1950's Heisman Trophy Winners

If Notre Dame was the team of the 1940s, Oklahoma was the team of the ‘50s. The Sooners, led by coach Bud Wilkinson, won three national championships in the decade, including back-to-back titles in ’55 and ’56. From 1953 to November of 1957, the Sooners never lost a game, winning 47 straight. That NCAA record for a major college program lasts to this day. (Ironically, the streak was bookended by losses to the Fighting Irish.)
During the 1950s, college football also instituted a few new wrinkles: a fifth referee was added in 1955, the back judge, making penalties more frequent, but also improving the safety of the game. In 1953, college football actually outlawed platooning by strictly controlling substitutions. Two-way football returned en masse until 1965, when the substitution rules were rescinded. In 1958, a scoring modification was also made, (the last the game would see in college until 1988) creating the two-point conversion (in which a team could, after a touchdown, run or pass the ball into the end zone for two points, adding that option to the existing one-point conversion for a kick through the goal posts).

As a further effort to slightly increase scoring, the goal posts themselves were changed in the ‘50s. Back in 1927, college football had moved the goal posts from the front of the end zone to the back as a way to reduce injury. This also increased the length of any field goal by 10 yards, reducing significantly the number of successful field goals. While the NFL responded by moving the posts back to the front of the end zone in ’32, the college game waited until 1959 to make a change, not moving the goal posts, but widening them, making them 23’4’’, up from 18’6’’.

Added to the game’s new rule changes that largely helped offenses was an innovation that would help change defenses in college football. Up to the 1950s, the standard defensive scheme had seven players on the line of scrimmage. Bud Wilkinson, Sooners coach, dropped two players off that line, putting them a little further back, debuting the 5-2 formation, altering the way teams played defense forever.

1950’s Winner
1950  Vic Janowicz
1951  Dick Kazmaier
1952  Billy Vessels
1953  John Lattner
1954  Alan Ameche
1955  Howard Cassady
1956  Paul Hornung
1957  John David Crow
1958  Pete Dawkins
1959  Billy Cannon

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Heisman Trophy Winners