ILLINI LEGENDS, LISTS & LORE: Memorable Opening-Game Plays
Nothing helps fans enjoy games more than a memorable play, especially in a season opening contest. In Illinois’ 2000 opener, a 62-yard run by Rocky Harvey paced the Illini to a convincing 35-6 victory over Middle Tennessee. One season before that, Eugene Wilson’s 65-yard punt return led UI past Arkansas State. And, in Illinois’ 1991 season-opening win vs. East Carolina, Mike Poloskey recorded a record-tying four quarterback sacks. Here are some other big plays by the Illini in recent lid-lifters:
1975: Scott Studwell returned an interception 29 yards for a touchdown as Illinois beat host Iowa, 27-12.
1980: In Mike White’s coaching debut, Illinois took advantage of a 53-yard touchdown run by Mike Holmes to defeat Michigan State.
1984: In the earliest season-opener ever, David Wilson’s first-quarter 33-yard reception from Jack Trudeau gave Illinois a 7-0 lead. The Illini went on to defeat Northwestern, 24-16.
1989: A tipped-pass reception by Shawn Wax resulted in a 53-yard touchdown, beginning Illinois’ comeback victory on national television vs. Southern California.
1994: It wasn’t a victory, but Simeon Rice had one of his best efforts vs. Washington State, sacking Washington State’s quarterbacks five times.
2001: Brandon Lloyd’s 49-yard TD catch in the second quarter helped Illinois destroy host California in the season opener, 44-17.
2005: It was only a two-yard effort, but Pierre Thomas’ overtime touchdown completed Illinois’ come-from-behind victory vs. Rutgers in Ron Zook’s coaching debut.
Sunday: Carl Perry, wrestling (36)
Monday: Dick Dorr, football (70)
Tuesday: Scott Studwell, football (59)
Wednesday: Becky Biehl, golf (40)
Thursday: Perdita Felicien, track & field (33)
Friday: J.J. Simmons, football (29)
Saturday: Tal Brody, basketball (70)
By Mike Pearson, author of Illini Legends, Lists & Lore.
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