Those Were The Days - Iowa
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Fuzzy Johnson! Chubby Phillips! Following Illinois football in the mid-70's had to be a lot of fun. Well, not "fun", as the 70's were the height of the Big Two-Little Eight Big Ten, but fun in the name department. Actually it was probably fun on Saturdays as well. In Bob Blackman's six seasons he was 24-23-1 in the Big Ten. We'd kill for that today.
Anyway, here's Detlef to take us back to 1975...
Illinois hosts Iowa this week and I hope (but I do not expect) the Big 10 conference to provide competent officiating. After last year's loss which was aided by a blatant non-call of targeting that knocked Brandon Peters silly, Illinois better get the benefit of all close calls on Saturday. This week's tale takes us back to the bell bottom pants era of Bob Blackman in Champaign.
September 13, 1975: Year Five of the Bob Blackman Era began with a Big Ten game at Iowa City. Illinois hoped to improve on its 6-4-1 record from the prior season. It was not ideal to start with a conference road game but those were the breaks.
Iowa led 6-3 midway in the second quarter when linebacker Scott Studwell stepped in front of the Iowa fullback on a screen pass. Studwell intercepted the pass and rambled 27 yards for an Illini touchdown and a 10-6 lead. "The fullback was my man in our man-to-man coverage, " said Studwell. "I just stepped in front of it when it came. After that I was just kind of running around. It was a fluke run." He had played running back in high school. At Illinois, he was moved to linebacker, then defensive tackle, and back to linebacker. Boggle! Sadly, Studwell suffered a pinched nerve later in the game; Mac MacCracken replaced him. Illinois then added a Dan Beaver field goal from 34 yards out for a 13-6 halftime lead.
Iowa opened the third quarter with a touchdown run but missed the extra point so Illinois clung to a 13-12 lead. Rick Williams hit Iowa running back Mark Fetter hard. He fumbled and Illinois defensive lineman Walter Graham recovered at the Iowa 16-yard line. "I was in position to get the ball because the way our defense was set up. I have to credit defensive coach Dave Adolph, he put me in the right spot," said Graham. Incredibly, this was Graham's first college football game. He missed his entire freshman year after a knee operation. He redshirted his sophomore year with a case of bursitis. Blackman had moved Graham to defensive end in spring football. "We knew we had a good one in Dean March on the left side, but we needed one on the right. So we moved Walter there. He did an outstanding job against Iowa."
From the Iowa 16-yard line, quarterback Jim Kopatz directed a six-play drive that he capped with a one-yard touchdown run for a 20-12 lead. Kopatz alternated at quarterback with sophomore Kurt Steger. A fourth-quarter touchdown run by Steger of six yards iced the 27-12 win. Blackman praised the defense, especially defensive back Bruce Beaman, Studwell and John DiFeliciantonion. The offense featured two different sets of backfields: Kopatz, tailback Lonnie Perrin, fullback Steve Greene and swingback Fuzzy Johnson; and Steger, tailback Chubby Phillips, fullback Larry Schulz and swingback Mike Sullivan. "We have a great situation. You talk about unity…we were able to sustain long drives. It ate up a lot of time," said Blackman.
Lonnie Perrin ran 19 times for 42 yards. In total, Illinois ran an incredible 65 times for 230 yards, which wore down the Hawkeyes defense. The defense forced three Iowa turnovers. Illinois finished 1975 with a 5-6 overall record, 4-4 in the Big Ten. Scott Studwell enjoyed a long career in the National Football League with the Minnesota Vikings.
Sources: "Illini capitalize on turnovers" by Randy Kulat. Daily Illini: September 16, 1975.