Those Were The Days - Iowa
This week, back to 1994. The most exciting (and frustrating) Illini football season of my lifetime. I can quote it like it was yesterday: five losses by 19 total points. A play here or there from an unexpected 10-1 season, yet 6-5. Kind of like Iowa this season, really. So here's Detlef to take us back to Illinois-Iowa in 1994.
This week the Fighting Illini "welcome" the black and gold Huns from the west to Zuppke Field. For the 2008 game I had the "pleasure" of sitting next to an Iowa fan. This guy had black and gold suspenders, mustard all over his hands and kept praising Jake Christensen. You may recall Matt Eller hit a game-winning field goal near the end. That Iowa fan couldn't leave Memorial Stadium fast enough!
Today's tale recalls a game when Illinois laid the smack down on the Hawkeyes. I like to think of it as Coach Death Penalty fried Hayden. Get it? Hey, it's my Dad's pun so blame him! Alas, I won't be at the game because I'll be in Kona before traveling to the Maui Invitational! BEAT IOWA.
October 15, 1994: Illinois entered the game full of confidence after a stunning 24-10 win at THE Ohio State University. That game featured Dana Howard talking the talk and walking the walk. Iowa limped into the game at 2-4, 0-3 in the Big Ten. Illinois needed to beat Iowa to gain momentum for next week's big clash against Michigan. "It's national TV and everything next week," said Simeon Rice. Tepper told his team that "Ninety-nine percent of people respond to failure, only 1 percent to success." But would Illinois stay focused on the task at hand?
Illinois answered in the affirmative, scoring on its first three possessions of the game. Freshman running back Robert Holcombe ran four yards for a touchdown and ran over 100 yards for the first time in his illustrious Illini career, finishing with 101 yards. "That's good news, having a runner over 100," said Head Coach Lou Tepper, _aka _Coach Death Penalty. Quarterback Johnny Johnson threw for three touchdowns, including a 19-yard touchdown strike to Ty Douthard. Johnson finished his day with 15 of 20 passing for 271 yards and three touchdowns. Douthard had two touchdowns.
Further, the Illinois defense knocked out the second-string and third-string quarterbacks for Iowa. The defense, now ranked second nationally, had held five of its first six opponents to ten points or less. The defense still had not allowed any points in the third quarter and would have had its second shutout of the season if the reserves had not allowed iowa to score in the fourth quarter. Even when wide receiver Jasper Strong fumbled at the Illini 22-yard line, the defense stiffened. The Illini tackled quarterback Mike Duprey for an 18-yard loss and Iowa failed to score on that possession.
The game ended in a 47-7 laugher. Tepper was diplomatic after beating one of the program's most bitter rivals. "No offense we play creates more problems for me to prepare than Hayden's." Um, Coach Death Penalty, Iowa was down to its fourth-string quarterback! "We've lost two more quarterbacks (in this game). We're trying to check (the roster) to see who played quarterback in high school so that I can move them in next week," said Iowa head coach Hayden Fry.
The next week, Illinois hosted Michigan and got screwed (not for the first time against the Wolverines) by incompetent Big Ten officiating. Amani Toomer returned a punt for the winning touchdown thanks to a blatant clip. Illinois finished the season with a Liberty Bowl win over East Carolina.
Sources: "Illini Use Hapless Iowa as Tuneup for Big Showdown" by Mike Kiley. Chicago Tribune: October 16, 1994