Those Were The Days - Minnesota

Nov 5, 2021

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A quick programming note buried here in the intro to TWTD... the basketball preview comes out on Monday. I had originally said today, but it's today, and the basketball preview is not out. Monday. Monday is the day.

Now that I got that out of the way, here's Detlef's TWTD taking us back to 1964.

This week's opponent is the Minnesota Golden Gophers, coached by The Boat Rower. Sink The Boat! When Public Enemy rapped about "Welcome to the Terrordome" they must have thought about the Illini's dismal record in the HHH Dome, now long gone. The outdoor stadium on the Minnesota campus is a great place to watch a game. I was there in 2009 for an Illinois victory! This week's tale recalls what Al Davis once said: "The toughest thing to do in this country is to maintain excellence."

October 17, 1964: Illinois attempted to defend its Big Ten and Rose Bowl championships in 1964. But when you are the king, you get everyone's best shot. Illinois entered the contest at 2-1 after wins at California and at Northwestern. However, Illinois got whupped badly by Ohio State by the score of 26-0 and the lads were in an ornery mood. Illinois traveled to the other Memorial Stadium in Minneapolis.

Head Coach Pete Elliott worried about the mental state of his team after the crushing 26-0 loss to Ohio State the week before. Illinois had its dreams of an undefeated season smashed with that one, they knew they couldn't return to the Rose Bowl (thanks antiquated Big Ten rules!) and there was some danger that the players might quit.

But the way the Illini hit and ran and tackled and blocked against Minnesota removed all doubts as to their fortitude. The defense was outstanding. The defense held the Gophers to 62 rushing yards. Although the defense allowed 133 yards passing, it intercepted five passes (one short of the Big Ten record). Further, it rose to every dangerous occasion. When Minnesota was moving the ball into Illinois territory in the first quarter, Dick Butkus (Chicago Vocational) literally stole the ball from the hands of fullback Mike Reid.

When Minnesota took the ball to the Illinois six-yard line in the second quarter, Archie Sutton recovered another Reid fumble. When the Gophers threatened in the air, the pass defense was there. At one point in the fourth quarter, George Donnelly (DeKalb) raced across field to snatch a sure TD pass from the hands of Minnesota receiver Aaron Brown. Elliott singled out Jim Grabowski (Chicago Taft), Fred Custardo (Proviso East), Donnelly, Butkus and Don Hansen for praise.

However, Elliott also noted the contributions of guys who were not starters. When Wayne Paulson was injured, Rich Callaghan (Champaign) did a fine job at the defensive left halfback spot. Callaghan who made a number of crushing tackles and picked up an interception as did Donnelly (two), Dave Mueller, and Dick Kee (Wheaton). Bob Trumpy (Springfield) who made a sensational play to convert Custardo s four-yard pass into a touchdown in the second quarter.

Illinois head coach Pete Elliott was not one to gloat when his team wins convincingly, but the personable coach was not having an easy time concealing his pride and satisfaction in the locker room following the 14-0 win over Minnesota. "That was a real big game" Elliott said. It carried an awful lot of importance. And I am proud of the way we bounced back after last week."

Illinois ended the season at 6-3 overall, 4-3 in the Big Ten. Bob Trumpy transferred out and later became a broadcaster on NBC for its NFL coverage.

Sources: "Elliott Lauds Team Effort by Steve Kaufman. Daily Illini: October 20, 1964.


uilaw71 on November 5, 2021 @ 07:47 AM

Talk about a trip down memory lane! Fall of 64 I was a 17 year old freshman whose HS graduating class (at Lebanon IL) was 56 strong. Steve Kaufman was entrenched at the DI - thinking he was a junior that year - and we lived on the same wing of Scott, (This was way back in the dark ages, not just before gender neutral floors, but when women still had hours.). At any rate, UIUC was still a scary place for a small town kid, who Steve befriended. Glad to see his material helping with TWTD.

reykjavik2020 on November 5, 2021 @ 08:54 AM

"Defensive left halfback"! Was that what they called cornerbacks back then?

Altgeld88 on November 11, 2021 @ 12:22 PM

Love it. Had no idea that Bob Trumpy (Bengals great) went to Illinois. Watched those Cincinnati teams growing up.

I looked up that 1964 SI issue with Butkus on the cover via SI Vault. Entertaining article. If you go to the back of the magazine and look in the College Football section, you'll be amused to find that Ohio State and Illinois are referred to as the "Big Brothers" of the Big Ten.

Let's get back to that status.

Illinir1 on November 12, 2021 @ 11:00 AM

When Dick Butkus was signing autographs in Grange Grove, on the weekend of his statue dedication, I was lucky enough to have him sign the cover of a copy of this same Sports Illustrated issue. I asked him while he was signing; "Dick, I've seen pictures of you with 2 stars, 3 stars, and 4 stars on your helmet. What is the significance/meaning of the stars?" Dick answered: "Oh, that was something that the equipment managers created for significant game impacting plays. It wasn't then like Ohio State is today, where a player gets a buckeye sticker on his helmet for putting his jersey on the right way." True.

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