Those Were The Days - Cal
Feels good to have a Friday morning Those Were The Days post AFTER Christmas, right? Detlef wrote TWTD posts on IlliniBoard long before I was around, so I'm sure he's written them for bowls before, but I can't remember the last one. I don't think he did one for the Heart Of Dallas? I guess it doesn't really matter. Here's Detlef to take us back to 1973
"We're going bowling!"
Lovie Smith uttered those words in his post-game press conference after the stunning 25-point comeback at Michigan State. It took a little longer than expected, but The Lovie Smith Football Program (TLSFP) is finally going to a bowl game. Yes, the losses to Iowa and freaking Northwestern were disappointing, but my Illini pint glass remains half-full. TLSFP can now show recruits and fans signs of progress. It also means more practices for the younger players. It allows the boys an opportunity to get the stench off the losses to Iowa and freaking Northwestern. Above all, the bowl game is a chance to build momentum for 2020 because TLSFP needs to demonstrate that success can be maintained at Illinois. Anyhow, I look forward to visiting the Bay Area and getting a win! I am especially happy for the seniors who have suffered a lot of losing at Illinois but stuck with TLSFP. Today's tale recalls when "Illinois football" and "success" were mutually exclusive terms.
September 22, 1973: Illinois entered Year 3 of The Bob Blackman Football Program (TBBFP). Illinois had not enjoyed a winning season since 1965 and was desperate for success. Illinois won its first game 28-14 at Indiana and now traveled to California to play the Golden Bears, coached by future Fighting Illini legend Mike White.
Illini running back George Uremovich of Merrillville, Indiana did not play in the season opener against his home state school due to a sprained ankle. However, he returned for this game and TBBFP needed him. Halfbacks Lonnie Perrin and Roger Coleman suffered injuries in the win at Indiana so Uremovich needed to pick up his teammates. He did so, with 23 carries for 149 yards and two touchdowns in a 27-7 victory. "My ankle was sore, but it was great to be back," said Uremovich. "I was concerned because it's been three weeks since I've been tackled. I was worried how my knee would hold up."
Illinois quarterback Jeff Hollenbach scored from a yard out in the first quarter to give Illinois a 7-0 lead. Uremovich scored from a yard out to give Illinois a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter. The touchdown capped off an impressive 10-play, 75-yard drive. In the fourth quarter, Illinois led 20-7 and had the football with fourth down and 1 at the Cal 35-yard line. With 1:43 left in the game, TBBFP went aggressive on the play-calling. Uremovich ran around the right tackle and took it to the house for the clinching touchdown. Illinois finished with a whopping 296 rushing yards. Besides Uremovich's heroics, Eddie Jenkins ran for 67 yards. Hollenbach finished 9/15 passing for 106 yards.
The Illini defense performed well. It allowed Cal only 224 total yards and had three interceptions. This included a pick six by Mike Gow of 42 yards. Illinois held future back Chuck Muncie to just 46 yards rushing. Further, it harassed quarterback Vince Ferragamo into a bad day of nine for 20 passing for 80 yards, with three interceptions. Coach Mike White replaced him withSteve Bartkowski who went for of five passing for 14 yards.
The Fighting Illini finished the 1973 season 5-6 with a 4-4 Big Ten record. TBBFP enjoyed a winning season in 1974. Illinois Athletic Director Cecil Coleman terminated TBBFP with extreme prejudice after the 1976 season and replaced TBBFP with Gary Moeller. Sadly, George Uremovich passed away in 2000 at the age of 49.
Sources: "Uremovich's rushing keys victory" by Reed Schreck. Daily Illini: September 25, 1973. "Illinois Tops California" by United Press International: September 22, 1973.