Those Were The Days - Purdue


Robert
Sep 24, 2021
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I enjoy when these TWTD posts go back before my time. And the Bob Blackman era was before my time. I was alive in the fall of 1974, but I had yet to turn two years old. Chubby Phillips and Jim Kopatz are just names I've heard before, not players I remember.

So here's Detlef to tell us about the trip to Purdue in 1974.


Illinois travels to Purdue on Saturday and gets to see the World's Largest Drum up close and personal. Yawn. Hopefully our boys win and can enjoy dinner at The Beef House in Covington on the ride home. Bring the Cannon Trophy home! Today's tale goes back to the bell bottom days of the 1970s and Bob Blackman as head coach.

October 12, 1974: Year Three of the Blackman Era in the 217 had been up and down. Illinois started 2-0 with wins against Indiana and at #19 ranked Stanford. Illinois shot up the rankings to #16 and beat Washington State. The next week, Illinois was ranked #14 and hosted California, coached by Mike White, and lost 31-14. Now 3-1 and unranked, Illinois hoped to stay undefeated in Big Ten play with a trip to West Lafayette, Indiana.

Near the end of practice on that Thursday, Illinois tight end Fuzzy Johnson ran a downfield pass pattern in a noncontact drill and collided with a reserve defensive back. Johnson injured his knee and had to be carried off the practice field on a stretcher. Head Coach Bob Blackman thought Johnson was done for the season. Blackman's fears proved premature--not only was Johnson not seriously injured, but he played a decisive factor in the 27-23 Illini victory over Purdue.

Johnson caught two touchdown passes--one covering 68 yards. Johnson and Chubby Phillips scored all of the Illinois touchdowns. Phillips first put Illinois on the board with a one-yard plunge in the first quarter. Phillips' sixth touchdown of the year capped an Illini drive that was aided by a Boilermaker mistake. A Phil Verneisel (Chicago Taft) punt was fumbled by Purdue and safety Jim Stauner (Palatine) recovered on Purdue's 23-yard line, setting up Phillips score. Phillips rushed for 98 yards against Purdue. "Chubby wanted to do well in his home state of Indiana," Blackman said. "The more I look at the game films, the more I realize what a great runner Chubby Phillips is."

Purdue immediately responded and marched downfield on the injury-ridden Illinois defense to tie the score at 7-7. "Illinois was without its starting players at both anchor linebacker and rover. Roy Robinson (Niles Notre Dame) and Bill Uecker (York) were both injured. Terry Ormsbee (Arlington Heights) filled in at rover and Brian Ford replaced Robinson at anchor linebacker. Ford, a junior college transfer, led the Illinois defense with 13 tackles .

Quarterback Jim Kopatz (Springfield Lanphier) put the Illini back out front by directing a 78-yard drive. He floated a 28-yard pass into the end zone, where Johnson leapt high over a Purdue defender for the second Illinois touchdown. Following an exchange of punts, Purdue again drove on the Illini defense, scoring on a one-yard run. The Illini took the lead to stay on a wind-aided 52-yard Dan Beaver field goal. Beaver finished with three field goals. "Danny seems to aggravate (Purdue head coach) Alex Agase particularly," said Blackman. "Last year he scored 15 points against them and now he scores nine."

With a little more than a minute left in the first half, Jeff Hollenbach, who alternated again with Kopatz at quarterback, found Johnson in the open and threw to him for a 68-yard touchdown pass, giving Illinois a 24-14 halftime lead. "Breaks, turnovers, call it what you will, Illinois got two big ones," Agase said. "They scored right after they recovered that punt fumble in the first quarter. And they also scored on the long pass right before the end of the half."

In the second half each team had the ball three times. In their first possession of the half, the Boilermakers brought the score to 24-21 on a four-yard run by fullback Pete Gross. Beaver then capped off the Illini scoring on a 39-yard field goal with 5:42 remaining in the third quarter.

Illinois finished 6-4-1 overall and 4-3-1 in the Big Ten conference which would be good enough for a bowl game in the current era of college football. But back then, nope. Sad!

Sources: "Johnson key to Illini victory over Purdue" by Randy Kulat. Daily Illini: October 15, 1974. FightingIllini.com

Comments

Brave Illini on September 24, 2021 @ 08:56 PM

Enjoyed the article. To be picky, but not complaining, it appears the player and leather helmet predated the game by about 50 years. For those of us who were adults and may remember that game (I don't recall that particular game), we feel old enough without seeing such an old relic.

thumpasaurus on September 25, 2021 @ 12:01 AM

Presumably that image is from season promotional material. I love that old media stuff.

thumpasaurus on September 25, 2021 @ 12:01 AM

We never hear about the quietly good teams of the Blackman era, which is a shame. Thanks for this!

Brave Illini on September 25, 2021 @ 06:58 AM

As I recall, the feeling during the Blackman era was that he was never going to break through the "big 2 - little 8" barrier, and that the University wanted to take that next step and become more competitive with Michigan and Ohio State. I suppose other schools in the "little 8" had the same frustration. But instead of taking a step forward, the replacement coach took us in the wrong direction.

Joe Edge on September 25, 2021 @ 01:46 PM

'the replacement coach took us in the wrong direction.'...

This could be a strong candidate for UotY (Understatement of the Year) award..

You do hit the nail on the head. The Administration felt the desperate need to break-out of that 'little 8' part of the BigTen - Although I can't think of any of school that wasn't trying to break out also.

Blackman was a good coach, and always had an entertaining game plan - there was at least 1 really cool trick play in every home game I saw. He got some pretty good tailbacks - Lonnie Perrin, Chubby Phillips, George Uremovich (sp) and I believe that with more time he could have been our Kirk Ferentz... But our AD asked scUM coach Bo about a replacement, and he gave us Moeller...

Brave Illini on September 25, 2021 @ 01:55 PM

Lonnie Perrin was just an outstanding running back, plus he could kick.

Schlepper on September 25, 2021 @ 05:18 PM

True. I seem to remember a cross field pass on the opening season kickoff reception to start the Blackman era. I think Lonnie Perrin scored a TD on the play.

uilaw71 on September 25, 2021 @ 07:13 AM

Thanks for this memory trigger, Detlef. Bused to this game with a group of friends from Hubbard Trail CC. (That’s in rural Rossville, Robert.). Our little band was evenly split between loyalists of each team. The ride back was much merrier for our side!

NC_OrangeKrush on September 25, 2021 @ 11:17 AM

The Beef House rocks!! Hope they can celebrate.. (or commiserate)

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