Those Were The Days - Purdue
The best TWTD articles (for me) are the ones that go back before I was a fan. My Illini football timeline begins around 1982-1983 or so, and the game that Detlef has chosen for today is 20 years prior to that. Here's Detlef taking us all the way back to the Rose Bowl season of 1963.
This week Illinois hosts Purdue in the fight for the Cannon. Last year's close loss still grinds my gears. Illinois punted on 4th down and two yards to go from the Purdue 34-yard line. Purdue got the ball at its own six-yard line and drove for the winning touchdown.
On a complete side note, I was angry and drunk after the game. I left our house to get a pizza so I could sober up to watch SEC football that night. I left my eyeglasses on the table and when I came back our young black Labrador Jett had them in her mouth. Fortunately Jett didn't swallow them but they were ruined so I had to get a new pair. Anyhow, this week's tale recalls when Illinois won the Cannon along the way to a special season.
November 2, 1963: Illinois entered the contest at 4-0-1, its only blemish a tie at #8 Ohio State. Illinois was 2-0-1 in Big Ten play and had just won at UCLA by the score of 18-12. Further, Illinois was ranked 2nd in the Associated Press poll behind Texas! Those Were The Days! Illinois looked to beat up on Purdue and continue its dream of a Rose Bowl berth.
This was one of the rare occasions in Illinois football history where everything went right for the beloved as Illinois cruised to a 41-21 win before a crowd of 61,796 at Memorial Stadium. "This was one of those games when everything goes right. It was a real fine game and I am really proud of the team," said head Coach Pete Elliott. Elliott, in a press conference after the game that was almost as hectic as the victory itself, could not single out any individual player as the best. It was, he said, a fine team effort all the way around. "It was one of those games when we just weren't making any mistakes on offense. All our quarterbacks did an exceptional job -- Mike Taliaferro (Wheaton), Fred Custardo (Proviso East) and Ron Acks (Carbondale) while he was in there."
Purdue initially had success with the tackle eligible pass. Pete Elliott said it was a surprise. "The first time we saw it we sat and waited for a lot of things. Then we caught on to what they were doing and tried to make some adjustments in the second quarter. When they came back with it in the second half we were ready for them." The Illini were ready, as they limited Purdue quarterback Ron DiGravio to only four completions out of 14 attempts after a halftime margin of a phenomenal 12 out of 17 completions. The Boilermaker slinger obviously impressed Elliott as he ground out 206 yards through the air. "We had to make that adjustment at halftime. "
Pete Elliott said this was a different kind of a game for both teams. "Both Purdue and Illinois had been more outstanding on defense than offense, but this was just another kind of game. We received our best offensive blocking during the game." It certainly was heartening to all loyal Illini to finally see Illinois explode offensively, and put an end to relying almost entirely on fine defensive plays that halt the opposition and set up TDs for the offense. But the defense didn't let down, either. Dick Butkus (Chicago Vocational) made15 tackles and the Illini held the Boilermakers to a mere 48 net yards gained rushing. Further, the defense forced five fumbles and kept Purdue out of Illinois territory for a great portion of the game and intercepted a key pass. Also, two of Purdue's TDs were scored while Illinois played its third and fourth string players.
Since the Illini had yet to really run away with a game, these players could be easily forgiven since it was -- for many of them -- the first time they had played all year. Forty-four Illinois players in all entered the game. When it looked like Rich Callaghan (Champaign!) had intercepted a pass in the first quarter the referees said he had trapped it on the ground and ruled it an incomplete pass--quite a break for DiGravio. But Callaghan couldn't quite believe the referee's call and slammed his helmet to the ground in anger. A reporter told Pete he thought Rich would bet money he caught that pass. Elliott said he would too, considering the way Callaghan acted. Callaghan, one of the easiest going guys on the team, must have really felt he had it to explode the way he did.
Elliott thought that the first quarter was the best one the Illini had played all season, as they scored the first three times they got their hands on the ball. Pete attributed this to some breaks they got: "We were fortunate to get the wind the first quarter which gave us the field position to make that quarter our best all year." Just before the press conference broke up, Elliott asked for the Michigan-Northwestern score (Illinois would play Michigan next week). When a reporter told him his brother, the head coach at Michigan, had beaten the Wildcats 27-6, Pete shook his head and said "Well, it looks like we still have three big ones to go." Although Illinois lost the next week to Michigan, it still won the Big Ten title and the Rose Bowl over Washington in one of the best seasons in Illinois football history.
Sources: "Pete Satisfied With Win" by Larry Beaupre. Daily Illini: November 5, 1963.