January 6
Evashevski, having just completed a very successful season as head coach at Washington State College, ended up in the running for two Big Ten jobs. He chose Iowa over Indiana and, at age 33, was offered a $15,000 salary and the chance to make football history for the Hawkeyes.

But the challenge was formidable. A United Press story in mid-January claimed “the odds are dead set against five new football coaches,” putting Evy’s name at the top of the list. “At least two colleges—Iowa and Pittsburgh—are gaining reputations as coaching graveyards,” the wire story declared.

The new coach was undeterred. He spent the next few months recruiting a top-notch coaching staff and building support among fans on the rubber chicken circuit across Iowa. Evashevski admitted the rebuilding would be tough. “I don’t know who we’ll use this fall,” he said, “probably anybody who feels warm.” Listen to Bob Brooks talk about his memories of Coach Evashevski.

The Steubenville Trio: Gilliam, Vincent, and Jones.
The Steubenville Trio: Gilliam, Vincent, and Jones.

Iowa’s freshmen recruiting class represented more out-of-state talent than ever before and included three men from Ohio, affectionately called the Steubenville Trio: Eddie Vincent, Frank Gilliam, and Calvin Jones.

Jones had been bound for Ohio State when he piled into the car with his buddies who were headed for Iowa, prompting a Big Ten investigation that ultimately showed no impropriety on the part of the UI.

Why the switch? Jones reportedly told the commissioner, “I’ll tell you why I came out here. They treated my like a white man, and I like it here. I’m going to stay.”

October 22
After opening the season with four consecutive losses, Evashevski was up nights trying to devise a strategy that would lead to a victory. According to Brian and Mike Chapman, authors of Evy and the Hawkeyes: The Glory Years, “It was Evashevski’s philosophy that if you couldn’t roughly match an opponent’s strength, you changed tactics without warning.”

Evy told the story in 75 Years with the Fighting Hawkeyes: “We had scrimmaged Tuesday before the Ohio game and didn’t look good at all. I went to bed tired that night and was drawing circles and x’s diagramming play possibilities. I knew we lacked the speed to run outside and I was trying to figure out how we could get an inside attack going.

“I decided that the only thing we could do was to try to spread Ohio State out as far as possible. With the wingback left, by shifting our backfield we could put the core of the offensive strength about three yards over to the right. This would be hard to cope with, from a defensive standpoint.”

The 34-year-old coach, already dubbed the “Old Man” by his players, threw out the single wing offense and introduced an unbalanced split-T to the squad on Wednesday.

October 25
“Ohio State’s bouncing Bucks” were ranked tenth in the nation and expected their contest with the Hawkeyes to be little more than a scrimmage. “Trusting their over-confidence won’t show,” wrote Ohio State Journal sports editor Earl Flora, “Coach Woody Hayes’ Buckeyes gridders will travel…to Iowa City…intent on making 50,000 Hawkeye Homecoming fans wish they had waited another 25 years before inviting Ohio State back to Iowa stadium.

“Strangers to this territory since 1927, the talented Scarlet and Gray still is expected to explore the foreign yard stripes four to five times more thoroughly than the downtrodden Hawks.”

Stearns hits the Buckeye line for a gain during the upset game of 1952
Stearns hits the Buckeye line for a gain during the upset game of 1952. Watch the highlights.

Despite such prognostication, the Hawkeyes held the highly rated Buckeyes to 42 yards on the ground. In the middle of the second quarter, a passel of Hawkeyes jumped on an Ohio State player who had fumbled an Iowa punt across his own goal line for the safety.

Then, poised on Ohio State’s three-yard line in the fourth quarter, the Hawkeyes used three plays to inch within a foot of the goal. They relied on the new split-T formation exclusively, surprising the Buckeyes when George “Binky” Broeder fought his way over the top for another six points.

The jubilant Hawkeyes hoisted their coach high for his first ride to the Iowa showers. What a day! The 8-0 victory was the first win for any Evashevski team against a Big Ten foe and it was Iowa’s first victory after a ten-game string of ties and defeats.

“Put your license plate back on the family auto, citizen,” the Sunday Des Moines Register advertised, “for Iowa won a football game Saturday.”

Not only that, but Iowa’s victory denied the Buckeyes the conference championship and a trip to the Rose Bowl and marked the end of Woody Hayes’ reliance on a passing offense. From then on out, Hayes would depend on his famous “three yards and a cloud of dust”-style play.

November 1
The following weekend, the Hawkeyes traveled to Minnesota for a grueling contest against the Gophers and running back Paul Giel. Though the game-end stats showed the Hawks to be the dominating contender, Iowa lost the game, 17-7, after a few critical mistakes in the second half.

When the Gophers came calling for Floyd, Evashevski grinned, telling team manager Bill Steele, “Give it to them, Bill, but make sure you hand it to them back end first!”

Iowa ended the season with a 2-7 record, but gained the respect of fans and sportswriters, who had come to refer to the team as the “Fighting Hawks.”

Copyright 2009

Copyright © 2009, University of Iowa Alumni Association
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Gridiron Glory - 100 + Years of Iowa Hawkeye Football