Nave Dies; USC’s Hero in ’39 Game
Doyle Nave, who became a legendary player in only a few minutes of a Rose Bowl game, died Sunday at his home in Burbank of natural causes at 75.
He is remembered as a fourth-string USC quarterback who came off the bench late in the fourth quarter of the 1939 Rose Bowl game and led the Trojans to a 7-3 victory over Duke, which had finished the regular season unbeaten, untied and unscored upon.
In Rose Bowl lore, Nave’s accomplishments have not diminished with the passing of time.
He threw four consecutive passes to an end with the catchy name of Antelope Al Krueger.
The last of those passes went for a touchdown with about 40 seconds remaining, spoiling Duke’s perfect season.
How Nave even got into the game is almost as dramatic as his last-minute heroics.
USC trailed in the fourth quarter, 3-0, but quarterback Grenny Lansdell then led the Trojans on a drive to the Duke 34-yard line.
Joe Wilensky, a USC assistant coach, was operating a phone from the bench at the time and relaying messages from senior assistants in the press box.
Wilensky was overheard in animated conversation with assistant Sam Barry, who was reportedly in the press box, Wilensky saying, “OK, Sam, OK.”
Nick Pappas, now a development consultant in the USC athletic department and an assistant freshman coach at the time, said that he was told by Wilensky that Barry wanted Nave to go into the game.
Pappas said he passed the message on to Coach Howard Jones.
Nave, in a 1988 interview, recalled what happened then.
“I was sitting about three seats from Jones on the bench and he said to me, ‘Doyle, I’m thinking about putting you in.’
“ ‘What have you got in mind?’ I said.
“ ‘The 27 series. Get the ball to Krueger. He’s the best end we have for getting open.’ ” So Nave, who had played only 28 1/2 minutes during the regular season, replaced Lansdell at quarterback with about two minutes left.
USC was penalized for excessive timeouts so Nave had first and 15 at the Duke 39-yard line. His first pass to Krueger gained 13 yards, his second nine yards and a first down.
The next pass to Krueger lost two yards.
So, on second and 12 at the Duke 19, Nave recalled saying to Krueger: “I want you to go to the corner of the end zone. Do all the faking you want because our guys are doing a great job of blocking.”
Krueger made his fakes, fooling Eric Tipton, Duke’s star halfback, whose punting had kept the Trojans at bay for most of the game.
Nave said, “I faded back to the 31- or 32-yard line and, as soon as Al made his move, I threw that damn thing as hard as I could right into the corner, and he was there.”
After Krueger scored, Pappas noticed that the assistant coaches who were supposed to be in the press box were on the sideline.
Pappas then confronted Wilensky, who admitted that he had faked the phone call from Barry.
Pappas said he didn’t tell anyone of the intrigue for 10 years--and then only after Jones had died--finally revealing the plot to Maxwell Stiles, a Los Angeles sportswriter.
Nave, a junior at the time, played another season for the Trojans. Krueger, a sophomore, caught a touchdown pass in the 1940 Rose Bowl game from quarterback Ambrose Shindler as USC beat Tennessee, 14-0.
Krueger, 71, who grew up in Antelope Valley and still lives in Lancaster, went on to play for the Washington Redskins.
A few years ago, he said: “I caught touchdown passes from Sammy Baugh when I was with the Redskins, but there was no one better than Doyle Nave, not even Baugh.”
Nave was a first-round draft choice of the Detroit Lions, but declined to play pro football.
Then, as a Navy officer, he was stationed aboard an aircraft carrier in the South Pacific during World War II.
He had a reunion with another officer on an adjoining carrier, Dan Hill, the center on the Duke Rose Bowl team.
“I asked Dan whether he had any idea that I was going to pass when I came into the game,” Nave said. “He said, ‘Hell, no. We didn’t even know who you were.’ ”
Nave, a motion picture cameraman and union official for most of his life, is survived by two sons, John and Scott, and a daughter, Carol Robinson. Funeral arrangements are pending.