Evy: The Championship Season

Sept. 20, 2010

EDITOR’S NOTE: The UI Athletics Department will celebrate the Forest Evashevski era of football at the UI Saturday with the staging of its second “Throwback Game.” The 2010 Hawkeyes will wear uniforms that have the look of the 1960 team – Evy’s eighth and final at the UI – that won the Big Ten Conference title when they entertain Ball State at 11 a.m., Iowa time inside historic Kinnick Stadium. The following is a excerpt from the book, “75 Years With the Fighting Hawkeyes,” by Dick Lamb and Bert McGrane. It talks about the significant coaching decision made by Evy in 1956 that paid off handsomely for the Hawkeye football program.

The year 1956 was, without question, one of the most fabulous in Iowa football history. The season started at Indiana. As the new attack began to roll, with Kenny Ploen at the controls, Iowa ground out two first quarter touchdown on 82 an d69 yard scoring marches. Bill Happel and John Nocera got the six-pointers with Ploen and Gene Veit adding second half scores to give the Hawks a 27-0 victory. Perhaps the most significant thing about the game was the balance demonstrated by Iowa. On attack the team rolled up 242 yards rushing and 240 through the air. Defensively they limited the Hoosiers to only 76 yards on running plays and 73 on eight completed passes.

Game Number 2 had its historic aspects, but this fact was obscured until the season had ended and the identity of Iowa’s Rose Bowl opponent was known. Oregon State came to Iowa City. Its appearance generated most painful moments for the Hawks, who seemed to have exceptional difficulty gearing themselves to meet the challenge of the West Coast team. Oregon State’s great halfback, Joe Francis, was establishing the reputation he later achieved but the Iowa players may not have been aware of it. Just 1 minutes an d10 seconds after the first kickoff Francis threw a pass to Earnel Durden for a 30-yard touchdown play. The extra point was blocked by Iowa’s Frank Bloomquist. The Hawkeyes tramped off the field trailing 6-0 at the half, and were shaken by a new jolt in the third quarter when Paul Lowe raced 49 yards for a touchdown. Only after they trailed 13-0, did the Hawks make a move toward victory.

Wisconsin played at Iowa in the third game of the campaign. Once more the Hawkeyes had their new ground gaining machinery oiled adequately, although the Badgers werew a rugged defensive club. Late in the second quarter a 78 yard drive climaxed when Ploen pass to Mike Hagler for 11 yards and a touchdown.

Shut out until the fourth minute of the fourth quarter, and forced to play with number one quarterback Kenny Ploen on the sidelines nursing an injury, the Hawkeyes broke through for the first time when John Nocera, in an unexpected move, threw a 10-yard pass to Frank Gilliam in the end zone. It was Nocer’a only pass of the season, but it brought Iowa within reach of the Beavers, 13-7. Less than two minutes later sophomore Randy Duncan passed to Jim Gibbons for 33 yards and the tying touchdown. When Bob Prescott’s second successful conversation spun between the goal posts, Iowa had a 14-13 victory to compensate for an all afternoon scare.

Wisconsin played at Iowa in the third game of the campaign. Once more the Hawkeyes had their new ground gaining machinery oiled adequately, although the Badgers werew a rugged defensive club. Late in the second quarter a 78 yard drive climaxed when Ploen pass to Mike Hagler for 11 yards and a touchdown. One second remained on the clock when Ploen attempted the extra point and missed. In less than four minutes of the third quarter Iowa concluded another march, covering 50 yards in seven plays. The payoff was launched from the 1-yard line, with Ploen scoring. Bob Prscott kicked the point. Wisconsin scored on a four quarter pass of 23 yards, Carlson to Melvin, but a fierce Iowa defense, spearheaded by Alex Karras, Bloomquist and Frank Gilliam, thwarted any further scoring. The Hawks had won, 13-6, the first time in more than twenty years that Iowa had won its initial three stars.

TOMORROW: The rest of the 1956 Hawkeyes’ march to the Rose Bowl.