Those Were The Days - Virginia
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This game right here - this is one of my fondest memories. A trip to Miami for Y2K. A complete and total blowout. Brandon Lloyd throwing a touchdown to Kurt Kittner (like Kofi throwing a lob for Curbelo to dunk). Walking out of Joe Robbie (was it still called Joe Robbie at the time?) around completely stunned Virginia fans.
I guess I'm spoiling this a bit. I'll just let Detlef tell you:
Illinois travels to Virginia to play the Cavaliers. I will be there along with my tailgate posse, the Dreaded E-Mail Clan (DE-MC) to support the boys! Road Trip! We look forward to partying in our nation's capital, maybe check out the Orioles, and then visit Thomas Jefferson's school. We can sightsee but for Bret Bielema's team, it's a business trip, as Ron Turner once said. This week's tale recalls a big win over Virginia that capped one of the most surprising and satisfying seasons of my Illini football fandom. BEAT THE WAHOOS.
December 30, 1999: Year Three is a good time to evaluate the progress (or lack thereof) in the rebuild of a college football program. The head coach recruited most of the players on the roster. Does the team look more competent? Bigger faster stronger? For Illinois under Ron Turner, year three had demonstrated a great leap forward. From 0-11 in 1997 to 3-8 in 1998 to 7-4 in 1999, Illinois was on an upwards trajectory. The team started 3-0 before crashing back to earth at 3-3 after a bleak Homecoming loss to Minnesota. The very next day, Turner had an all pads practice that got the team's attention. The next week, Illinois traveled to Michigan and pulled off a furious comeback win. The team also won at Ohio State that year. Illinois received its reward: a bowl game against 7-4 Virginia in Miami at Pro Player Stadium. The MicronPC.com bowl had a funky name, but it beat staying home without a bowl game.
Illinois scored first on a one-yard touchdown run, a bootleg run by Kurt Kittner. Virginia immediately responded with a touchdown drive capped by future Chicago Bear Thomas Jones running for a seven-yard touchdown after Jameel Cook fumbled. Illinois then scored again with Rocky Harvey rambling 47 yards for a touchdown and a 14-7 lead. Illinois then found its groove.
With Illinois leading 14-7, Kittner faked a handoff to Steve Havard, handed off to Lloyd and then slipped down the left sideline unnoticed. Lloyd rolled right, stopped, and threw back to the wide-open Kittner. He caught the pass in stride and strolled 30 yards untouched into the end zone. Kittner chucked the ball into the stands, apparently attempting to throw the ball to his mother, Lee Trantin, who has multiple sclerosis. Kittner has said his mother is his inspiration.
Kittner then threw an easy 61-yard touchdown pass to Cook for a 28-7 lead. Illinois scored two more touchdowns and led 42-7 at halftime! Illinois did not let up in the second half. Kirk Johnson later replaced Kittner and he scored on a one-yard touchdown run. Illinois won 63-14!
Illinois ended up with 611 total yards of offense and nine touchdowns on thirteen offensive possessions. Boggle! Rocky Harvey ran 10 times for 122 yards and two touchdowns. Steve Havard contributed 75 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Kurt Kittner threw for 254 yards passing and two touchdowns. Kittner broke Jeff George's school record for the most TD passes in a season. Kittner threw 24 this year, breaking George's mark of 22 set in 1989. Jameel Cook, much like the game at Ohio State, made a living catching passes out of the backfield. Cook finished with 88 yards receiving and two touchdowns. The defense held Jones, the nation's third-leading rusher, to 110 yards on the ground. And on special teams, the Illini blocked two punts that set up touchdowns.
After the game, several Illini players jumped into the stands to celebrate with their fans. "I told the guys it's not the end, it's the beginning," Turner said.
"I have no explanation," Virginia coach George Welsh said. "I'm embarrassed by that performance, I'm absolutely bewildered. We got whacked on defense, then it was a snowball running downhill." "They're not as good as we made them look tonight," Jones said. SCOREBOARD!
Illinois finished the season 8-4 and ranked 24th in the Associated Press poll. The MicronPc.com bowl is no more, like a lot of dot com businesses from that era.
Sources: Wikipedia, FightingIllini.com