Those Were The Days - Purdue
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Still haven't given Detlef a byline yet. I mean, if you do that, there's the risk of a 3:00 am Ron Guenther rant that I don't discover until I wake up. So I'll keep intro-ing his posts under my byline. Today's post: back to 1965 and Grabo vs. Griese. Illinois, at home, with #6 in town, on national TV. Here's Detlef:
Illinois looks to defend The Cannon Trophy which it won in a nasty rainstorm last year in West Lafayette. I thoroughly enjoyed watching the Illini team sliding on the slick Purdue turf after the win and using The Cannon as a mock handgun. Anyhow, today's tale recalls when Illinois knocked off a highly ranked Purdue team.
October 30, 1965: Purdue entered the game ranked sixth after a tough four-point defeat to #2 Michigan State. Illinois entered the game 3-3 under head coach Pete Elliott. Quarterback Bob Griese led the Boilermakers while fullback Jim "Grabo" Grabowski (still an Illini legend for all of his years in the radio booth) led the Fighting Illini. A crowd of 59,507 on Dad's Day watched the action at Memorial Stadium as did a rare national television audience.
Midway through the first quarter, after a Boilermaker punt, Illini quarterback Fred Custardo methodically moved his offensive unit down the field on a 71-yard touchdown drive. Powerful running from Grabowski, Sam Price and Ron Bess, plus the pass-catching talents of John Wright got Illinois on the board with just 57 seconds left in the first quarter.
A punting battle ensued during most of the second quarter, including a coffin corner punt by Griese that pinned the Illini down on their own 5-yard line. A 35-yard gain around right end by Grabowski gave Illinois some breathing room and then Custardo and Wright went to work, connecting on a 44-yard gain. With only 20 seconds left in the half but near the end zone, Custardo overthrew Bess in the right flat. This stopped the clock for one final try.
Despite heavy defensive pressure from Purdue, Custardo targeted Bess again on the very same pattern. This time the Bloomington sophomore made a marvelous diving catch just inches into the end zone. Although Custardo's extra point attempt banged off the upright, the Illini enjoyed a 13-0 lead at intermission. Illinois had 256 yards of offense in the first half!
The second half should be called "The Bo Batchelder Show." The 213-pound Illini junior defensive end from Peoria Heights admits it was a day he says he'll never forget.
"The night before a big game, I always dreamed about a day when something goes right," Batchelder recalled recently from his home in North Carolina. "If you're a defensive end, you're thinking about picking off a pass and heading in the other direction. It happened to come true for me that day."
First, he recovered a Randy Minniear fumble after Don Hansen knocked the ball loose from the Purdue fullback's grasp. Unfortunately, an offensive penalty ruined Illinois's great scoring opportunity. Next Batchelder intercepted a Griese pass on the Boilermaker 30-yard line and returned it to the 11-yard line. However, an offensive penalty intervened and Custardo missed a chip-shot field goal from the 25.
Finally, midway through the fourth quarter, Batchelder made the signature play of his career. We'll let the Mike Pearson article (linked below) take it from there:
"I do remember that one pretty well," he said. "We were down on the 8-yard line. Griese came out and around the end and he had all the options. He could pitch it, he could throw it, or he could run it. So he and I were by ourselves as he was coming around my side, and he began to pump the ball. I'm bearing down on him and I grabbed his wrist, bent his arm behind him, took the ball from him, pushed him out of bounds, and started heading down toward our end zone. It was a long way away."
Despite a bum knee, strapped with a brace, Batchelder plodded south for 55 yards."I ran to the 25-yard line and got tackled from behind," he said. "Guess who tackled me? Bob Griese. I'm totally out of breath at this point. I get up and begin to walk across the field, then Sam Price runs and jumps on me, so now I'm carrying his 210 pounds, too. While the crowd is still standing and cheering, on the very next play, Fred immediately throws a 25-yard touchdown pass to Johnny Wright. So people seem to never remember that I didn't make it all the way. They always give me an additional 25 yards credit for which I don't deserve." The touchdown iced the Illini victory, 21-0.
Purdue head coach Jack Mollenkopf offered high praise for the Illinois defense. "Illinois took us apart on the line. It was the roughest pass rush we've seen." However, most of the postgame quotes raved about Bo Batchelder. "Bo's unreal!" said Illinois wide receiver Craig Timko. "You have to single him out," said Coach Pete Elliott. "He intercepted two passes, recovered a fumble and stole the ball from Bob Griese." Coach Mollenkopf thought Batchelder was a senior. When informed that Batchelder was a junior, the coach moaned and said, in a barely audible voice, "…for God's sake….."
Sources: "Purdue Coach Praises Illinois Linemen" by Ed Gillman.
Daily Illini: November 2, 1965. "Batchelder Subject of Praise in Postgame Conversation" by Mike Imrem. Id.
"Upstaging Bob Griese" by Mike Pearson. FightingIllini.com: October 24, 2019.