Each week this fall, 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: Taking it to Michigan
(Oct. 30, 1983)
CHAMPAIGN — The Fighting Illini, surging into the national limelight behind San Franciscan Mike White and a large cast of Californians, were virtually conceded the Rose Bowl berth Saturday following a long-awaited 16-6 triumph over Michigan.
By winning just two of their last three games against the Big Ten’s tailenders, these transplanted Californians — Jack Trudeau, Dave Williams, Dwight Beverly, Tim Brewster and all of those linebackers — are assured of spending the holidays in familiar territory. And their teammates are equally eager to participate in the experience.
“We’ve beaten the best, and we’re going to finish undefeated in the Big Ten,” promised Brewster. “That’s our goal. We’ll take a couple days off and we’ll come back next week as strong as ever. There’ll be no letdown against Minnesota, Indiana and Northwestern. We’ve come too far to give up now.”
Wearing dark blue jerseys and pants, just as they did in blanking Iowa, the Illini generated the same rock-ribbed defense that has been the key to Illinois’ seven-game winning streak and 6-0 Big Ten record, Amazingly, it stopped Michigan without a touchdown for only the second time in 72 games.
It was a tug-of-war in the trenches. The Fighting Illini gave ground grudgingly against twin tailbacks Rick Rogers and Kerry Smith and the Wolverines’ ball-control attack, then feverishly protected Jack Trudeau while he picked apart a formidable Michigan defense to set up TD passes to sophomores Thomas Rooks and Williams.
White dedicated the game to the fans, and the biggest crowd in Memorial Stadium history, swelling to 76,182 due to some 2,500 colorful band members, unquestionably contributed to the memorable occasion. When Michigan threatened on its first possession, they created so much noise that quarterback Steve Smith asked the officials for relief. The Wolverines produced a field goal out of that initial penetration, a 38-yarder by senior walk-on Bob Bergeron, and it was their only lead of the game.
Trudeau passed Illinois to the Michigan 27 on the second possession, but White elected to punt into the stout northeast wind rather than attempt a 44-yard field goal. White’s surprising strategy worked as Joe Miles downed the ball on the 7-yard line, and Trudeau & Co. soon had the football moving again.
Catching up with Craig Swoope
The offense earned a lot of attention. But Illinois wouldn’t have won the Big Ten title in 1983 without the work of the defense. Craig Swoope was one of the leaders of the unit. The Florida native still stands tied for third on the Illinois career interception list with 13. Swoope has spent some time in C-U recently as his wife Angela completes her doctorate at Illinois. Swoope, who is about to turn 50, has two kids, son Craig Jr. and daughter Shai.
What do you remember about playing Michigan?
It was a great game. We had a great day defensively. We hadn’t beaten Michigan in a while. We were both undefeated, and whoever won the game would have the inside track to the Rose Bowl. That was a great day.
Were you disappointed about not pitching a shutout?
No, getting the win was just as great.
What made your team special?
We played for each other. We cared for each other. It was a united team. We loved being around each other. We had a lot of fun.
The offense got a lot of the credit, but the defense was very good.
They get all the credit. Jack (Trudeau) and David (Williams) and Thomas Rooks and those guys. But the defense felt like we helped out. We had our own identity. We stood out just as well.
Do you still hate Michigan?
Always. That’s forever. I bleed Orange and Blue. I hate Michigan. I hate Ohio State. I hate Iowa. I hate them all.
What do you think about the current team?
They are heading in the right direction. They need a little bit more depth. I always root for them. It’s a matter of time. I like to think positive.
The Associated Press rankings on Oct. 31, 1983:
1. Nebraska (57) 9-0
2. Texas (2) 7-0
3. Auburn 7-1
4. Georgia 7-0-1
5. Miami 8-1
6. Illinois 7-1
7. Maryland 7-1
8. SMU 6-1
9. Florida 6-1-1
10. North Carolina 7-1
11. Oklahoma 6-2
12. BYU 7-1
13. Michigan 6-2
14. Ohio State 6-2
15. Iowa 6-2
16. Boston College 6-1
17. West Virginia 6-2
18. Notre Dame 6-2
19. Alabama 5-2
20. Washington 6-2
After the Oct. 29 games:
Big Ten Overall
Illinois 6-0 7-1
Michigan 5-1 6-2
Iowa 4-2 6-2
Ohio State 4-2 6-2
Wisconsin 3-3 5-3
Purdue 2-3-1 2-5-1
Indiana 2-4 3-5
Northwestern 2-4 2-6
Michigan State 1-4-1 3-4-1
Minnesota 0-6 1-7
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