Those Were The Days - Eastern Michigan
This is the second straight week where we're playing an opponent for the first time. So Detlef can't write his normal "here's what happened with we played this opponent in the past" post. Last week, instead of UConn, it was the Glastnost Bowl. This week, instead of Eastern Michigan, it's another MAC opponent visiting Champaign.....
Illinois hosts Eastern Michigan on Saturday in the first-ever meeting between the two schools. The Hurons (politically incorrect statement #1) won at Purdue last year and made a bowl game. Again, anytime Illinois plays a Mid-American Conference team, I am worried. Without a prior game between the schools to write about, I reached into the vault for another game vs. a MACtion team.
September 28, 2013: On a warm fall day, the Illini hosted the Redskins (politically incorrect statement #2) of Miami of Ohio, arguably the worst team in major college football. Illinois could not take anything for granted, especially after a close win over Southern Illinois of the FCS. I watched the game on my television set along with a fellow dreaded e-mail clan member.
Illinois opened the game with a heavy dose of Josh Ferguson and Donnovan Young carrying the rock. It ended four minutes later as Nathan Scheelhaase found Matt LaCosse for a two-yard touchdown. Miami had to punt. UI was moving the ball again but Scheelhaase threw a pick. Miami started at its own 21 but punted again, pinning UI deep. A series of big plays got UI into the red zone, ending with a leaping Evan Wilson stretching his 6'6" body to the very back of the end zone to catch a high eight-yard pass, keeping his feet inbounds. On the extra point, Illinois lined up in a swinging gate to honor former coach Ron Zook. Tim Russell, the holder on the extra point, got crazy and threw to Jon Davis for a two-point conversion and a 15-0 lead.
Illinois went to kick off and…WHAT THE WHAT? An on-side kick recovered successfully by Illinois? A true "go for the throat" decision! The kick bounced high in the air and Matt LaCosse recovered it! STEVEHULL caught a 30-yard pass. Then Josh Ferguson caught a swing pass, danced a tightrope along the sidelines for a 15-yard touchdown to make the score 22-0 and the rout was on. "It was a quick little screen," said Ferguson. "I just let the training take over." At halftime the score read 36-0 and Illinois already had 394 yards of total offense! With six minutes left in the third quarter, Miami QB Austin Boucher fumbled and Illinois recovered. Scheelhaase quickly struck to Matt LaCosse on a 45-yard touchdown. Illinois won 50-14.
Illinois racked up 601 yards of offense, the most since the Rose Bowl season of 2007. More impressive was that Illinois threw the ball to the tight ends, with success! SHOCKING! Scheelhaase threw five touchdown passes, four to the tight ends! He went 19 of 24 passing for 278 yards. Jonathan "Bad News" Brown had nine tackles. Illinois tight ends only caught three touchdowns in all of the 2012 disastrous season! Matt LaCosse had two, and Evan Wilson and Jon Davis each caught a touchdown. "They're guys that can make plays downfield, athletic guys that can move around and be in different positions," said Scheelhaase. "We're a selfless group," he said. Coach Beckman was pleased. "You need to continue to build the program." Ferguson praised new Offensive Coordinator Bill Cubit. "He's changed the culture of our offense in the past year he's been here. He's a genius."
It wasn't all pretty. The Illini gave up 250 yards to the worst offense in the country. But at 3-1, Illinois now hoped to break its long Big Ten losing streak at Nebraska. (SPOILER: It did not.)
Sources: Illini run up 601 total yards in rout of Miami (Ohio)" by Chris Hine. Chicago Tribune: September 29, 2013. FightingIllini.com