Those Were The Days - Minnesota
When I write these little intros I often tell you where I was when Detlef's TWTD game happened. For this one, I was on a field trip. A 20 year-old college student on an actual class field trip. It was for Horticulture 201 and we were on the campus of VMI in Lexington, Virginia when our bus driver told us that Ty Douthard scored a touchdown in the snow back in Champaign.
Oops. That was a spoiler. Pretend I didn't say that. Here's Detlef:
This week Illinois hosts Minnesota for Homecoming! The University of Illinois started that tradition! Thankfully the game is in Champaign and not Minneapolis. Like many old, grizzled Illinois football fans (1 of the 17 REPRESENT!) the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome was a house of horrors over the years. This includes blowing a 14 point lead in 1992; getting slapped around in 2000 the week after the LeMonnier screw job against Michigan (a long flight home for my parents and me); the infamous "let them score!" game of 1996 that sealed the fate of Lou Tepper; and getting pasted 45-0 in 2004 that sealed the fate of RT. Hopefully this week is a win, just like my senior year…THOSE WERE THE DAYS!
November 6, 1993: Illinois had to win to keep pace for a shot at the Big 10 title. Incredibly, despite starting the season 0-3 due to 1) incompetent quarterback play by Scott Weaver and 2) incompetent nonconference scheduling by the best AD in the country (whupped at Missouri along with 2 home losses to Oregon & Arizona with bad officiating) Illinois was 4-1 in the conference, having won at Michigan among its wins.
I spent my final semester living at 1206 ½ W. Nevada in Urbana, b/k/a Saffer Court. This was a "Real World" house since none of us living there knew each other prior to renting. I chose this place because the landlord agreed to a six-month lease. My housemates consisted of a grad student studying the clarinet; a Japanese student whom we taught English; a kid from Evanston who was running his own computer consulting business; and an older guy from Rockford who dropped out of UI in the early 80s to pursue a modeling career in Europe and had returned to UI to get his degree. Some of my favorite memories of UI are Saffer Court. It was so close to the Quad that I could wake up ten minutes before class and still arrive on time.
As I was graduating in December, I secured a job in Joliet starting in January to save cash money for the expensive tuition to attend a fifth-tier law school. I spent my final semester getting crunk, chasing ladies and taking challenging classes like "Strategies of Basketball Coaching" and "Human Sexuality" and anything else to boost my GPA and offset a mediocre LSAT score!
My parents went with me to the game, my final home game as a student. It was a wintry day with 50,192 cold fans in attendance. Illinois was behind 20-9 with less than five minutes left. Johnny Johnson (North Chicago) was having a terrible day. Despite playing against the worst defense in the Big 10, at one point he was 12 of 40 passing, with five interceptions. My father grew tired of seeing incompetent football and suggested that we leave. My mother and I could not disagree so we started walking to my abode. As we passed the library, we heard a roar from the crowd. Johnson completed an 11 yard pass to Gary Voelker (Oswego) with 4:24 left. Illinois failed on the two-point conversion and now trailed 20-15. The Illinois defense held and forced Minnesota to punt. Illinois took over at its 13-yard line with 1:10 left and no timeouts.
Johnson made two completions, moving the ball to the Illinois 42. He missed two throws. With 0:34 left and third down at the Illinois 43, Johnson scrambled 17 yards to the Minnesota 40. With 0:28 left, Minnesota got flagged for pass interference, moving the ball to the Minnesota 25. Johnson threw incomplete, so it was 2d down at the Minnesota 25 with 0:20 left and again, no timeouts.
At about this moment, we walked into my room and turned on the television. Offensive Coordinator Greg Landry wanted to send in a play, but decided to let Johnson make a call. Johnson called 65 screen right. This was a risky play, because if it didn't get a first down and the player got tackled inbounds, Illinois would lose. Johnson dropped back and passed the ball to Ty Douthard. While his coaches may have wanted him to go out of bounds, Douthard saw an opening and a blocker in front of him. "It was just like the parting of the Red Sea," Douthard said. "I had to get there. I just had to." Douthard ran untouched through the swirling snow to give Illinois the 23-20 win.
Landry gave Johnny Johnson all the credit. "To have five interceptions and keep his head in the game, it's really a great test of character." Johnson finished 18 of 54 passing for 273 yards with two touchdowns and five interceptions. Simeon Rice (Chicago Mt. Carmel) called Johnson's performance "phenomenal."
Tepper said after the win that "we are in the process of becoming Big 10 champs. That may be 1994, but we're going to use every game to become Big 10 champs." Illinois finished the season 5-6 after losing to Penn State and Wisconsin. Thus, despite being 5-3 in the Big 10, Illinois did not go to a bowl game. Illinois did not win the Big 10 in 1994.
My mother could not believe that we missed the end of the game and wagged her finger at my father. I was too ecstatic to blame Dad, so I reached into my fridge for some Guinness. Dad bought dinner (stuffed spinach pizza from Garcia's) and all was well.
Sources: "Illini's timetable to talk title surprisingly gets bumped up a year" by Andrew Bagnato. Chicago Tribune, November 8, 1993. "Johnson redeems self, Illini" by Andrew Bagnato. Chicago Tribune, November 7, 1993. Credit to Detlef's parents for the research.