A look back to Iowa's Rose Bowl history

Andy Hamilton


Iowa's quarterback Kenny Ploen talks to reporters after the Rose Bowl game on Jan. 2, 1957.

1957 – Iowa 35, Oregon State 19

Background: The Hawkeyes rocketed up the national rankings to No. 3 after capping an 8-1 regular season with a 48-8 throttling of Notre Dame. Iowa claimed its second victory of the season by downing Oregon State 14-13 in Iowa City and the two teams earned a rematch after claiming conference championships. Oddsmakers favored the Hawkeyes to win by at least a touchdown.

What happened: The Hawkeyes raced out to a 14-0 lead behind quarterback Kenny Ploen. The Rose Bowl MVP ran for a 49-yard touchdown to open the scoring and connected on 9-of-10 passing. Rambunctious Iowa fans ripped down the goal posts at one end of the Rose Bowl with four seconds still left on the clock.

Newspaper clipping: “Officers tried vainly to restrain the onrushing herd of Iowa fans as game time ran out. They didn’t come close to succeeding. The goal posts at the north end came down almost n came simultaneously as the end of the game. The fans quickly shattered the wood and seized fragments as souvenirs.” – George Mills

1959 – Iowa 38, California 12

Newspaper clipping: The Hawkeyes were national championship contenders and ranked second in the country until they fell at home against Ohio State in the second-to-last game of the regular season. They bounced back a week later by beating Notre Dame. California dropped its first two games of the year before closing out the regular season with seven wins in its last eight games.

What happened: The Hawkeyes smashed four Rose Bowl offensive records, including 429 yards rushing. Iowa led 20-0 at halftime and piled on in the third quarter when Willie Fleming and Bob Jeter broke loose for touchdown runs of 37 and 81 yards, respectively.

Newspaper clipping: “They put Bob Jeter in the role of a warhead on a high-explosive menace and Jeter responded brilliantly by smashing two all-time records on his own and earning the unanimous vote of the Helms Foundation committee as the outstanding player.” – Bert McGrane.

Hawkeyes in the Rose Bowl: Then and Now

A smiling Hayden Fry and serious Reggie Roby stand together at a press conference in Pasadena, Calif. on Dec. 25, 1981.

1982 – Washington 28, Iowa 0

Background: Third-year Iowa coach Hayden Fry helped the Hawkeyes snap their string of 19 consecutive seasons without a winning record in stunning fashion. Iowa stunned No. 7 Nebraska in the season opener and No. 6 UCLA two weeks later and knocked off four more ranked Big Ten opponents on the way to Pasadena. Washington claimed Pac-10 invitation to the Rose Bowl after half the teams in the league finished with two losses.

What happened: The Hawkeyes turned the ball over five times and never recovered after failing to convert on a fourth-down try late in the second quarter and watching the Huskies capitalize with a touchdown in the closing seconds of the half.

Newspaper clipping: “The network announcers couldn’t have said it better, and they’re paid enormous sums to draw conclusions and form insights. Iowa just had been kicked in the pants, 28-0, Friday in the 68 th Rose Bowl, but Hayden Fry split the uprights from 50 yards out with his assessment of Washington’s victory. ‘Ladies and gentlemen,’ he said, ‘you’ve just witnessed an old-fashioned rump-kicking. Washington just put it to us in every phase of the game starting with the coaching on down.’” – Marc Hansen.

Iowa Coach Hayden Fry, left, joins UCLA Coach Terry Donahue at a press conference for the 1986 Rose Bowl.

1986 – UCLA 45, Iowa 28

Background: Behind Heisman Trophy runner-up Chuck Long at quarterback, the Hawkeyes held the No. 1 spot in the national rankings for five weeks as they started 7-0 before a road loss to Ohio State. Iowa recovered the following week by obliterating sixth-ranked Illinois 59-0 and the No. 4 Hawkeyes arrived in Pasadena with an outside shot at a national championship. A tie against Tennessee and narrow losses to Washington and USC – all on the road – kept UCLA out of title contention.

What happened: Ronnie Harmon, Iowa’s dynamic tailback, lost four fumbles in the first half after losing just one the entire regular season. His first came on Iowa’s first offensive snap after the Hawkeyes took over at the UCLA 6. Combine the turnovers with coach Hayden Fry’s estimate of 20 to 30 missed tackles and Iowa had big problems. Freshman Eric Ball ran for 227 yards and four touchdowns for the Bruins. One silver lining for the Hawkeyes: Chuck Long threw a late touchdown pass to Bill Happel, making Happel and his father, Bill, the first father-son combo to score touchdowns in the Rose Bowl.

Newspaper clipping: “Everything couldn’t have gone better, Fry said, two days before the game. Workouts were crisp, accommodations were swell. The team was sound of mind and spirit. He had planned for every contingency. No detail was too small to be neglected. This time the Hawkeyes would be ready. Then Wednesday came, and Iowa went the way of all Big Ten Rose Bowl representatives. The Hawkeyes weren’t ready. They weren’t ready, 45-28.” – Marc Hansen

Coach Hayden Fry and his team tour the stadium during the 1986 Rose Bowl trip.

1991 – Washington 46, Iowa 34

Background: The Hawkeyes opened the Big Ten season 5-0, winning on the road at No. 10 Michigan and walloping No. 5 Illinois 54-28. Iowa stumbled down the stretch, losing to Ohio State and Minnesota in the last three weeks to finish in a four-way tie for the league lead at 6-2 with Michigan, Michigan State and Illinois, all teams Iowa defeated. Washington lost two games by a combined nine points and annihilated three ranked opponents – USC, Oregon and Arizona – by a collective 96 points.

What happened: The Huskies buried the Hawkeyes early, bolting out to a 33-7 halftime lead and a 39-14 advantage at the end of the third quarter before Iowa rallied with three fourth-quarter touchdowns. The Hawkeyes racked up 454 yards offense, but they fumbled four times, threw four interceptions and Washington returned a blocked punt for a touchdown. With the nation’s top run defense, Washington held Iowa’s tailback tandem of Nick Bell and Tony Stewart combined for 85 yards rushing, a shade more than half of their combined season average.

Newspaper clipping: “For the longest time, it looked like the Rose Bomb III, the horrifying sequel to the horrifying sequel. It curled your hair. It gave you nightmares. It sent you screaming into the night. It made you want to cover your Iowa license plates. At halftime, it was Washington 33, Iowa 7. At the end of the third quarter, it was 39-14. Hayden Fry’s worst nightmare had come to life before a nation of bowl watchers. Then, miracle of miracles, the team that lost to Minnesota suddenly turned into the team that pounded Illinois.” – Marc Hansen