Oregon Unknowns: An Unforgettable Halftime with Len Casanova

Jerry Thompson History Leave a Comment

UO Library and Special Collections

Quarterback Bob Berry

A great trivia question for Duck football fans: What was the longest winning streak by a Duck team prior to their 11 straight in 2001-02 (counting overlapping seasons)?  Oregon finished the 1932 season with a win over LSU in the bitter cold of Louisiana, then won their first eight games of 1933 for a combined total of nine straight games.  The 1948 Cotton Bowl team won seven straight games, but it was the 1963-64 Ducks that won 10 in a row with four wins to end ’63 and 6 victories in ’64 until they lost to… you guessed it…Stanford.

The Stanford loss kind of threw All-American quarterback Bob Berry and company into a funk as they tied Washington State (21-21) the next week, and then fell behind Indiana 21-7 on the road.

At halftime, the Duck players were surprised to see head coach Len Casanova go completely out of his normally composed, gentlemanly character.  Cas read his squad the riot act.

All-Coast guard Mark Richards remembers the halftime scene:  “Coach Cas came into the locker room and said…well, maybe I’d better not repeat that.  But we went out in the second half and put together an almost perfect game.  Every time we went to the line of scrimmage, we knew that Bob (Berry) was going to complete the pass.”

University of Oregon Libraries – Special Collections and University Archives

Len Casanova

Cas explained it this way: “John Robinson was one of my assistants, and he said (at halftime) ‘we’ve got to change things’ and I said, ‘we’re not going to change anything, these guys just need to go out and play some ball.’  And I ranted and raved practically the whole half, telling them the things they had been doing wrong.”

“I think it was one of Cas’ most motivating halftime speeches,” said Bob Berry.  “He actually used some words I’d never heard him used before, and I’m sure he got everyone’s attention, he got mine.”

Cas continued to relate the rest of the “quacky” halftime story:  “During this time, Dave Tobey, who was our center and also kicked off for me, got up to go to the bathroom.  And I told him, ‘Dave, sit down.’  He sat down, and then on the ensuing kickoff to begin the second half, he shanked the ball.  It went down about 12-15 yards and Les Palm fell on it for an onside kick recovery.  After the game all the press said what a great strategy that was, how you were behind and needed to get a hold of the ball to score.  Actually what happened, and Dave told me later, ‘boy I had to go to the bathroom so badly, I could hardly swing my leg…it wasn’t a case of strategy at all!”

The Berry-led Ducks went on to score 22 unanswered points to upend the Hoosiers!

Video of Cas, Richards, Berry and the game are all in the DVD “Mighty Oregon.”

Mighty Oregon is an independent full color magazine dedicated to covering University of Oregon sports. It is available free of charge in the Eugene-Springfield area at the following locations: Dari-Marts, Bi-Marts, Knecht’s, Duck Stores and Oregon Sports stores. We publish after every football game and then once per month through June, for a total of 20 issues, and we intend increase our frequency in the near future. A Duck fan can subscribe for $45 (we have to ship first class which costs about $35). To order, email: mightyoregonmag@yahoo.com or call Jerry Thompson at 541-221-3154.

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