Those Were The Days - Northwestern
I think this is the first time in three years that I've remembered to post Detlef's TWTD on the Friday before Northwestern. No, I'm not out Black Friday shopping - it just never feels like a Friday so I never remember to post it. BUT, I remembered this year. So here's Detlef to take you back to 1984.
This week Illinois plays at Northwestern for what used to be called the Sweet Sioux Tomahawk trophy. It's now known as the Land Of Lincoln Trophy which features Abe Lincoln's stovepipe hat. The proper acronym, of course, is LOLHAT (Land Of Lincoln HAT). Illinois has not won this match up since 2014. It is time for the LOLHAT to come home! I wrote this article before the season starts. Hopefully, this week's game is a chance for Illinois to either become bowl-eligible or to obtain a better bowl game in a warm climate! If not, I will suntan on a beach in Maui, hopefully after our men's basketball team wins the Maui Invitational! Today's tale recalls when the 80s belonged to the Illini! A great marketing slogan by my guy Neale Stoner! THOSE WERE THE DAYS!
September 1, 1984: Illinois wanted to forget about the Rose Bowl debacle against UCLA and start the season right against the Northwestern Mildcats. The game seemed odd for two reasons. First, the season opener was also a Big Ten conference game. Second, the game was under the lights at Memorial Stadium. It figured to be a routine win for the defending Big 10 champions over a hapless opponent before a crowd of 75,753.
THIS IS ILLINOIS FOOTBALL. Illinois was playing like it was still suffering from a Rose Bowl hangover. Northwestern was clearly outplaying the Fighting Illini. The Wildcats led 16-7 in the third quarter and were driving for another touchdown that would put Illinois on the ropes. But African Grant, playing in place of safety Craig Swoope (who was found not guilty of federal drug trafficking charges two weeks later) intercepted a Sandy Schwab pass near the goal line. Quarterback Jack Trudeau fired a few quick passes for a touchdown drive and now Illinois trailed 16-14 as the third quarter ended.
After forcing a Northwestern punt, the offense and Trudeau showed his strengths. Trudeau completed all seven of his passes on the winning touchdown drive for a 21-16 lead. After forcing another Northwestern punt, Illinois scored on a Chris White field goal to clinch the 24-16 win. Illinois earned its 11th straight Big 10 conference win and remained atop the Big 10 conference standings.
Head coach Mike White expressed relief over the victory. "I think some people are going to express disappointment, but I'm just happy to get a win. A lot of credit has to go to [Northwestern head coach] Denny Green. They took it to us and we were fortunate to win." White also expressed concern about the rest of the season. "We haven't played the kind of football we need to play since the Michigan game last year. We kind of popped our corks a year ago. We've got to play better and execute. We can't drop passes."
Illinois finished 7-4 overall and 6-3 in the Big 10, good for a second-place tie with Purdue. However, the Fighting Illini could not play in a bowl game due to NCAA probation.
Sources: "Illini rally to topple NU" by Robert Markus. Chicago Tribune: September 2, 1984.