1959 – An Underappreciated Season
Oregon’s Ducks were coming off the four win, six loss 1958 season. The 1958 Ducks had been one of the great defensive teams in Oregon football history surrendering only 50 points over the course of 10 games. Unfortunately, the 1958 offense had been as inconsistent as the defense was consistent leading to most of the losses.
1959 would be Oregon’s first season as an independent, the Pacific Coast Conference having gone out of existence after the 1958 season. While the PCC no longer existed, all of its former members, save California and Southern California, remained eligible for the 1960 Rose Bowl.
Coming into the 1959 season Coach Len Casanova was faced with the prospect of having to rebuild his interior line and find adequate reserves. Fortunately, Casanova had several talented backs and ends returning. Because of questions about Oregon’s line most prognosticators felt the Ducks would be fortunate to win half of their games. There was one notable exception, Paul Zimmerman of the Los Angeles Times, who believed Oregon was the top independent team and would finish third on the Pacific Coast behind Southern California and California, both of which were ineligible for the Rose Bowl.
Oregon opened the 1959 season at Stanford. Stanford would draw first blood in the opening quarter. Following a 57-yard punt return of a Dave Grosz punt, Indians quarterback Dick Norman pitched out to halfback Mac Wylie who ran 30 yards for a touchdown. Fullback Skip Face kicked the extra point giving Stanford a seven to nothing lead. Oregon would respond in the first quarter with a 12 play, 82-yard scoring drive, which was completed by a 23 yard pass from quarterback Dave Grosz to end Greg Altenhofen. Backup quarterback roger Daniels kicked the extra point. The score was now tied seven to seven.
The lead would change in the second quarter. Following a 34 yard punt return by halfback Willie West, Oregon drove 50 yards with Grosz scoring the touchdown on a “quarterback sneak”. Daniels’ extra point kick was good, and Oregon led 14 to 7. Stanford would respond with an 80-yard scoring drive Source capped by Face’s five-yard touchdown run and extra point kick. Oregon 14 Stanford 14.
Oregon would take the lead before halftime on the second touchdown pass from Grosz to Altenhofen. However, Stanford blocked Daniel’s extra point kick. Oregon 20 Stanford 14.
In the third quarter Stanford would regain the lead. Norman finished off a 71-yard scoring drive with a 35 yard touchdown pass to Dick Bowers. The extra point was good. Stanford 21 Oregon 20. The lead would change hands again in the third quarter. The Webfoots drove from their own 40-yard line to Stanford’s 25-yard line. From there fullback Harry Needham ran the final 25 yards for the score. Oregon elected to go for the two-point conversion. Tackle Riley Mattson substituted in for tackle John Wilcox, and on a tackle-eligible play Mattson caught a pass from Grosz for the conversion. Oregon 28 Stanford 21.
However, the Indians were not finished. With one minute remaining in the game, Norman threw an 11-yard pass to end Ben Robinson in the end zone. Stanford wanting the win rather than a tie opted to go for two points. Norman threw a short pass toward his All-American end, Chris Burford, only to see Oregon halfback Dave Grayson come over to tip the ball away. Oregon 28 Stanford 27. Stanford attempted an onside kick which was recovered by Duck guard Dave Urell, allowing Oregon to run out the clock. Oregon had its first win of the season.
Following the game, Casanova told reporters that he felt this Duck team would score a lot of points, and that he was happy with the play of his second unit which had been a question mark entering the season. Stanford’s coach “Cactus” Jack Curtice, told reporters that he was very impressed with Oregon’s speed, something the 1959 team had in common with the current Ducks.
Oregon returned home to face the Utah Utes at Hayward Field the next Saturday. This would be the first Duck game I attended. It was a warm, sunny day, and as a member of the Knothole Gang I was able to see the game for 25 cents.
In the first quarter, Oregon initially lost an opportunity to score when they turned the ball over on downs to Utah at the Ute 3-yard line. However, Oregon would get a huge break when center Bob Peterson blocked a quick kick by the Utes’ Bud Tynes at the Utah 8-yard line, and rolling out of bounds at the Utah 2-yard line. Oregon fullback Dave Powell would score on the next play. Daniels’ extra point kick was good. Oregon 7 Utah 0.
The Ducks would get their second touchdown in the second quarter with a 15-play, 71-yard drive that featured a pitch-out by Grosz to Willie West who then threw a halfback pass to Dave Grayson for 32 yards. Powell would score his second touchdown of the afternoon on a one-yard run. The extra point was good. Oregon 14 Utah 0. The only other significant play of the first half was a 43-yard run by Roger Daniels that was ended when Utah’s Ed Pine tripped Daniels up at the Utes 18-yard line.
During the third quarter, Utah mounted a drive that reached Oregon’s 33-yard line. At that point, Utah attempted a lateral that the Ducks’ Alden Kimbrough knocked down and recovered at the Oregon 29-yard line. From there Oregon drove 71 yards with Powell finishing the drive with his third touchdown of the day on a one yard plunge. Daniels’ extra point kick was good. Oregon 21 Utah 0.
Utah would finally get on the scoreboard in the fourth quarter following a 23-play, 80-yard drive against Oregon’s “victory defense”. The Utes Monk Bailey would carry the ball the final two yards for the score. Utah decided to go for two points. That effort was thwarted when Grosz tackled the ball carrier short of the end zone. Of note, Oregon would not surrender a single two point effort during the 1959 season.
October 3rd again found the Ducks playing in the friendly confines of Hayward Field. The opponent this time was the Washington State Cougars. The three previous seasons the Cougars had proven to be one of Oregon’s tougher foes, playing Oregon to a tie in 1956, losing to Oregon by a single point in 1957, and shutting out the Ducks in 1958. This game would also be the first of two games against the Cougars in 1959, the last time Oregon played the same team twice during the regular season.
Oregon would put up the only points of the first half in the second quarter. Oregon’s first scoring drive started following Alden Kimbrough’s interception of quarterback Mel Melin’s pass at the Oregon 31-yard line. Oregon would move the ball to the Cougar 1-yard line, where Dave Powell would carry the ball into the end zone. The extra point kick was good. Oregon 7 Washington State 0.
Late in the third quarter Grosz threw his first interception of the season. The Cougars took over on their own 36-yard line and drove to the Oregon 1-yard line. Oregon’s defense then mounted a goal line stand and forced Washington State to turn the ball over on downs. Now in the fourth quarter, the Ducks would go three plays and out, with the Cougars taking possession at the Oregon 44-yard line. The Cougars drove to the Oregon 2-yard line where Melin passed to Don Johnston for the touchdown. Washington State chose to go for two points. Keith Lincoln was stopped at the 2-yard line by the Duck defense. Oregon 7 Washington State 6.
Late in the fourth quarter, Dave Grayson intercepted a Cougar pass at the Oregon 42-yard line. Oregon then drove 58 yards with Harry Needham carrying the pigskin into the end zone. Daniels’ extra point kick was good. Oregon 14 Washington State 6. With 21 seconds left on the game clock the cougars got the ball back. Unfortunately for the Cougars, Melin threw an interception to Oregon’s Dick Arbuckle sealing the Duck victory.
The Ducks would return to the road for their October 9th meeting with the San Jose State Spartans, in a rare Friday night game. Coming into this game, the Spartans had the sixth best pass offense in the country. This would prove to be a game in which the Spartans’ mistakes proved to be their undoing.
A deluge of Oregon scores began in the first quarter. Dave Powell recovered a Spartan fumble at the San Jose 40-yard line. Oregon moved the ball to the Spartan 5-yard line. From there Willie West went off tackle for the final five yards and the score. The extra point attempt was good. Oregon 7 San Jose State 0.
Still in the first quarter, Oregon takes the ball on its own 45-yard line and moves it 55 yards in seven plays, aided by several Spartan penalties. Oregon’s second touchdown would come on a seven yard run by the diminutive halfback Cleveland “Pussyfoot” Jones. The extra point was good. Oregon 14 SanJose State 0. This would turn out to be a game in which both teams were heavily penalized. Oregon was called for 10 penalties amounting to 120 yards, while San Jose was penalized for 100 yards. Casanova said afterward that he had never had a team that was penalized as much in a game. It did not happen again during 1959.
In the second quarter, Willie West returned a punt to the Spartans’ 34-yard line. From there a series of rushes by Jones, Needham and West moved the ball to the Spartan 5-yard line. West would go around the right end for five yards and his second touchdown of the day. Again, Daniels’ extra point kick was good. At halftime, the score was Oregon 21 San Jose State 0. Oregon had limited San Jose’s vaunted passing offense to 25 yards in the first half and intercepted three passes.
Oregon’s first scoring drive of the second half would begin when sophomore halfback Mickey Bruce, one of Casanova’s “Golden Nuggets” as he called his sophomores, intercepted an Emmett Lee pass on the Oregon 34-yard line. Bruce returned the interception 30 yards to the San Jose 36-yard line, where the offense would take over. The first play resulted in an 11-yard pass completion. Unfortunately, Oregon was penalized for having an ineligible receiver down field. The ball was moved back to the Spartans’ 48-yard line. A Dave Grosz pass to Cleveland Jones moved the ball to the Spartans’ 27-yard line. From there halfback Don Laudenslager ran the ball to the 7-yard line. West would score his third touchdown on a seven-yard run off the right tackle. The extra point kick was good. Oregon 28 San Jose State 0
Later in the third quarter, San Jose would finally get on the board playing against Oregon’s reserves. Starting at its own 40-yard line, San Jose using a combination of runs and passes, including a tackle-eligible pass to Leon Donahue, moved the ball to the Oregon 7-yard line. Ray Podesto tossed a seven yard pass to Clair Appledorn in the end zone. Chuck Yeyna’s extra point kick missed. Oregon 28 San Jose State 6.
The fourth quarter would find San Jose scoring its final points of the game with a 23 yard pass from Podesto to Yeyna. The Spartans attempted a two point conversion which Oregon stopped. Oregon 28 San Jose State 12.
Oregon’s defense would get the last score of the day when Greg Altenhofen blocked a Spartan punt, which Alden Kimbrough picked up and returned 40 yards for a touchdown. Daniels’ kick was good. Oregon 35 San Jose State 12.
The 35 points scored by Oregon were the most points it had scored since the opening game of the 1956 season when it beat Colorado 35 to 0.
One of the differences in that era, other than one platoon football, was that traveling squads were limited to 34 players. Oregon typically used all 34 players.
Next up on the schedule was the Air Force Academy Falcons. This game would be played at Portland’s Multnomah Stadium on October 17th. Coming into this game, Air Force would be the first ranked opponent on Oregon’s schedule. Pre-season polls had picked the Falcons to finish 15th nationally. They were ranked 17th before playing the Ducks, and they had not been defeated in 14 straight games.
One of the reasons for scheduling this “home” game to be played in Portland was that Multnomah Stadium had a much larger seating capacity than Hayward Field. With a nationally ranked team coming to play it was anticipated that there would be a sell out. Despite nice weather, there were about 6,000 empty seats.
Air Force would get on the scoreboard first. The Falcons would drive to the Oregon 23-yard line in the first quarter. When the drive stalled, fullback George Pupich kicked a field goal. Air Force 3 Oregon 0. Those would be the only points Air force would score.
The Ducks would feast on four Falcon interceptions, two by Willie West and one each by Dave Urell and Fred Siler. Urell would set up Oregon’s first scoring drive in the second quarter when he intercepted a Rich Mayo pass on the Oregon 43-yard line and returned it eight yards to the Air Force 48-yard line. The Falcons stuffed Oregon for a one yard loss on first down. Dave Grosz then ran a bootleg to his left, and spotting Cleveland Jones open at the Falcon 31-yard line fired a pass to Jones. Pussyfoot then ran the final 19 yards for the first Oregon touchdown. The extra point kick was good. Oregon 7 Air force 3.
Later in the second quarter, Oregon marched 75 yards in 11 plays with Harry Needham accounting for 50 of those yards and the touchdown. Oregon made the extra point. Oregon 14 Air Force 3 at halftime.
Oregon’s final points of the game would come in the fourth quarter. Jones had returned a punt 28 yards but the return was nullified by a clipping penalty. Oregon had the ball on its own 45-yard line. Dave Powell rushed for three yards, Willie West then dashed for 27 yards to the Falcons 25-yard line, and Jones took the ball next and ran 18 yards to the Air Force 7-yard line. Needham would finish off the scoring drive with a seven yard run. Daniels’ extra point kick was blocked. Oregon 20 Air Force 3
Oregon had other opportunities to score in the fourth quarter. The Ducks had moved the ball to the Falcons’ 6-yard line only to have the drive stalled as a result of a penalty. The Ducks would also have a touchdown pass from Daniels to Len Burnett nullified by an offside penalty.
With the victory over Air Force and a 5-0 record, Oregon finally broke into the Associated Press’s top 20 poll, where they would be ranked 11th with one first place vote.
Oregon would return to Portland the following Saturday to face the hated Washington Huskies, who were coming off 22-15 loss to the undefeated Southern California Trojans in Seattle. The October 24th meeting, despite rainy weather, would see a near sell out crowd. Oregon would be looking to break a losing streak against the Huskies who had won nine of the previous ten games between the two teams.
Oregon would open the scoring in the first quarter. Willie West returned George Fleming’s kickoff to the Oregon 22-yard line. Runs by West, Dave Powell and Dave Grayson moved the ball to the Oregon 45-yard line. West and Grayson would rush the ball to the Huskies 43-yard line, and additional runs by West and Powell would reach the Washington 32-yard line. Grayson and West would move the ball to the 15-yard line. From the 15, Grosz rushed for seven yards and Powell for three yards. Oregon has the ball on the Husky 5-yard line with first and goal to go. Powell would carry the ball the last five yards for the score. The extra point attempt failed when Grosz bobbled the snap from the center forcing Daniels to pick up the ball and run it, where he was stopped just short of the end zone. Oregon 6 Washington 0.
The Ducks would increase their lead in the second quarter. Oregon took possession of the ball on their 39-yard line. Grosz passed to West who was interfered with by the Huskies’ Kermit Jorgensen. The result was a 33 yard pass interference penalty on Washington. Oregon had the ball at the Husky 28-yard line. After two short gains running the ball, Grosz hurls a pass to Greg Altenhofen in the end zone for the score. Oregon elects to go for two points; however, Bob Schloredt intercepted Grosz’s pass in the end zone. Oregon 12 Washington 0.
Still in the second quarter, Washington would get on the scoreboard. Kermit Jorgensen intercepted a Dave Grosz pass intended for Cleveland Jones. Washington has the ball on the Oregon 41-yard line. Using a combination of passes and runs by Fleming, Don McKeta, and Jerry Jones the Huskies moved the ball close to the goal line, where Schloredt would carry the ball into the end zone for the touchdown. Fleming’s extra point attempt sailed wide. Oregon 12 Washington 6. Later in the quarter, Washington would block a Grosz punt but was unable to capitalize on it as Fleming’s 27 yard field goal attempt failed.
The third quarter would see the Huskies take the lead. Following an exchange of punts, Washington would take possession of the ball on its own 36-yard line. Using a combination of runs by Fleming, McKeta and Ray Jackson, and pass receptions by Fleming and McKeta Washington moved the ball to the Oregon 4-yard line. McKeta rushed the final four yards for the score. Fleming made the extra point attempt this time. Washington 13 Oregon 12.
Oregon had other opportunities to score in the third and fourth quarters. During the third quarter Oregon had moved the ball to the Husky 23-yard line. Grosz gained one yard on the next play. Grosz then pitched the ball out to Cleveland Jones, who fumbled the ball, and Schloredt recovered for Washington. In the fourth quarter Oregon had penetrated to the Husky 15-yard line. On a second and three play, Grosz threw a pass to Grayson in the end zone. Schloredt stepped in to intercept the ball.
Oregon would throw one final interception to Washington’s Don Millich at mid-field with 45 seconds remaining, sealing Oregon’s fate. Five Duck turnovers were the difference in this game.
Both teams were now 5-1. However, because of this win the Huskies were in the driver’s seat for the Rose Bowl bid. Oregon fell in the polls to 16th but were still ranked ahead of Washington which was tied for 17th.
The Idaho Vandals were next on the schedule in Moscow, Idaho. Oregon spotted Idaho a 7-6 lead in the first half. Then the roof fell in on Idaho. Oregon scored 39 unanswered points in the second half for a final score Oregon 45 Idaho 7. The 45 points scored against Idaho was the most points scored by an Oregon team since 1955, when they hung 46 points on Arizona. Oregon also set, what was then, a modern record for total yards in a game with 498 yards.
The Ducks moved up in the polls to 15th.
It was back to Portland on November 7th for another “home” game. This time the opponent would be the California Golden Bears, the defending Pacific Coast Conference Champions. The 1959 season had not gone well for the Bears as they came into the game with a 1-6 record. Despite that record this would be a close game. California would run a ball control offense accumulating over 300 yards rushing. Unfortunately, they had no passing yards.
Oregon would get on the scoreboard first in the opening quarter. Willie West intercepted a Wayne Crow pass on the Oregon 48-yard-line, and the Ducks gained a first down on a 27 yard pass from Dave Grosz to Greg Altenhofen. Following a short gain by Dave Powell, Grosz again took to the air hitting West in the end zone for a touchdown. Daniels extra point was good. Oregon 7 California 0
The ducks would increase their lead in the first quarter. This time Alden Kimbrough would pick off a Wayne Crow pass giving Oregon possession on it’s own 49-yard line. Harry Needham would run the ball to California’s 38-yard line. Grosz would gain 15 yards on a keeper. Altenhofen then caught a pass from Grosz at the Bears 5-yard line. Don Laudenslager would carry the ball the final five yards for the score. Daniels again kicks the extra point. Oregon 14 California 0.
Now it was California’s turn to get on the scoreboard. Relying primarily on the running of fullback Walt Arnold, who would gain 123 yards on the day, California moved the ball to the Ducks’ 2-yard line. Arnold would take the ball into the end zone. The Bears attempt to score two points was halted when Crow was stopped short of the goal line. Oregon 14 California 6.
The remainder of the second quarter was futile for both teams, featuring a fumble by West that was recovered by Gael Barsotti of the Bears, and a Dave Powell interception of another Wayne crow pass attempt.
In the third quarter, the Bears got a big break when Dave Grayson fumbled the opening kickoff return on the Oregon 49-yard line. On the next play, Arnold ran 49 yards for a touchdown. Again, California elected to go for two points. This time Jerry Scattini was tackled short of the end zone by John Wilcox. Oregon 14 California 12.
The Bears would get another break in the third quarter when Grosz fumbled the ball on the Oregon 38-yard line. California moved the ball to the Oregon 9-yard line. On fourth and four, Scattini ran the ball to the 3-yard line for a first down, and fullback Billy Patton carried the ball the last yard for the touchdown. Once more, the Bears attempt a two point conversion. This effort is blocked when Dave Urell tackled Grover Garvin short of the goal line. California 18 Oregon 14. California would have yet another opportunity to score in the third quarter when Grosz is sacked on fourth down at the Oregon 16-yard line. Oregon’s defense rose to the occasion stopping the Bears at the 8-yard line.
In the fourth quarter, Oregon would squander a scoring opportunity following Urell’s recovery of a Billy Patton fumble. The Ducks were able to move the ball inside the California 5-yard line, but three runs by Dave Powell proved fruitless and Oregon turned the ball over on downs.
With time running out for the Ducks a punt return by Willie West puts the ball on the Oregon 48-yard line. Grayson runs the ball to the California 41-yard line. West takes the ball to the Bears 35-yard line. Oregon’s drive stalls at that point. It is fourth down and four yards to go for a first down. Grosz spots Jones streaking for the end zone and lofts a pass toward him. Covering Jones is the much taller Wayne Crow. As the ball comes down both players have their hands on the ball, fighting for possession. As they land in the end zone, Jones has possession of the ball giving Oregon a touchdown. A bad snap from center results in a missed extra point. Oregon 20 California 18.
Oregon would move up to 14th in the polls with two votes for first place.
Now it was time for the rematch with Washington State. Oregon traveled to Pullman for the November 11th game. The weather was quite cold and the turf at Martin Stadium frozen. In light of this, Casanova dispatched his student manager, Jack Cogswell, north to Spokane to acquire 34 pairs of basketball shoes and long-johns, all of which were used by the Ducks.
After a scoreless first quarter, the Cougars were first to score. In the second quarter Dave Powell fumbled the ball away on the Oregon 37-yard line. A personal foul penalty on Oregon would give Washington State the ball on the Oregon 19-yard line. Mel Melin then ran 19 yards for the Cougar touchdown. The two point conversion attempt is stopped short of the goal line. Washington State 6 Oregon 0.
Neither team was able to move the ball for the rest of the second quarter or the third. In the fourth quarter, Oregon mounted a 78 yard drive to the Cougar 17-yard line. Following an exchange of fumbles, Oregon got the ball back on the Washington State 24-yard line. Oregon’s pass attempt into the end zone is intercepted by Don Ellersick on the 1-yard line killing the drive. Eventually, Oregon regains possession. There are 65 seconds left in the game. Grosz passes to West for 56 yards. The ball is at the Cougar 4-yard line. The Ducks fail to gain any yardage on the next three plays. On fourth down, West runs around the right end, sprung by a block from Jones, for the final four yards and the score. Daniels comes in and kicks the extra point. Oregon 7 Washington State 6. Only 11 seconds were left on the clock, and the Cougars could do nothing.
Oregon would slip to 15th in the polls with one first place vote.
It was now down to the final weekend of Oregon’s regular season, with the Civil War game against Oregon State on November 21st in Eugene. The Rose Bowl bid was still in doubt, and three games would determine the probable outcome. Oregon versus Oregon State, Washington versus Washington State, and USC versus UCLA.
The Rose Bowl selection process was very different in 1959 than it is today. The representative from the Pacific Coast was to be selected by a vote of all nine of the athletic directors from the nine universities that had previously comprised the Pacific Coast Conference. The athletic directors were not required to select the team with the best record, only the team that would best represent the Pacific Coast. If there was a tie vote, then the team that had not been a Rose Bowl game for the longest would be the selection.
California was not eligible for the 1960 Rose Bowl because of the “no repeat” rule, where california had already played in the 1959 Rose Bowl. Southern California was not eligible because it was on probation for recruiting violations.. sound familiar? Of the remaining teams that were eligible, only Oregon, Washington, and UCLA were serious contenders. The Huskies had the inside track not only because of their win over the Ducks, but because of the way records were to be considered. It appears only games against former Pacific Coast Conference members counted, not non-conference games. Washington had a clear advantage here with a 6-1 record going into the final game of the season. Oregon was 4-1, although the second Washington State game was not counted for some unexplained reason, and UCLA was 2-1.
Back in the day, the week leading up to the Civil War game was called “Hell Week”. Since this game would be played at Hayward Field precautions were taken to prevent “sabotage” of the field by Beaver partisans. The floodlights at Hayward were left on all night, and security guards posted to keep away pesky Beavers. Post holes were dug in the freshman baseball field to provide a location for the traditional Homecoming bonfire.
Oregon came into the game heavily favored against the Beavers whose record was 2-7. However, there were reports that the Ducks had not practiced particularly well during the week.
Oregon would jump out to an early lead. Willie West tackled Beaver tailback Don Kasso causing Kasso to fumble. Dave Grosz recovered the ball at the Oregon State 21-yard line. The Ducks moved the ball to the Beavers’ 5-yard line. Grosz then pitched out to Cleveland Jones, who threw a halfback pass to West for the touchdown. Daniels kicked the extra point. Oregon 7 Oregon State 0.
Moving to the second quarter, Oregon State gained possession of the ball at its 49-yard line. The Beavers moved to the Oregon 23-yard line. Faced with fourth down and five yards to go, the Beavers got a huge break, Oregon is called offside. The penalty yardage is not quite enough for a first down, but on fourth and short Jim Stinnette gains two yards for the first down. On the next play, Kasso runs 16 yards for the touchdown. Dainard Paulson’s attempt for two points is stopped short of the end zone. Oregon 7 Oregon State 6.
Oregon State is not done in the second quarter. The Beavers recovered a Harry Needham fumble at the Oregon 42-yard line. They moved the ball to the 30-yard line. There the Beavers’ drive stalled. On came Amos Marsh for the Beavers, who had never attempted a field goal in a game. Aaron Thomas was Oregon State’s regular place kicker. Marsh nailed his first-ever field goal from 30 yards. Oregon State 9 Oregon 7.
The third quarter was uneventful for both teams. However, the fourth quarter resulted in the Beavers securing the victory. Dave Grayson had attempted a halfback pass to Willie West, which was intercepted by Amos Marsh and returned to the Oregon 33-yard line. A long run by Kasso got the ball to Oregon’s 4-yard line. Three attempts by Stinnette eventually resulted in a Beaver touchdown. Marsh’s extra point attempt missed. Oregon State 15 Oregon 7.
Was this loss the result of complacency/overconfidence by the Ducks, or just another result in a series that does not always favor the team with the better record? In any event, this loss caused Oregon to fall out of the polls.
This loss along with the Huskies’ victory over Washington State ensured Washington’s selection for the Rose Bowl despite UCLA’s upset of previously undefeated Southern California.
Despite the loss to Oregon State, the 1959 team would finish with the third most wins in Oregon history to that point. Only the 1933 and 1948 teams that won nine games had more victories. The 1959 team won one more game than the 1957 team that went to the Rose Bowl
Since Oregon was officially an independent in 1959, the question arises as to why, given their record, they did not get a bowl bid? I think there are several reasons for this. First, there were far fewer bowl games in 1959 than today. It seems the bowls, all located in the east and south, with the exception of the Rose Bowl, tended to disfavor western teams. The other primary reason is the Rose Bowl and Pacific Coast connections. If Oregon had received a bowl bid in 1959 and accepted it, they likely would have forfeited their share of the Rose Bowl revenues. That would not be an impediment in 1960 when Oregon was no longer eligible for the Rose Bowl, and accepted an invitation to play in the Liberty Bowl. The other part of that equation is speculation. There are those who believed that those former members of the Pacific Coast Conference, who were excluded from the Athletic Association of Western Universities, wanted to be admitted to the AAWU at the earliest possible date, and did not want to offend the AAWU members by playing in other bowl games.
While the 1959 season did not yield any all-America selections, it did yield a number of post-season honors. Bob Peterson and Willie West were named to the All-Coast first team. Alden Kimbrough, Dave Urell, and Dave Grosz were named to the second team. Tom Keele, John Wilcox (the first of the Wilcox clan at Oregon), and Dave Powell were named honorable mention. Wilcox and Peterson were selected to play in the East-West Shrine game. Peterson was also selected for the Hula Bowl.
A number of the players on the 1959 team would go on the professional careers in the United States and/or Canada including Dave Grosz, Willie West, Dave Grayson, Jack Stone, Len Burnett, John Wilcox, Riley Mattson, and Mike Gaechter.
Oregon’s 1959 football team is definitely one of the most under-appreciated teams in Oregon history.