Those Were The Days - Nebraska
Here's the issue when you haven't played Nebraska very many times: if you only win a few of them, and if Detlef has already written about all of those wins, when the next Nebraska game comes along, you don't have any games you can write about. So here's Detlef writing about another win you might remember:
Illinois travels to Nebraska on Saturday. I went to the game in 2014 which Illinois lost but it was a great time. Lincoln is a cool town and the Cornhuskers faithful really are nice to away fans. We even attended a house party before the game! I have already written about the Illini's prior wins over Nebraska so today's tale is going into the memory vault.
September 13, 2008: Illinois welcomed the Ragin' Cajuns to Memorial Stadium on an 80 degree, partly sunny day. Illinois was 1-1, after another tough loss to Mizzery in St. Louis and a win over Eastern Illinois when the team wore throwback 1963 jerseys and helmets. Alas, I could not attend the game as I had to play in our company golf outing, hosted by my IU Boss. In Chicagoland, the heavy rain started the night before and as I drove on the highway it continued. Golf looked grim so hopefully I could catch the game on a television somewhere.
On its opening drive, ULL got to the UI 35 before Vontae Davis forced and recovered a fumble. From there, UI had a seven play drive, including a Daniel Dufrene run of 23 yards to set up a Matt Eller 51-yard field goal. On the next drive, ULL had a third down and two at its own 28. As ULL QB Michael Desormeaux (Cajun name!) tried to run, Brit Miller literally stole the ball from him and went the other way for a 26 yard touchdown run, credited as a fumble recovery! "We practice that every day in practice. It's the most boring, mundane part of practice but it paid off today. We were able to stand him up and I was able to rip it out and take it in to the end zone."
So with seven minutes left in the first quarter, the Illini led 10-0 and seemed to be on its way to an easy win. Well, this is Illinois football, so no. ULL responded with a methodical 15-play, 73 yard drive that needed an Illini goal-line stand from 1st down at the 5 to hold ULL to a field goal.
To start the second quarter, Juice Williams threw a pick that set up ULL at the UI 33-yard line. Fortunately, the defense responded with two tackles for loss and big Martez Wilson sack to force a punt that pinned UI at its own 4-yard line. Juice and the offense went to work. Juice connected with Michael Hoomanawanui twice for 33 yards to get to the ULL 45. From there, Dufrene ran 27 yards to the ULL 9-yard line. With third and goal at the ULL 10, Juice threw a pass to Dufrene who dove into the corner of the end zone for a 17-3 UI lead. An 11-play, 96-yard drive that took nearly five minutes gave UI fans hope that they could put away the Maalox.
Once again, this is Illinois football. A big ULL kickoff return of 53 yards set up ULL at the UI 25-yard line, but ULL missed a field goal. The teams exchanged punts. UI took advantage of a shanked ULL punt to have the ball at its own 45-yard line. Juice threw to Arrelious Benn and Chris Duvalt and suddenly, UI was at the ULL 22-yard line with 40 seconds left. Three incomplete passes later, Matt Eller missed a 39-yard field goal to end the half.
The third quarter fell into a malaise as the teams exchanged punts and struggled on offense. However, with less than two minutes left, ULL decided to go for it on 4th down and 6 at the UI 41-yard line. Desmoreaux completed a short pass, but Vontae Davis again came up big, tackling the receiver one yard short of a first down.
So UI took over at its own 43-yard line to start the fourth quarter and another score would seemingly ice the game. After several Dufrene rushes seemed to tire the ULL defense, UI had the ball, 4th and 1 at the ULL 25-yard line. Dufrene got the ball and got stuffed. FURG! The teams exchanged punts again. With seven minutes left, ULL had the ball at its own 36-yard line. After a couple of completed passes and a Josh Brent personal foul penalty, ULL had the ball first down at the UI 34-yard line. The quarterback, Desmoreaux, ran untouched for a 34-yard touchdown and a 17-10 ball game with 5:30 left.
A.J. Jenkins had a nice kickoff return (remember those?) to the UI 38-yard line. Juice ran twice for 14 yards and a first down. A roughing the passer penalty on ULL now put UI at the ULL 38-yard line. Juice hit Hoo Man for 21 yards. With second down at the ULL 13-yard line, Xavier Fulton got called for holding. UI gave the ball to Dufrene, forcing ULL to use all of its timeouts. On 4th down from the ULL 10-yard line, Matt Eller made a 27-yard field goal for a 20-10 lead and seemingly the ball game with 1:36 left.
*Again, this is…ah never mind. *Eller's kickoff went out of bounds, so ULL had a short field at its own 40-yard line. Two passes put ULL at the UI 39-yard line. From there, Josh Brent got called for a face mask. From the 24, ULL completed a pass to the UI 11-yard line. Three incomplete passes later, it was fourth down from the UI 11-yard line. Desmoreaux completed a touchdown pass to make it 20-17 with 30 seconds left! Garrett Edwards recovered the onside kick to ice the game. Naturally, the recovery included a personal foul penalty on Ian Thomas. Juice took a knee for the win.
The stats tell an interesting tale. Juice was 13/25 passing for 147 yards with 1 touchdown and 1 interception. However, he ran 11 times for only 35 yards. Fortunately, Dufrene ran for a career-high 126 yards and Hoo Man caught 5 passes for 74 yards. The UI defense stopped the run. ULL ran 34 times for just 87 yards. However, its quarterback Desmoreaux was 25/35 passing for 200 yards and a touchdown. UI also kept ULL in the game with 9 penalties for 96 yards, a Zook trademark. Vontae Davis had 13 tackles, and Brit Miller had three tackles for loss along with his "strip six."
"A win's a win and obviously that's the bottom line, but we're not happy with the way we played and there's some things we've got to get fixed," said Ron Zook. Hey Zook, start by fixing the penalties! Juice Williams talked about the lack of emotion from the team. "It's one of those things you have to feel. We just didn't have it today. We need to find that desire and emotion if we want to keep winning. Individually you have to find it and we will." Sadly, this quote summed the "5-7 represent" 2008 season of "The Journey." It also stood as a metaphor for our condo unit, which had a big hole in the ceiling from flooding that weekend.