave the 8-0 Indians the Pacific Coast Conference title. They also moved up to #3 in the AP poll, behind #1 Minnesota and Texas A&M. They now had two weeks to prepare for archrival Cal.

Game 9 Part I

Game Nine: November 30 vs. California @ Memorial Stadium

Stanford and Cal first met in 1892. The "Big Game," as their gridiron clash was soon dubbed, ranks as the tenth-longest rivalry in college football.

  • The schools battled for the Stanford axe, which Cal students had stolen in 1899 and kept hidden for 31 years, taking it out for football and baseball games with the archrival.
  • Stanford students finally stole their axe back in 1930 by posing as Cal students on a photo assignment. In 1933, the colleges agreed to make the axe the trophy of the Big Game.
  • The agreement stipulated that neither college would invade the other's campus to carry out mischief. However, this provision was honored more in the breach than the observance. Every year, the rule had been broken, and 1940 would be no exception.
  • Stanford students painted a large red S on one of the streets running through the Cal campus. Cal students burned Cs into the lawn at the Quadrangle on the Palo Alto campus.
  • The day before the game, each school held a parade and bonfire.

Leonard "Stub" Allison's sixth Cal team had fashioned a respectable season after a disastrous start.

  • Michigan, led by its star RB Tom Harmon, who would win the Heisman Trophy that year, came to Berkeley and shellacked the home team 41-0 in a game marked by an amusing incident.
  • The Bears rebounded to defeat St. Mary's 9-6 the following week. They gained three more triumphs, over UCLA, Southern Cal, and Oregon, to sport a 4-4 record.
  • With Stanford undefeated, ranked #3 nationally, and headed to the Rose Bowl, their archrivals would love nothing better than to upset their apple cart.
  • The oddsmakers didn't think much of the underdogs' chances, installing the Indians as a 3-to-1 favorite.

The schools had pushed the game back a week so as to avoid Thanksgiving week, giving both squads 14 days to prepare.

  • Both teams took the first two days off before beginning preparations.
  • Stanford Coach Clark Shaughnessy welcomed the respite. "These boys need rest. They need a chance at their books. They've had too much pressure and strain. They need a chance to relax."
  • In particular, Clark was concerned about getting Norm Standlee ready to play. "He won't have much practice, but he's a football player, and you can count on him to go whether he's had any practice or not. Surely, our plans include Standlee, and he'll be in there, too."
  • However, as the game neared, Shaughnessy backed off, expressing doubt about his star FB's recovery. To use a phrase that became popular in later years, Standlee was "day to day."


The Stanford Axe
Stanford Axe held aloft in recent years


Coach Stub Allison, Cal
Coach Leonard "Stub" Allison

Clark Shaughnessy, Stanford
Stanford Coach Clark Shaughnessy

Allison also needed the extra time to prepare for the Pacific Coast Conference's leading O.

  • He worked his team on a 4-3-1-1-1-1 D alignment, which could shift into a 7-2-1-1 at times to confuse the O.
  • Shaugnessy expressed concern about Cal's use of the "rocker shift" that Washington Coach Jimmy Phelan complained about after his team's 7-6 victory over the Bears.
  • The object of the opponents' ire was not actually a shift despite its name. The "rocker" adjective described how lineman would change from a low crouch to a high crouch just before the ball was snapped. Since only one man at a time moved, the officials didn't call a penalty although the rules stated that any movement designed to draw the D offside was illegal.
  • After the season, the national rules committee made the Cal shift illegal.

The morning of the game, Shaughnessy was connected to the nationwide radio broadcast of the Army-Navy game from Philadelphia. He talked at halftime about Stanford's sensational season before boarding the bus to Berkeley for the 2 pm PT kickoff.

  • Although the coaches tried to keep it quiet, players on both teams suffered from the flu. Pete Kmetovic spent a night in the hospital but would play.
  • Cal's All-American T Bob Reinhard, a high school teammate of Frankie Albert, missed the game while hospitalized. This development spoiled Allison's plan to use his T as a passer and a receiver. Reports published after the game indicated that Big Bob had thrown 60y aerials on the mark at practice. So Cal planned to have Bob pass out of punt formation. They also wanted to use him as a receiver on third down.

80,000 filled Memorial Stadium to capacity.

  • 10,000 comprised the Cal student section, the largest in the country. 2,200 students made up the card section, with women allowed for the first time that year.
  • Stanford originated card stunts at the 1904 Big Game, although Cal still claims that it invented the tradition in 1910 - another bone of contention between the schools. The visitors would also display their card stunts at the game.

As soon as his team, including Stanlee and Kmetovic, took the field for warmups, Shaughnessy smelled a rat.

  • "It must have rained here last night," he commented sarcastically.
  • To slow down the fleet-footed Indians, Cal had watered the grass heavily.

All this byplay was the prelude to a bruising, hard-fought battle.

Bob Reinhard, Cal
All-American Bob Reinhard




California Card Stunt
Cal Card Stunt of recent years

Stanford Card Stunt
Stanford Card Stunt

Game 9 Part II

Game Nine: November 30 vs. California @ Memorial Stadium

Shortly after kicking off to start the Big Game, Stanford got a big break.

  • One of Cal's best players, HB Jim Jurkovich, left the game for good with a serious cleat wound to the head. (No face masks in 1940.)
  • Penalties and a tackle for loss pushed the Bears back to the 10 from where they punted to Kmetovic who returned the ball 4y to the Cal 49.
  • On third-and-8, Albert lined up in punt formation but tried to fake the D by throwing a long pass to Kmetovic. However, the ball fell incomplete at the 5. Albert then booted out of bounds at the 15.

The "physical" game, as it would be called today, continued to take its toll.

  • Indian C Vic Lindskog knocked himself woozy tackling HB Orville Hatcher, who himself suffered a gash over his eye that had to be bandaged before he could return.
  • Standlee lasted into Q2 when he limped off.
  • Stanford G Chuck Taylor would have to leave the contest several times due to exhaustion as he banged against C Harland Gough. Pete's effort would pay off several times.

On their second possession, the Bears again went backwards.

  • Concerned about Taylor hitting him as soon as he centered the ball, Gough hiked it over Hatcher's head for a 16y loss.
  • Cal punted to Kmetovic on the Stanford 34 from where he returned it 8y. Albert then cranked up a scoring drive.
  • Gallarneau got the ball for the first time and rambled 22y. However, Kmetovic was dropped for a 4y loss on the next play.
  • Albert connected with Clem Tomerlin for 12y before Gallarneau ripped over 7 for a first down.
  • Then came the play featured in the Oakland Tribune's panorama below. Kmetovic took the pitch from Albert, started left, then cut in and bolted 20y to the 1 as the period ended.
  • On the next play, Kmetovic dove over the left side of the line for the TD. Albert's conversion made it 7-0.
1940 California-Stanford Poster
Vic Lindskog, Stanford
Vic Lindskog
Chuck Taylor, Stanford
Chuck Taylor, future Stanford Coach/AD
Kmetovic Runs vs Cal

The Bears started another drive but a second goof by the C derailed it.

  • On second down from the 25, Hatcher burst off RT until Kmetovic dragged him down at the 48.
  • On the next play, Gough centered the ball under McQuary's legs, Stan Graff recovering for the Stanford on the 44.
  • Albert connected with Gallarneau to the 30. Shortly afterward, facing fourth down and 11, Albert missed a FG.

The next Cal drive also suffered from still another bad snap.

  • The Bears moved sharply from their 20 to Stanford's 41.
  • Looking up a moment too soon to get ready for Taylor's onslaught, Gough bounced the snap wide and low. Stan Cox recovered for the defense at the Cal 35.

Albert and Company took advantage of the break this time.

Kmetovic Scores First TD
Kmetovic scores first TD of game
  • Gallarneau broke for 11 on the first play. Then Standlee took a direct pass from C and passed to Graff for 9. Two plays later, Norm limped off, Vucinich replacing him.
  • Albert took the snap under C, faked to Vucinich, and rolled to the 3. Then Frankie gave it to Milt for a yard.
  • On second down, Gallarneau ran a crossbuck off RT through the defenders into the EZ.
  • Albert missed the conversion leaving the score 13-0 at the half.
Gallarneau scores 2nd Stanford TD.
Above: Gallarneau scores Stanford's second TD. Below: Hatcher rips off 15 for Cal.
Stanford-Cal 1940

Q3 turned into a defensive battle until Albert was both goat and hero on the same play.

  • On 3rd-and-14 from the Cal 49, Frankie went into punt formation. However, he tried to pass instead as he was being hit.
  • The ball went into the hands of Cal's Hoberg who headed downfield behind four blockers.
  • Albert fought his way through the interference and grabbed Hoberg's arm enough to slow him down and allow Jack Francis to help make the tackle at the 1 as the period ended.

Cal seemed certain to get back into the game with a TD. But not so fast, my friends.

  • FB McQuary lost a yard on first down, then regained the yard on second down.
  • McQuary took it again but Palmer dropped him two feet short of the goal line.
  • Hatcher took his turn, trying to turn RE, but Tomerlin, Albert, Kmetovic, and Stahle stopped him for no gain.

Albert took no chances and punted on first down, Hatcher running it back 15y to the 33.

  • Cal soon faced fourth down on the 22.
  • Hatcher threw a pass to Dunn in the EZ. As he was about to make the catch, Albert leaped and knocked the ball away.

The Bears soon had another opportunity.

  • Finally gaining some offensive momentum, Stanford moved to the enemy 48.
  • Then Gallarneau fumbled, and Hatcher recovered on the 43.
  • The Bears drove to the Indian 41 when Stahle intercepted Hatcher's pass and returned it to the Stanford 43.
  • The Indians used up valuable time as they marched to the 32 before turning the ball over on downs with 3:30 left.

That was enough time for Cal to finally reach the EZ.

  • Cal rambled 35y to the 30.
  • Soon afterwards, McQuary smashed through LG into the EZ from the 10.
  • McQuary's conversion made it 13-7 with only 0:16 left.
  • With the rules not allowing onside kicks at that time, Cal booted to Vucinich who ran to the 15 as time expired.

Stanford regained The Axe for the first time since 1935.

  • The students celebrated by tearing down the steel goal posts, a task thought impossible since they were embedded in concrete. A rumor spread that two students had sneaked into the stadium the night before and cut the posts halfway through to weaken them.
  • Albert and Bill Elmore played the entire 60 minutes. Kmetovic and Rod Parker went to the Stanford hospital for the evening with the flu.

The Indians waited to see how their season would be judged.

  • The final AP poll listed Stanford second behind Minnesota.
  • Four players made the All-Pacific Coast team: Meyer, Albert, Standlee, and Kmetovic.
  • Albert made the AP All-America team.
  • Shaughnessy earned Coach of the Year honors.
  • Most important of all, Stanford would play another game - the Rose Bowl.
Stanford 1940 - Rose Bowl - I

Coach Biff Jones, Nebraska
Coach "Biff" Jones



Stanford Coach Clark Shaughnessy
Coach Clark Shaughnessy



Warren Alfson, Nebraska
Warren Alfson

Forrest Behm, Nebraska
Forrest Behm


Herman Rohrig, Nebraska
Herman Rohrig






The night after the Big Game victory, Stanford learned it would indeed play in the Rose Bowl for the seventh time. However, it took a bit longer to determine the opponent.

  • The choices had been narrowed down by conference bowl bans and developments at the end of the season.
    • Minnesota, #1 in the final AP poll, and #3 Michigan (led by Heisman Trophy winner Tom Harmon) were prohibited from postseason participation as members of the Big Ten Conference.
    • #4 Tennessee and #5 Boston College accepted bids to the Sugar Bowl.
    • Texas A&M lost its finale to archrival Texas to drop to #6 and would meet Fordham in the Cotton Bowl Classic.
  • That left #7 Nebraska, which had lost only once, 13-7 to Minnesota in the opening game of the season. However, the Cornhuskers had to petition the other members of the Big Six Conference to waive the league ban against postseason play.
  • When that permission was granted, the Stanford Board of Athletic Control officially invited Nebraska to play the Indians in Pasadena. It would be the first bowl game in Nebraska history, a fitting way to cap the 50th year of football at the university.
  • The sports editor of the Omaha World-Herald proclaimed, "It's the greatest thing that has happened to Nebraska since William Jennings Bryan ran for the presidency." The university cancelled classes for a day and 3,000 students stormed the state capitol to demand that the governor lead the singing of the school song, "There Is No Place Like Nebraska."
  • The night before Rose Bowl tickets went on sale in Pasadena, hundreds camped out. All 15,000 tickets were sold within two hours. Stanford sold out its allotment of 44,000 and Nebraska did the same with its 9,800. The remaining 13,745 ducats went to the Tournament of Roses people. Tickets cost between $3.50 and $5.50 (about $50-$80 in today's money).
  • When the euphoria died down, Cornhusker coach "Biff" Jones (who coached LSU 1932-4 before clashing with Huey Long) set to work learning what he could about Stanford's innovative T-formation attack.


Coach Shaughnessy gave his squad two weeks off to rest and study for final exams.

  • He traveled to Chicago to help the Bears prepare for their NFL championship game against the Redskins. His cover story was that he was visiting his brothers.
  • Clark and George Halas tweaked the Bears O to exploit weaknesses in the Washington D.
  • Biff Jones was among the spectators in Washington at the NFL title game December 8 so that he could scout the Bears T-formation. What he saw must have dismayed him because Chicago slaughtered the Redskins 73-0. Shaughnessy had returned to California and was not present. It is not known if Jones knew Clark had helped with the victorious game plan.
  • To return the favor Shaughnessy did him, Halas dispatched his longtime assistant Luke Johnsos to help Clark with the play-calling in the Rose Bowl.

Nebraska's team was a home-grown lot.

  • 43 of the 44 players hailed from the state, the odd man being from adjacent Kansas.
  • Six of Jones' charges had been selected to the All-Big 6 first team. Two of those, G Warren Alfson and T Forrest Behm, made All-American. Four more Cornhuskers made the conference second team.
  • UN had a more experienced starting unit: eight seniors and three juniors compared to Stanford's three seniors, four juniors, and four sophomores.
  • HB Allen Zikmund typified the reaction of the rural Huskers' reaction to playing in the biggest football game of the year. He attended Nebraska only because Jones found him a job spreading horse manure around the campus lawns and flower beds. When the UN players walked into the Rose Bowl in Pasadena for the first time, Zikmund exclaimed, "Boy, this place would really hold a lot of hay."
  • At that point in history, Nebraska had more alumni playing pro football than any other school.
  • Jones obtained films of Stanford's game against Washington. After the Rose Bowl, Zikmund remarked, "It was far different when we saw it firsthand."
  • With snow and cold weather limiting practice in Lincoln, Jones took the team to Phoenix. 10,000 fans gathered to send off their heroes on December 19.
  • Biff held twice-a-day practices in Arizona behind locked gates at a high school. New York Giants coach Steve Owens stopped by to give Jones some pointers for stopping the T formation. Jones was also aided by the fact that his line coach, Link Lyman, had played for the Bears in the early 1920s when they started using the T.

Stanford's preparations suffered some setbacks.

  • Almost 20 Indians came down with the flu two weeks before the game, drastically curtailing practice time. (The flu big also hit the Huskers, including two of the best players, HBs Harry Hopp and Herman Rohrig.)
  • Rain on December 21 gave Shaughnessy a chance to prepare his players to handle a wet ball.
  • Norm Standlee was still limping but would play. However, backup Milt Vucinich hurt his knee in the last practice at Stanford and, as it turned out, wouldn't play on New Year's Day.

When the teams arrived in Pasadena, press conference increased.

  • Both squads attended the game between the Bears and the NFL All-Stars, a forerunner of today's pro bowl. The Nebraska players got to see Sid Luckman run the Chicago T to a 28-14 victory.
  • Oddsmakers established Stanford as an 11-5 favorite. However, Al Wolf of the Los Angeles Times, a Nebraska alumnus, thought differently.

Each and every kid [on the Nebraska team], it seems, is equipped with a set of legs that look like spare parts of a piano - big, solid, muscular, rock-hard. No wonder they drive like a herd of buffaloes ...

If the Cornhusker warriors win in their first visit to Arroyo Seco [home of the Rose Bowl], it'll be New Year's Eve in Nebraska for weeks and weeks. They'll name babies (boy and girl), dogs, breakfast foods and parks after Coach Biff Jones. If those Huskers take a trouncing, Nebraska will go into virtual mourning for weeks and weeks - cows will give skim mill, the curl will go out of piggies' tails, traveling salesmen will throw stones at framers' daughters and the Biffer will commit hari kari.

The press found some human interest stories among the visiting Cornhuskers.

  • G George Abel was a millionaire, having inherited a fortune from his father, a Lincoln contractor.
  • FB Vike Francis's real first name was Viscount.
  • Hopp was the brother of St. Louis Cardinals OF Johnny.
  • All-American Behm suffered badly burned legs at age 5, and doctors wanted to amputate one of them. His father refused, and by his senior year of high school the boy played football. He walked on at Nebraska but had to supply his own shoes for his size 15 feet.

Finally, all the hype was over, and it was time to tee it up.

Stanford 1940 - Rose Bowl - II

91,500 attended the 26th Rose Bowl on a postcard-perfect Southern California winter day.

  • Among those in attendance was former President Herbert Hoover, a Stanford alumnus and the football team's first student manager, which, in the 1890s, meant business manager.
  • The visiting Cornhuskers wore red jerseys while the Indians donned white. Because this was the opposite of the custom in most conferences of the home team wearing dark jerseys, some fans began the game rooting for the wrong team.
  • Four days before the game, Los Angeles Times columnist Dick Hyland, a Stanford alumnus, predicted that the Indians would start slowly because of the long layoff, lack of physical contract because of illness and injury, and poor weather. He proved to be right on.

Nebraska won the toss and elected to receive.

  • Vike Francis returned Frankie Albert's low kickoff 22y to the Stanford 47. On the second play, Francis faked a reverse to Butch Luther and rambled to the 35.
  • Nebraska exploited the over-aggressiveness of Stanford G Chuck Taylor. When the Husker G pulled to lead the sweep, Taylor roared through the gap only to be picked off by another pulling lineman.
  • On the next play, Francis again faked to Luther and ran up the middle to the 23. Then Vike handed to Luther who ran down the sidelines to the 9 where Kmetovic pushed him out.
  • Francis picked up 2, then Luther 5 on a reverse, and Francis drove into the EZ to give the Huskers the quick lead, 7-0 after the PAT.

Nebraska Scores First TD in Rose Bowl
Francis into the EZ for the first TD of the Rose Bowl

Nebraska's momentum continued on D.

  • Hugh Gallarneau returned the kickoff 27y to the 39. But the Indians were unable to move far, and Albert punted into the EZ.
  • After the first play lost 2y, Harry Hopp quick-kicked out of bounds on the Stanford 42.
  • On the second play, Pete Kmetovic went in motion to the right and, when the DE didn't move with him, Albert threw a long lateral to him, and Pete galloped for 20y.
  • Another swing pass Albert-to-Kmetovic moved the ball to the 23 as Stanford's speed again burned UN.
  • After Albert slipped down for a 5y loss, FB Norm Standlee burst up the middle only to fumble. C Bob Burruss recovered for the Huskers at the 24.

Shaughnessy then made his first substitution, sending in Clem Tomerlin for Stan Graff at E to tell the team to revert to their standard D.

  • After gaining 50y rushing on the opening drive, Nebraska would gain only 6 the rest of the way.
  • Facing third-and-12, Hopp punted to Kmetovic, who returned 14y to the UN 47.

The Indians drove for the tying score.

  • Albert faked to Gallarneau and handed to Kmetovic over RT. Pete veered to the outside and hustled down the sideline to the 18.
  • Gallarneau lost 2, only his third losing carry of the season. Albert then gave the pill to Kmetovic again over RT to the 11. Facing a five-man line, Albert faked right, pivoted, and handed to Gallarneau who ran the counter into the EZ. Albert's conversion tied the score with 1:45 left in Q1.

Stanford almost got an opportunity to take the lead against the Huskers second team, which played the entire second period.

  • On third-and-5, Herman Rohrig, who replaced Hopp, tried a quick-kick, but Vic Lindskog blocked it. Nebraska recovered back on the 15.
  • Rohrig punted on fourth down to the Stanford 34, Albert returning to the 45.
  • Frankie led an advance that bogged down on the 9. He then badly missed a FG.

The Indians continued to stuff Nebraska's O. However, a miscue gave back the momentum to UN.

  • On 3rd-and-9, Rohrig's punt barely escaped the rushing Lindskog. The ball sailed over Kmetovic's head. As Pete received the ball over his shoulder, he fumbled, Allen Zikmund recovering on the Stanford 33.
  • On the first play, Rohrig escaped rushers all the way to his own 40 where he threw the pigskin all the way to the 9 where Zikmund pulled it in two steps behind Gallarneau. Zikmund carried Hugh into the EZ with him. Taylor broke through to block the kick to keep the score 13-7 UN.

Albert pulled some tricks out of his bag to gain the lead.

  • After Rohrig's kickoff went out on the 35, Albert pulled back from C without the ball, which was hiked directly to Norm Standlee who passed to Gallarneau for 10.
  • On third-and-9, Albert faked a pass and followed blockers around LE for a first down at the UN 47.
  • Albert exploited the Huskers 5-2-2-2 D which had no one playing deep in the middle. On second-and-8, Gallarneau went in motion to the left, which pulled in a DB to guard against a sweep. On the snap, Hugh raced downfield into the gap in the secondary. Albert hit him in stride at the 18, and he outraced Rohrig and Zikmund into the EZ. Frankie's kick gave Stanford its first lead of the day, 14-13.

Nebraska had a chance to score before the half.

  • Zikmund made a fine return of the kickoff but paid the price. Taking Albert's boot on the 15, the little HB returned all the way to the Stanford 39 where Kmetovic and Albert knocked him out of bounds, injuring his left ankle.
  • On first down, Graff dropped Zikmund for a 14y loss. Zikky then went to the sidelines where Coach Jones asked him if he could run. The HB ran along the sidelines with no problem but couldn't turn to come back. "Coach, I'm sorry. I can run straight ahead, but I can't turn." He missed the rest of the contest with a fractured ankle.
  • Meanwhile, the Cornhuskers moved to the 30 where George Knight attempted at FG, which fell short of the goal posts, which were on the goal line at that time.
  • The half ended shortly thereafter.

Nebraska's first unit started the second half.

  • Stanford couldn't do much with the kickoff. Albert boomed a 58y quick kick all the way to the EZ. Afterwards Shaughnessy said, "There had been criticism of the T on the ground that we couldn't quick kick, and Albert asked permission to demonstrate that it could be done."
  • Nebraska couldn't move either, and Albert returned Hopp's punt 14y to the 23.
  • Albert drove his troops all the way to the 1. The big play was a 43y run by Kmetovic. Pete also took another lateral pass from Albert at the 17 and rambled to the 1 where Luther stopped him.
  • The sure Stanford TD didn't come to pass as the Huskers staged a gallant goal line stand. Two QB sneaks gained nothing. Hoot Armstrong's plunge didn't penetrate the goal line, and another thrust by third-string FB Rod Parker was repelled to send the 15,000 Big Red fans into a frenzy.
  • Albert later rued the absence of bigger backs Gallarneau and "Big Chief" Standlee during the goal line series.

Nebraska won the battle but lost the war because of what happened next.

  • Hopp punted out of the EZ on first down to Kmetovic at the UN 39. Following what Shaughnessy called the most savage blocking he had seen on any football field college or pro, Kmetovic started left, reversed his field, and headed down the right sideline. Red shrts were "sent flying like rag dolls." Dick Palmer belted Francis into a backward somersault that knocked him unconscious. At the 5, Luther had a last chance to tackle Pete, but Meyer knocked him off balance to allow the ball carrier to cross the goal line.
  • Jones said, "I don't believe I saw a Nebraska man on his feet when that Kmetovic made his touchdown run against us." UN backfield coach Glenn Presnell, an NFL veteran, called it "the greatest play I've ever seen."
  • Albert's PAT made it 21-13, the eighth point being crucial because the 2-point conversion was 25 years from entering college football.

Q4 proved anti-climactic.

  • The Huskers got out of their own territory only once and that was by only 2y.
  • The most significant play in Q4 was made by Stanford LT Ed Stamm. George Abel intercepted Albert's pass to Kmetovic and set sail down the left sideline. Stamm knocked Abel out of bounds at the Nebraska 38.
  • Lindskog blocked another Rohrig punt, and Stanford took over on the 15. However, they went backwards, and UN reclaimed the ball on the 20.
  • FB Bob Crane intercepted Rohrig's pass and returned it to the 31, but Stanford couldn't move.
  • The end result was a scoreless final period and an undefeated 10-0 season for the Indians.

The game was not as close as the 21-13 final score indicated.

  • Stanford ran 73 plays to Nebraska's 47 and outgained the Huskers 352-128.
  • Nebraska completed only 3-of-14 passes with 4 INTs, half as many as they had the entire regular season.
  • Kmetovic was selected the MVP, receiving a $75 wristwatch and a kiss from actress Jean Parker.
  • Biff Jones had nothing but praise for Stanford, reminding the sportswriters that his team had played Minnesota also. "I'll pay scalpers' prices to see the Indians play the Gophers next week. See if you can fix it up."
  • Shaughnessy also had kind words for the opponent: "Great club, the toughest we met this year."

World War II undoubtedly delayed the spread of the T formation throughout college football. But when the war ended in 1945, teams switched over wholesale until, by the mid-1950s, single wing teams like General Neyland's Tennessee Vols were few and far between.

Finally, a humorous note from the Associated Press:

NEW ORLEANS, Jan. 2, 1941 — Two men shoved tickets at Police Clerk F. J. Aragon, on duty at the Sugar Bowl football game yesterday, and demanded to be seated. Aragon said he looked at the tickets in amazement — they were for the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. He pointed this out and as the pair walked tipsily away one muttered: "I told you we caught the wrong train."

1941 Rose Bowl Program Cover

Chuck Taylor, Stanford G
Chuck Taylor

Viscount Francis, Nebraska

Frankie Albert punting
Frankie Albert

Hugh Gallarneau, Stanford HB
Hugh Gallarneau

Pete Kmetovic, Stanford
Pete Kmetovic

Herman Rohrig, Nebraska
Herman Rohrig

Vic Lindskog, Stanford C
Vic Lindskog

Allen Zikmund, Nebraska

Norm Standlee, Stanford
Norm Standlee

George Knight, Nebraska
George Knight


Coach Biff Jones, Nebraska
Coach Biff Jones




Part I: New Sheriff in Town

Part II: Games 1 and 2

Part III: Games 3 and 4

Part IV: Games 5 and 6

Part V: Game 7

Part VI: Game 8

Part VII: Game 9 - I

Part VIII: Game 9 - II

Rose Bowl - Part I

Rose Bowl - Part II


Other Seasons in Time

Notre Dame 1924

Providence Steamroller 1928

Wisconsin 1942

LSU 1958

Alabama 1966


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