Those Were The Days - Indiana
The expansion of college seasons is fairly amazing. Today Detlef is taking us back to a season opener from the 1970's... a season opener on September 14th. And I just wrote the other day about the first basketball game in 1993 being on December 1st. Now we have Week Zero games in August and I'll attend the second basketball game tonight on November 10th.
That's neither here nor there. Here's Detlef to take us back to 1974.
Illinois hosts Indiana on Saturday, which is also Veterans Day. I trust the Marching Illini will play some patriotic tunes. Perhaps it will perform a duet with Hoosiers fan John Mellencamp? Anyhow, this week's column recalls when Lee Corso roamed the sidelines at Indiana…without a mascot head.
September 14, 1974: Illinois started year four of the Bob Blackman Football Program (BBFP) hoping to earn a winning record. The season started with a contest versus Indiana at Zuppke Field. A stout effort by the Illini defense led to a 16-0 win. Indiana head coach Lee Corso was embarrassed. "I'd have to look this up to make sure, but I don't think I've ever been shut out in my career as a head coach. That's embarrassing." Corso had been blanked once before, but the sting of being shut out must have been erased from his memory by the performance of his own defense. Corso's only previous blanking was a 0-0 tie with Vanderbilt in 1971 when Corso was at Louisville.
And while a good effort by the entire lllini defense held the Hoosier offense at bay most of the game, the man most responsible for holding Indiana scoreless was linebacker Tom Hicks (Willowbrook). Hicks led all tacklers with 16 solo tackles including the four biggest tackles of the ballgame. Late in the first quarter the Hoosiers had the ball first and goal at the Illinois 4-yard line. Hicks stopped Courtney Snyder, who finished with 143 yards on 32 carries, at the two on first down and at the one on second down.
On the last play of the quarter, Bob Kramer tried a quarterback sneak, but Hicks stacked him up at the line of scrimmage. And Hicks opened the second quarter by meeting Snyder at the line to stop Hoosier scoring hopes. lllini coach Bob Blackman gave an understandably high rating of Hicks' performance. "We feel that Tom can be an all-American and the finest linebacker in the country this year," Blackman said. "This is the first he's been completely healthy in his college career and with his size and good speed he should have a great season."
Corso did not agree the goal line stand was the key to the game. Instead he cited Jim Kopatz's (Springfield Lanphier) 40-yard scoring pass to Fuzzy Johnson and tailback Chubby Phillips 22-yard touchdown run after Dan Beaver had given Illinois a 3-0 lead on a 41-yard field goal. "Two plays--the long pass and the long run, made the difference, Corso said. The pass was more good execution on their (Illinois) part than a mistake on ours. Their quarterback (Kopatz) made a good run fake, and our kids took it. It was a perfect pass." Both Blackman and Corso commented on the performance of lllini fullback Steve Greene (Evanston), who rushed for 121 yards in 19 carries. "Greene must be the most underrated back in the Big Ten," Blackman said. "He's a fine blocker and an excellent ball carrier with good balance and great second effort."
Illinois finished the season 6-4-1, 4-3-1, good for fifth place in the Big Ten but no bowl game.
Sources: "Illini Whip Hoosiers in First Season Game" by John Grochowski. Daily Illini: September 16, 1974.