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Game of the Year of the Day, 1960: Minnesota 27, Iowa 10

Forest Evashevski’s 1960 Iowa Hawkeyes: one of the 50 best* of all time.

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University of Iowa archives

The date: November 5, 1960

The matchup: No. 1 Iowa (6-0) at No. 3 Minnesota (6-0)

The stakes: Winner becomes the national title favorite.

The back story: Iowa was in the middle of maybe the toughest schedule of all time. In Forest Evashevski’s last year as head coach (he was retiring to become athletic director), the Hawkeyes had begun the season with six straight ranked opponents, winning every game. Minnesota was the seventh, and the next week, Ohio State would be the eighth. Injuries were beginning to muddy the waters a bit, though, and Minnesota was the toughest opponent yet.

Also there was this, from 50 Best*:

It was the biggest game of the season, and the quarterbacks had the stature to back it up. Wilburn Hollis, a bruising 6’2, 210-pounder who would lead the Big Ten in total touchdowns, had taken over the Iowa starting job and thrived. He churned through arm tackles, and his arm was one of college football’s strongest – too strong, in fact. Despite decent accuracy, he completed only 35 percent of his passes in 1960 because receivers sometimes couldn’t hold onto the bullets coming at them.

Minnesota junior Sandy Stephens, meanwhile, was an even sturdier 215 pounds. His passing numbers were similar to Hollis’, and he didn’t have to carry as much of the rushing load because of the work of fullback Roger Hagberg, who would go on to play five seasons with the AFL’s Oakland Raiders.

Despite losing eight of 11 starters, head coach Forest Evashevski’s Iowa offense was one of the nation’s best in 1960; despite a brutal schedule, the Hawkeyes averaged 26 points per game, fifth in the NCAA. Minnesota, meanwhile, averaged a healthy 22.8 per game.

The Big Ten was loaded in 1960, with eight teams spending part of the season ranked in the AP top 20. But Evy’s Hawkeyes and Murray Warmath’s Gophers stood out from the pack, and quarterback play was a major reason why. Both Stephens and Hollis would earn All-American honors.

That both teams had good quarterbacks wasn’t particularly surprising. That both quarterbacks were black, however, was uncommon.

The game: From the Decatur Daily Review:

Avenging Minnesota, redeeming years of humiliation with 60 minutes of savage football, struck down Iowa's No. 1 ranked Hawkeyes 27-10 today and thundered into the forefront of the nation's gridiron powers.

Fullback Roger Hagberg drove Minnesota partisans in the record Memorial Stadium crowd of 65,610 into near hysteria with seven minutes left by steaming 42 yards for the clincher touchdown.

It sealed Minnesota's most glorious football moment in two decades, a victory which shot the unbeaten third ranked Gophers into the undisputed lead in the Big Ten and stretched their winning streak to seven games.

With a line ravaged by injuries, Iowa — probably the best team in the country that year overall — couldn’t keep up.

The box score:

1960 Minnesota-Iowa

Minnesota would proceed to lose to Purdue the very next week, sending Iowa back ahead in the AP poll, but the Gophers still qualified for the Rose Bowl. Since national titles were decided before bowls then, and since voters gave the Gophers a conference title bump of sorts, they leap-frogged Iowa and won the national title ... and then lost to Washington. It was a weird year, but Iowa, which went 7-1 against ranked foes, was awesome, even if the Hawkeyes weren’t awesome in this game.