Happy Birthday, Coach White!
Illini Legends, Lists & Lore
The 1982 Liberty Bowl
The 1982 Illini football season will be remembered for many reasons. The year began with a highly successful “Tailgreat” promotion and a big win against Northwestern in Memorial Stadium’s first night game. It was the season Tony Eason established an all-time record for passing proficiency. And it was the year Illinois went “bowling” for the first time in 19 years. Thirty-one years ago today, coach Mike White’s Illini were pitted against Alabama in the Liberty Bowl. It turned out to be the final game for the Crimson Tide’s legendary coach, Paul “Bear” Bryant. Bryant, who won more games than any other coach in college football, announced his retirement two weeks before, making the bowl game one of the season’s top attractions. The night was clear, and the 34-degree weather favored Alabama’s wishbone attack. Illinois trailed the Tide 7-6 at the half, as Alabama defenders repeatedly pummeled Eason with a ferocious pass rush. On three occasions, crushing Alabama tackles forced Eason from the game. Despite a record 423 yards passing by Eason, Illinois dropped a 21-15 decision, giving the Bear his 323rd and final collegiate victory.
Sunday: Jim Journell, baseball (36)
Monday: Kirk Johnson, football (37)
Tuesday: Sarah Hartwell, basketball (21)
Wednesday: Rod Fletcher, basketball (83)
Thursday: Vic Shockey, track & field (53)
Friday: Eddie Hungate, football (49)
Saturday: Mike White, football coach (77)
By Mike Pearson, author of Illini Legends, Lists & Lore
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