CHAMPAIGN — It wasn’t as artistic as the Tailgreat or as aesthetic as the surprise fireworks ... and certainly not as eye-popping as a Stanford band that reduced to jackets and boxer shorts in mid-song.
But Mike White’s determined Illini hammered it out Saturday night, beating Stanford 17-7 at jam-packed Memorial Stadium via a perfectly timed TD pass, a blocked punt and vastly improved line play.
The satisfying outcome before 72,852 squared the Illini’s record at 1-1 and sends them to Michigan State next weekend against a 2-0 Spartan aggregation that shocked Notre Dame, 28-23, and helped the Big Ten emerge with a 5-5 standoff against a lineup of powerful foes.
“We played with greater emotion,” said White, referring to the disappointing 28-18 opening loss at Missouri. “But we failed to capitalize on some good opportunities and we can play better. You can’t say we wasted a really good effort. We wore Stanford down after a slow start and we controlled the football much of the second half. It’s something to build on.”
Obtaining the balance White has demanded, the Illini sprang tailback Dwight Beverly for 116 yards in 22 rushes, making him the UI’s first 100-yard rusher since Calvin Thomas and Mike Holmes did it once apiece in 1980. And quarterback Jack Trudeau hit lean sophomore Dave Williams nine times for 111 yards, completing 14 of 25 for 174 yards overall.
It was a Trudeau-to-Williams bullet, drilled perfectly between two Cardinal defenders, that accounted for 30 yards and provided the Illini with a 7-0 getaway midway in the first quarter. But Stanford rebounded from a series of killing penalties to knot it 7-7 on four completions to Mike Tolliver, the TD toss measuring 14 yards from freshman John Paye.
That’s when senior Joe Miles and junior John Ayres set off the fireworks with UI’s most electrifying play of the game.
“We saw the Stanford punter used three steps.” said White, “so we decided to try to block one.”
St. Louisan Tripp Hardin was booting from the edge of his end zone when it happened. Ayres and Miles streaked through the center of Stanford’s man-to-man blocking scheme, and when the upback took Ayres, Miles was free to block the ball with his body. The football nearly bounced out of the end zone but the scrambled Ayres managed to cover it near the back line for a touchdown.
The Associated Press was years away from ranking 25 teams. Here’s how the Top 20 looked like on Sept. 19, 1983:
1. Nebraska (57) 3-0
2. Texas (2) 1-0
3. Ohio State 2-0
4. Arizona 3-0
5. North Carolina 3-0
6. Alabama 2-0
7. Iowa 2-0
8. Oklahoma 1-1
9. Washington 2-0
10. USC 1-0-1
11. Auburn 1-1
12. West Virginia 3-0
13. Notre Dame 1-1
14. Georgia 1-0-1
15. Florida 2-0-1
16. Pittsburgh 2-0
17. Michigan 1-1
18. Southern Methodist 2-0
19. Boston College 3-0
20. Florida State 2-1
And we mean 10. No Penn State, Nebraska, Maryland or Rutgers to worry about. Here are the league’s standings after the Sept. 17 games:
Michigan State 2-0
Ohio State 2-0
30 years ago this week ...
— Arnold Schwarzenegger became a U.S. citizen.
— Franco Harris became the third NFL back to top 11,000 yards in a career.
— The White Sox clinched their first AL West championship.
— Former Cubs pitcher Milt Pappas conceded his missing wife, Carole, was dead after a year missing.
— Vanessa Williams, 20, became the first African-American to win Miss America.
— An Urbana woman was shot and killed in an exchange of gunfire at the Golden Rod Tavern in Champaign.
— Ivesdale, Sadorus, Royal and more than a dozen other communities were in line to get cable TV.