Each week during the season, we’ll look back at how the ‘83 Illini were doing in what turned out to be a magical run to the Rose Bowl. Today: Beating the Buckeyes
CHAMPAIGN — The dark spell of Ohio State football dominance was shattered by Illinois’ battle-back football team here Saturday.
Uplifted by a feverish homecoming crowd of 73,414 in the last two minutes, Mike White’s well- schooled athletes capitalized on one last scoring opportunity only moments after their chances appeared to be washing away in an old-fashioned OSU march.
St. Louis sophomore Thomas Rooks rode a convoy of blockers 21 yards into the north end zone with 1:06 remaining to burst the chains of OSU’s 15-year invincibility. The 17-13 score was identical with 1967, when the Illini last defeated OSU.
Tears of emotional joy flowed from the stadium into the locker room where shouts of “Top 10, Top 10” reverberated around the walls. The Illini, anchored by the best defense since Dick Butkus, now possess five consecutive victories and an incredible Octoberfest spree that has seen them defeat three of the Big Ten’s premier teams with two, Purdue and Michigan, yet to come.
The spectacular finish sent the huge crowd into delirium. Waves of students streamed onto the field with more than 10 seconds left as OSU had no way to stop the countdown and the officials simply got out of their way.
Minutes earlier, the long OSU jinx seemed to have Illinois again by the throat. Penetrating to the OSU 21 with the score 13-10, Trudeau threw under heavy pressure, and the ill-advised toss was deflected and intercepted by safety Kevin Richardson at the 11 with 8:18 remaining.
Earle Bruce’s bruisers made a concerted effort to consume the remaining time, Keith Byars spearheading an overland excursion to the opposite end of the field. But on fourth and 4 at the Illini 19, sub quarterback Jim Karsatos, filling in for injured star Mike Tomczak, rolled left and was bumped out of bounds by Vince Osby at the 17.
Illinois took control at 1:43 and scored at 1:06 without using a timeout. Jack Trudeau fired two identical sideline passes to senior Scott Golden for 24 and 22 yards, then scrambled 16 yards to the OSU 21. Before OSU could gather itself, Trudeau pitched to Rooks on a perfectly engineered sweep that carried into the end zone.
Catching up with ... Thomas Rooks
It was the shot heard ‘round the world. Or, at least, the shot heard ‘round the Big Ten.
Thirty years ago, Thomas Rooks took the ball from Jack Trudeau and scampered 21 yards for a historic touchdown against Ohio State. Illinois beat the Buckeyes for the first time in forever, continuing their march toward a 9-0 Big Ten season and a spot in the Rose Bowl.
Today, Rooks is in construction management for Clayco, a St. Louis firm.
The father of three has a daughter, Taylor, who is continuing the family tradition at Illinois. She is a senior in broadcast journalism. Rooks’ son Philip is 24, and his daughter Ryan is 15. Rooks also has a grandson, Jalen.
Rooks often thinks about his golden Illini moment.
“There are so many great memories. Fans bring it up so much.”
How did you feel when you ran into the end zone?
“Jack audibled, and I took it to the right. We had practiced it a lot. It was great blocking by the O-line. The rest was history.”
Describe the crowd at that game.
“It was a great time for the fans. It was a great time for me and my teammates. Looking at the film, it’s still exciting. I was happy to be part of such a great team.”
David Edwards had two INTs in that game. How big were they?
“David played a great game. Team sports is awesome. It’s about life. You win and you lose as a team. Together we won. Vince Osby was the unsung hero. He made the stop for us to be able to get the ball to march down the field.”
Did you understand how important it was to beat the Buckeyes?
“Not at the time. We were just trying to win every game. Thirty years later, it was one of the greatest times of my life.”
Have you seen your touchdown on replay?
“When I was there for a game last year, the play was on the big screen. I hadn’t seen it in a while.”
Do you still follow the team?
“I’m a great fan. I’m Orange and Blue until I die.”
The Associated Press rankings on Oct. 17, 1983:
1. Nebraska (7-0)
2. Texas (5-0)
3 North Carolina (7-0)
4. West Virginia (6-0)
5. Auburn (5-1)
6. Florida (5-0-1)
7. Georgia (5-0-1)
8. Miami (6-1)
9. SMU (5-0)
10. Michigan (5-1)
11. Illinois (5-1)
12. Iowa (5-1)
13. Arizona St. (4-0-1)
14. Washington (5-1)
15. Maryland (5-1)
16. Oklahoma (4-2)
17. Ohio State (5-1)
18. BYU (5-1)
19. Arizona (5-1-1)
20. Alabama (4-2)
After the Oct. 15 games:
Big Ten Overall
Illinois 4-0 5-1
Michigan 4-0 5-1
Iowa 3-1 5-1
Ohio State 2-2 5-1
Wisconsin 2-2 4-2
Indiana 2-2 3-3
Purdue 1-2-1 1-4-1
Northwestern 1-3 1-5
Michigan St. 0-3-1 2-3-1
Minnesota 0-4 1-5
30 years ago this week ...
— Champaign firefighters are pelted with debris thrown by students while responding to a call on East John.
— Rally in Manila calls for Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos to step down.
— China plans to purge 3 million of 40 million members from Communist Party.
— Chuck Mangione tickets on sale for Danville Civic Center performance.
— PLO chief Yasser Arafat (right) supports talks between group and Jordan seeking peace with Israel.
— Jim Belushi plans to join cast of “Saturday Night Live.”