University of Iowa

1956 Hawkeyes
(Authentic Reproduction)




Evy's Michigan teammate Davey Nelson had established a revolutionary Wing-T balanced line offense as the coach of Delaware and the Hawkeyes borrowed it, feeling it would serve their team's material well. This offense could threaten the middle with the FB, attack either flank or go off the tackles using the HB's, or the QB could bootleg and pass, fake the pass, or run around the ends. With the new offense, Coach Evashevski also altered the Iowa helmet, with most of the players now wearing the Riddell RK model helmet with a face mask. The Green Bay gold shell with black one-inch center stripe was maintained, but Evy added black two-inch thin “NCAA” style player identification numerals to each side of the helmet. The Hawkeyes also ceased the practice of wearing black helmets on the road as they had done for the preceding two campaigns. In just one season, Iowa, 9-1, was a Rose Bowl winning team! QB Kenny Ploen was ably backed up by soph Randy Duncan who came in to save the Oregon State game 14-13 with a pass to leading receiver, end Jim Gibbons, one of seventeen he caught for 255-yards and four TD's during the season. The Hawkeyes unexpectedly won their first five games before falling to Evashevski's alma mater Michigan in a tight 17-14 game, but they then mowed down their final three opponents, giving up but eight points total in those three games, to clinch the Rose Bowl berth. The sixteen-yard TD catch by Gibbons that finalized the victory over Ohio State to secure the bowl bid is still considered by many as the greatest moment in Iowa football history. 15,000 Iowans traveled to Pasadena to witness their team beat Oregon State for the second time that season, 35-19. Evashevski was named College Coach Of The Year and it was revealed that before the Rose Bowl game the players had dedicated their performance to the memory of their great leader of the year before, Calvin Jones who had died in an airplane crash in British Columbia just weeks prior to the Bowl game. There was recognition galore as tackle Alex Karras was named first-team All American and QB Ploen made some teams too. Very much under publicized, Evashevski called Ploen the best player he had ever coached. “He was a leader. He was also underrated. The thing that stands out most in my mind is that he was one of the greatest defensive backs in the conference.” Ploen went on to a stellar career with Winnipeg in the CFL, playing for Bud Grant and leading them to six Grey Cup games, winning four of them and earning entry to the CFL Hall Of Fame. All Big Ten awards were given to center Don Suchy and end Frank Gilliam as well as Karras and Ploen who was also the conference MVP as Iowa's leader in rushing, passing, and scoring. Gilliam went on to a successful career in scouting and personnel administration in the NFL. 

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