A TCU History Lesson: 1938

1938 was a tumultuous year for the country, as we witnessed events that would eventually lead to World War 2 unfold before our eyes. One thing that put minds at ease, at least in Fort Worth, TX, was the TCU Horned Frogs football team.

Dutch Meyer had already cemented his legacy in 1935, when he led the Horned Frogs to their first national championship in his first season as head coach, but in 1938 he coached TCU to arguably their best season of all time.

The Horned Frogs, continuing their trend of playing fierce defense throughout the 30s, allowed opponents a measly 5.45 points/game over the course of the 11 game season, only once allowing the other team to score in double digits.

Meanwhile, on offense, the Frogs averaged 24.45 points per game, meaning they generally shellacked opponents. Offensively, the Frogs were led by soon-to-be Heisman Trophy winner Davey O'Brien, along with All-American center Ki Aldrich.

In a time when the forward pass was still largely being developed as an offensive weapon, Davey O'Brien stood out among all others. In 1938, O'Brien set a Southwest Conference record, throwing for 1,457 yards. He also threw for 19 touchdowns, and had only four interceptions in 194 passing attempts. He would also be the primary field goal kicker for the Frogs, notching 28 extra points during the regular season.

The Frogs started off the year with wins over Centenary (13-0) and Arkansas (21-14) at Amon G. Carter Stadium, and a win against Temple (28-6), before heading down to College Station to square off against Texas A&M. The Frogs defeated the Aggies 34-6, after which they were ranked #7 by the AP Poll, which had been formed two years earlier in 1936.

Wins over Marquette (21-0), Baylor (39-7) and Tulsa (21-0) helped push TCU to a #1 ranking. It would be short lived, however, as they would drop back to #2 despite a 28-6 win over Texas.

The Frogs finished the season with wins over Rice (29-7) and SMU (20-7) to clinch a berth in the 1939 Sugar Bowl, played at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans.

On January 2, 1939, the Frogs squared off against the #6 Carnegie Tech Tartans, eventually winning 15-7. O'Brien finished the game going 17-for-28 for 225 yards and a touchdown. He missed two extra points, but made a field goal, and he also had an interception (not threw an interception, had an interception). His pick came in the last few minutes of the game, essentially sealing the game.

Ki Aldrich also had a monster game, playing the entire day at center, while also recording 19 tackles (13 unassisted) and notching an interception of his own.

The win brought TCU to 11-0 on the season, and the AP Poll named TCU the 1938 National Champion.

In the ensuing NFL Draft, three Horned Frogs were selected within the first eight picks, including Aldrich (1st overall), O'Brien (4th overall) and tackle I.B. Hale (8th overall). Three other Frogs, guard Forrest Kline, wing/half back Johnny Hall and tackle Thomas White were also selected in the draft.

It was, and still is, arguably the best season of all time for TCU.

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