Illini Legends, Lists & Lore
Season-finale highlights vs. Northwestern
Twenty-three years ago, coach John Mackovic’s Illini football team defeated Northwestern in the regular season finale 28-23 to win a share of the Big Ten title with Iowa, Michigan and Michigan State. Howard Griffith established an Illinois single-game rushing record with 263 yards on 37 carries. After the game, Illinois accepted an invitation to the Hall of Fame Bowl to play Clemson. The Wildcats have been the Illini’s most common opponent in final games. Saturday’s matchup against Northwestern will mark the 49th time the two schools have closed a campaign, with the Wildcats holding a 24-23-1 lead in those games. Here are some of the more memorable contests:
Nov. 22, 1941: Bob Zuppke coached his final game at Illinois, losing 27-0 to Northwestern.
Nov. 23, 1946: Illinois’ 20-0 victory against the Wildcats clinched its first Rose Bowl bid.
Nov. 25, 1950: Northwestern stopped Illinois at the 7-yard line as time ran out, denying the Illini a trip to the Rose Bowl.
Nov. 24, 1951: Illinois placekicker Sam Rebecca kicked a 16-yard field goal in the second quarter, providing the Illini with a 3-0 victory and a berth in the 1952 Rose Bowl.
Nov. 21, 1953: Illinois won at Evanston 39-14 to clinch a share of the Big Ten championship with Michigan State. The Spartans, however, got the Rose Bowl bid.
Nov. 23, 1974: Illinois’ 28-14 win against Northwestern in the season finale gave the UI its first winning season since 1965.
Nov. 25, 1989: Illini quarterback Jeff George led the Orange & Blue to a 63-14 rout against the Wildcats. It was the UI’s most points in a Big Ten game since 1908.
Nov. 22, 2001: On Thanksgiving Day at Memorial Stadium, 10th-ranked Illinois defeated Northwestern 34-28 to win at least a share of its first Big Ten crown since 1990.
Today: Daniel Dufrene, football (27)
Monday: Justin DuVernois, football (21)
Tuesday: Thomas Rooks, football (50)
Wednesday: Nick Gow, track & field (34)
Thursday: Jenna Miller, softball (19)
Friday: Justin & Jordan Parr, baseball (23)
Saturday: Jennifer Lynch, golf (41)
By Mike Pearson, author of Illini Legends, Lists & Lore.
Get Illini birthdays, trivia and historical tidbits daily on Twitter @B1GLLL