Those Were The Days - Northwestern
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Thing I just remembered: there wasn't a game after Thanksgiving last year. It was the Ohio State game that was canceled due to a Covid outbreak at Ohio State. I wanted to make so many "what a tradition - Illinois vs. Ohio State on the Saturday after Thanksgiving" jokes but then it was taken from me.
This year, back to playing Northwestern on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Here's Detlef to tell us about the 1974 game.
This week Illinois plays Northwestern for what used to be called the Sweet Sioux Tomahawk trophy. It's now known as the Land Of Lincoln Trophy. The proper name, of course, is LOLHAT (Land Of Lincoln HAT). Illinois has not won this match up since 2014. It is time for the LOLHAT to come home! I will be watching in lovely Kauai!
November 23, 1974: Illinois looked to end its season with a win and a winning record for the first time since 1964. Head Coach Bob Blackman had made Illinois into a team that was no longer a pushover in the Big Ten. The problem was that in those days it was still the Big Two and the Little Eight and only the champion went to a bowl game, the Rose Bowl. Anyone else with a winning record stayed home. Illinois looked to defend Zuppke Field and regain the Sweet Sioux Tomahawk against Northwestern.
Kicker Dan Beaver, who at the time was already the Illinois all-time leading field goal kicker, booted 27-yard and 42-yard field goals in the first quarter to put the Illini ahead 6-0. Then Chubby Phillips, who led the Illini in scoring, rushing and kickoff returns all season, did most of the running in a 59-yard touchdown drive midway in the second quarter . A Jeff Hollenbach to Joe Smalzer (Bloom) pass capped the first half scoring just 44 seconds before halftime, and Illinois led 21-0 at halftime.
Northwestern, driving on the strength of Jim Pooler s rushing and Mitch Anderson to Scott Yelvington pass combination, scored two third-quarter touchdowns and threatened to turn the game completely around . But Bill Uecker (York), senior safety, intercepted an Anderson pass with 10 minutes left in the game. Sophomore quarterback Jim Kopatz (Springfield Lanphier) guided the Illini on a 63 yard, six-minute touchdown drive that sealed the victory at 28-14. Hollenbach, who played less than half of the Northwestern game, completed three passes for 51 yards Saturday to end up with a career total of 1,037 yards which at the time was fourth-best for a season at Illinois. Smalzer ended up with 29 receptions this season and at the time was in tenth place on the Illini career list.
"We were the building blocks," Bill Kleckner (Marmion Military Academy) said. "It took us four years 10 get the winner we came here for, but we got it and that's the important thing. We didn't go to the Rose Bowl but this senior class is going out a winner and we're happy about that."
So Illinois ended its season at 6-4-1, 4-3-1 in the Big Ten. Three of Blackman's first four teams had finished in the upper division of the Big Ten standings. Hollenbach and Tom Hicks (Willowbrook) were named the team's Most Valuable Players.
Source: Daily Illini: November 26, 1974.