Grabowski, Howard join Butkus, Grange on stadium scoreboard

Grabowski, Howard join Butkus, Grange on stadium scoreboard

CHAMPAIGN – The fans have spoken and they want Dick Butkus and Red Grange back on the Memorial Stadium scoreboard.

The players with the only two retired Illinois numbers were landslide winners in an Internet poll conducted by the school. The other two spots on the four panels will be filled by Butkus Award winner Dana Howard and former star running back Jim Grabowski, currently the school''s radio analyst.

"I think it''s great," Illinois coach Ron Turner said. "We want to keep that history and that tradition going. They (Howard and Grabowski) are two great players who have stayed active and stayed involved with the university. Not only great players, but great people."

Turner encourages football alums to be involved with the program. Former Illini John Holecek was on the sidelines during Saturday''s game against Missouri.

"I want those who played here to take pride in the program and feel a part of the program because they are," Turner said.

The school doesn''t know if it will continue to rotate the panels in future years. During 2002, the panels included Butkus, Grange, George Halas and J.C. Caroline, who were all former Illini and ex-Chicago Bears.

Officially speaking

Turner has had a disagreement or two with Big Ten officials. Saturday, he got to meet a new crew.

The Big 12 officials working the game called two penalties against Missouri.

"The referees should have been eating popcorn," Turner said. "They were spectators and nothing more."

Turner recognized referee Randy Christal.

"These guys worked the Fiesta Bowl, so you can remember that game," Turner said. "The same referee. He told me before the game. I said, ''Have we had you before? You look familiar. I guess it was maybe just on TV.'' He said, ''Maybe you watched the Fiesta Bowl.''

"This game, they just decided, ''Well, we just won''t call anything and then we''ll be safe,'' unless everybody in the stadium sees a lineman setting a few seconds early that my wife could have called. That''s about all they called."

Turner wanted to see a call on a 19-yard Missouri gain in the fourth quarter.

Illinois linebacker Matt Sinclair appeared to be pushed in the back by Missouri tight end J.D. McCoy.

"That was a huge play," Turner said. "(Sinclair) had a good angle and was going to make the tackle until all of the sudden he got shoved and landed on his face. Usually when you''re shoved and land on your face you''re not shoved in the front."

At one point, Turner went far onto the field to voice a complaint. Though he never has been called for unsportsmanlike conduct, Turner said he got close Saturday.

"He told me to get back," Turner said. "He actually reached (for his penalty flag), so I thought I was going to get my first flag. Big Ten guys wouldn''t do it. I''ve had them reach a few times. I''ve had them say, ''What did you say?'' and I had to change what I said."

Rewind button

Watching the film didn''t change Turner''s impression of his team''s effort against Missouri.

"I loved our attitude," Turner said. "We were playing with great intensity. Defensively, we were flying better than I''ve ever seen since I''ve been here. We played pretty well defensively. Offensively, we were flying around, too. We just made some mistakes."

Illinois outgained Missouri by 188 yards. Most times that would be enough for a win.

"Normally, unless you turn the ball over and get a punt blocked," Turner said. "If you make those big mistakes and they don''t make any, then you''re going to be in trouble."

Losing their heads

The helmets were flying off at a record pace Saturday, Illinois linebackers Sinclair and Antonio Mason among the players losing their head protection during tackles.

"I don''t know why," Turner said. "If it keeps happening, we''ll have to look at the helmets. But I think it was just a coincidence."

Pro form

The top four Illinois receivers from the 2002 season all have made NFL rosters. Philadelphia''s Greg Lewis and Indianapolis'' Aaron Moorehead, who signed as free agents, both found out this weekend they had made the cut. Draftees Walter Young (Carolina) and Brandon Lloyd (San Francisco) both are vying for spots in their rotations.

"I''m happy for those guys," Turner said. "Two of those guys (Lewis and Moorehead) are former walk-ons. I think that''s going to help people here and help with recruiting. It will send a message to Lonnie (Hurst) and Kelvin (Hayden) and those guys that if you do what we ask you to do and do it our way, you''re going to get into camp and you''re going to have a head start. I believe that''s helped them."

You can reach Bob Asmussen at (217) 351-5233 or via e-mail at rasmusse@news-gazette.com.

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