Those Were The Days - Kent State
I say this every year, but remember, THIS is the longest-running series on IlliniBoard. Detlef was writing these articles for Brumby well before I ever started a blog. Before each game, he takes us back to a game against that same opponent in years past. Today's TWTD: the Kent State game from four years ago. Take it away, Detlef:
Welcome to Year Three of The Lovie Smith Football Experience! I realize that most fans don't expect much this season. To that, I say YOU ARE MISINFORMED! John Mackovic, Lou "Coach Death Penalty" Tepper, Ron Turner, The Zooker and even TIMMY Beckman took our lads bowling in their third seasons. To be fair, Lovie has had only two recruiting classes. However, my slogan of DEMAND EXCELLENCE requires that I expect a bowl game this season. Nothing says "Merry Christmas" like Boxing Day in Detroit! It's Gonna Happen! Our boys host Kent State to open the season. The last time the Fighting Illini hosted Kent State, it was also the season opener…….sort of.
September 4, 2015: The previous few weeks were a complete embarrassment to Illini Nation. Athletic Director Mike Thomas sacked Head Coach TIMMY Beckman after university-hired lawyers found evidence that TIMMY had interfered in medical decisions. The investigation started after former offensive lineman Simon Cvijanovic accused TIMMY of pressuring him to play while injured. Thomas (who would also be sacked later that year) promoted offensive coordinator Bill Cubit to head coach.
Illinois experienced success (by Illinois standards) by making a bowl game in 2014. Now the program needed to ignore the outside noise and focus on the field. To make matters worse, the game was scheduled to be played on a Friday which angered Illinois high school coaches. I agreed with them. On the other hand, it was Labor Day Friday so many people were either off work or worked a half day.
I drove south on I-57 with fellow dreaded e-mail clan members, looking forward to a few beverages in downtown Champaign and then Lot 31. We arrived at the tailgate amidst reports of nasty storms heading to the 217. We started drinking in Lot 31 and a deluge ensued. This storm included a lightning show that was pretty cool, in retrospect. Nothing says "tailgate" like drinking beer in a van in nasty conditions! We got word that the game was delayed…and delayed. Finally, after three hours, the game was postponed to Saturday. This meant a long drive home for us because my wife needed the vehicle on Saturday morning. At least we had a hotel room for Friday night; poor Kent State scrambled to find hotel rooms and ended up staying in Decatur and Bloomington-Normal. There was nothing "normal" about this season opener!
September 5, 2015: After an overnight delay, how would the two teams handle the distraction? It didn't take long to get an answer. Illinois forced Kent State to go three and out, featuring a sack by Dawuane Smoot. V'Angelo Bentley returned the punt 36 yards and the Fighting Illini showed no mercy. From the Kent State 28, Wes Lunt directed a four-play scoring drive capped by a two-yard touchdown pass to Tyler White for a 7-0 lead.
Eaton Spence intercepted a pass at the Kent State 34-yard line. Lunt immediately threw a touchdown to Marchie Murdock for a 14-0 lead. Again, the Illini defense forced a punt. Taking over at their own 11-yard line, Illinois gained a first down but punted. The returner fumbled and Davontay Kwaaning recovered at the Golden Flashes' 28-yard line. Facing a fourth down and three at the Kent State 21-yard line, Cubit gambled. Lunt threw to Josh Ferguson for a 21-yard touchdown and the rout was on. "You get down 21-zip real fast in the first quarter, it's tough to climb out of," commented Kent State head coach Paul Haynes. "Then you're playing a day later and all the madness of all that. It's just tough."
Josh Ferguson added an 11-yard touchdown run to give our boys a 28-0 first quarter lead. This had not happened for Illinois since 1960! Illinois held a 38-0 lead at halftime. This had not occurred since Illinois enjoyed a 38-0 halftime lead at California in 2001! I was there! The final score was 52-3 and I don't think the game was even that close.
Illinois did not have a huge offensive day-342 total yards. But why complain when you have three one-play scoring drives? Lunt finished 11 of 19 for 162 yards and four touchdowns. Ten different receivers caught passes. Josh Ferguson of Joliet Catholic ran for 76 yards and a touchdown and also caught a touchdown pass. The defense stymied Kent State, holding the Golden Flashes to 245 yards. Kent State finished 3 of 18 on third down conversions. "I told my staff that when they get a three-and-out I want every staff member out there congratulating them," said Head Coach Bill Cubit.
Mason Monheim, who had an interception, summed up the team's attitude. "We have all things outside of us trying to get us off beat, and (the weather delay) was just another factor, and I think we handled it very well." Cubit also expressed joy. "There were a lot of happy faces out there."
HIghlights from the game: here.