Don Thorp was at his best in the Illini's 20-10 victory against the host Spartans, columnist Loren Tate wrote.
EAST LANSING, Mich. — Mike White’s Fighting Illini laid the groundwork Saturday for a larger-than-life Big Ten showdown with Iowa next weekend.
Punishing Michigan State in the trenches and leaving five key Spartans on the severely injured list, Illinois defeated Michigan State for the fourth year in a row, 20-10. Illinois (2-1 overall), will host unbeaten and high-ranked Iowa in a matchup of 1-0 Big Ten records on the first day of telltale October.
As in the 10-point win over Stanford a week earlier, Illinois prevailed with an increasingly stern defense and a balanced offense that has yet to capitalize as thoroughly as White would hope.
“We’re getting better, but we’re still searching for our personality,” said White. “Michigan State’s injuries were unfortunate. We don’t like to see that. We didn’t change anything. We just stayed with our game plan and kept mixing it up. I felt we were the stronger team in the fourth quarter.”
With sun bathing the new Spartan Astroturf and a packed house of 75,867 in attendance, the Michigan State mood soon changed from one of high expectations (based on the upset of Notre Dame a week earlier) to one of dismay. Whatever hopes were held for the immediate future of the Spartans dissipated in the second quarter when Illinois marched for two touchdowns and injuries started to pile up (starting quarterback Dave Yarema, All-Big Ten linebacker Carl Banks, ace linebacker Derek Bunch, offensive guard John Wojciechowski and No. 2 QB Rick Kolb).
Tackles Mark Butkus and Don Thorp were the bulwarks. Butkus leading the team with eight tackles (three behind the line) and a fumble recovery, while Thorp received the ABC-TV award as the UI’s premier player.
Despite two interceptions on underthrown passes, Illini Jack Trudeau was a deadly 20 for 30 as the Illini again mixed 189 aerial yards with 134 net rushing yards (this despite 10 negative-yardage plays).
The victory squared the UI-Michigan State series at 11-11 (1 tie) and was only the fourth UI win in the last 14 NCAA-network TV appearances.
The Associated Press was years away from ranking 25 teams. Here’s how the Top 20 looked like — still no signs of the Illini — on Sept. 26, 1983:
1. Nebraska (60) 4-0
2. Texas 2-0
3. Arizona 4-0
4. Iowa 3-0
5. North Carolina 4-0
6. Alabama 3-0
7. West Virginia 4-0
8. Ohio State 2-1
9. Oklahoma 2-1
10. Auburn 2-1
11. Georgia 2-0-1
12. Florida 3-0-1
13. SMU 3-0
14. Michigan 2-1
15. Miami 3-1
16. LSU 2-1
17. Florida State 2-1
18. Washington 2-1
19. Maryland 2-1
20. Arizona State 2-0-1
And we mean 10. No Penn State, Nebraska, Maryland or Rutgers to worry about. Here are the league’s standings after the Sept. 24 games:
Michigan State 2-1
Ohio State 2-1
30 years ago this week ...
— UI Chancellor John Cribbet announces he is stepping down to return to teaching and scholarship
— UI offers Physics 199, an experimental class on nuclear weapons issues
— 12-pack of Blatz costs $2.69 at Richards
— Shorts IGA on South Mattis shuts its doors
— Poland’s Lech Walesa stands by Solidarity movement
— U.S. warships shell Syrian-held central Lebanon
— Eight armed robberies take place in four days in Champaign