Those Were The Days - Nebraska

Oct 28, 2022

We are officially on "will Robert make it to Lincoln?" watch. Here's the update and then we will get to Detlef's TWTD.

I've been in Idaho for 10 days. My youngest son has been in Idaho for six weeks helping my middle son finish the house he's building. Youngest son is headed back to Missouri now, so the plan is to drive with him to Lincoln and then go to the game together.

Except his truck overheated and we're somewhere on the side of the road in Wyoming. We think we found the leak in a radiator hose and some guy took my son to an auto parts store so... stay tuned for further updates. We now return you to our regularly scheduled programming woth Detlef taking us back to... 1978?

I'm gonna be honest I don't have time to proofread this so whatever Detlef says below this line is on Detlef. Good luck, everyone.

Illinois visits Nebraska this week in the impostor Memorial Stadium. Our boys have rarely won games against Nebraska. I could write about last year's game victory. However, for a change of pace, we are going into the Orange & Blue time machine when Illinois football was trying to revive itself under the leadership of a second-year head coach. Sound familiar?

September 30, 1978: In 1977, Gary Moeller took over the football program from Bob Blackman, who Athletic Director Cecil Coleman (worst AD in UI history) unceremoniously fired. Blackman did a solid job at Illinois, considering the brutal non-conference schedules he faced yearly and the "Big 2/Little 8" status of the Big 10 in those days. This included a winning record in 1974, the first since 1965. Regardless, Coleman hired Moeller who promptly installed a Michigan-style power running game offense. This made for some hard feelings among team members whom Blackman recruited to play a totally different style of football. The program experienced growing pains in 1977, finishing 3-8.

Illinois started the 1978 season by tying Northwestern 0-0. No, that is not a misprint. This game is still called the "Futility Bowl." Losses at Michigan and at home to Stanford stretched the Illini's futility streak at seven games going back to 1977. The media heavily criticized the team after the Stanford defeat. Illinois now travelled to Syracuse, also seeking its first victory of the season. Somebody had to win before a crowd of 20,101 in crumbling Archbold Stadium, soon to be replaced by the Carrier Dome.

Illinois got off to a fast start as Greg Foster took the opening kickoff 82 yards to the Syracuse 15-yard line. "We knew we'd win on the first drive," said offensive tackle Tim Norman (West Chicago). Larry Powell capped the drive with a two-yard touchdown run. After stopping Syracuse, the offense again scored a touchdown after a long drive of 80 yards. This time, Powell scored from three yards out to give Illinois a 14-0 lead. On that drive Eric Rouse (Chicago Mendel Catholic) caught a 30-yard pass from quarterback Lawrence McCullough.

Syracuse scored at the end of the first quarter to make the score 14-7. In the second quarter, neither team could do anything until Illinois got the ball back with five minutes left. Illinois capped a 14-play, 70-yard drive with a one-yard run by McCullough with twenty seconds left in the half. The drive included a 13-yard run by McCullough and a 23-yard pass to fullback Wayne Strader (Geneseo).

Illinois put the game on ice in the third quarter. With 11 minutes left, Illinois went on a methodical 13-play, 80-yard drive capped by another short McCullough run. The drive included runs totaling 23 yards from McCullough. Syracuse scored a late consolation touchdown in the fourth quarter on an end-around by Art Monk. Yes, that would be future Pro Football Hall of Fame wide receiver Art Monk. Final Score: Illinois 28, Syracuse 14.

McCullough, filling in for the injured Rich Weiss (New Trier East), steadily guided the attack. He directed the offense to a total of 425 yards. Illinois dominated the line of scrimmage, running for 324 yards! McCullough's day included 73 rushing yards, two touchdown runs and 7 of 10 passing for 101 yards. Wayne Strader contributed 96 rushing yards. Powell added 73 rushing yards. The defense stood tall with three interceptions, two by Lloyd Levitt (Niles North).

Coach Moeller felt relieved after the victory. "This victory was like a new toy for the kids. They were jumping around and dancing." When asked about the players singing "Illinois Loyalty" after the victory, Moeller replied "We sing it after victories. Only we haven't done that a lot lately." Way to inspire your team, Coach! Moeller, however, refused to allow the press into the locker room, as a sign of "us against the world." Further, he took a shot at the media. "My toughest job this week was convincing them that they are all not losers, which some people have said they are." This was the only victory for Illinois in 1978 as the Fighting Illini finished 1-8-2.

Sources: "Illinois avenges criticism at expense of Syracuse" by John Husar. Chicago Tribune: October 1, 1978.


Dan Allen on October 28, 2022 @ 02:54 PM

1-8-2 that season. Mike White was a Godsend in 1980.

Dman68 on October 28, 2022 @ 04:00 PM

I loved the arched "ILLINI" on the helmets. I was sad to see it go after White left. I hope that it can return someday. on October 28, 2022 @ 10:42 PM

You may want to just take out the thermostat and drive a few cold engine miles to nearest the shop.

jfinsocal on October 29, 2022 @ 11:44 AM

With the exception of 1997, this was the absolute low point of Illini football that I can personally remember.

CapitalCityOutlaw50 on October 30, 2022 @ 12:19 PM

In 1977, Gary Moeller took over the football program from Bob Blackman, who Athletic Director Cecil Coleman (worst AD in UI history) unceremoniously fired.

Did we really, actually have at one time a worse AD than Mike Thomas??

detlef on October 30, 2022 @ 08:12 PM

this is a fair point.

on July 3, 2023 @ 03:59 PM


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