Each week this fall, we’ll look back at how the ‘83 Illini were doing in what turned out to be a magical run to the Rose Bowl.
Today: Routing the Gophers
(Nov. 6, 1983)
MINNEAPOLIS — Mike White’s Fighting Illini weathered the midgame threat of blitzing, passing Minnesota Saturday night to win, 50-23, and move within one big victory of the long-sought Rose Bowl.
“We were asleep at the switch a few times tonight, and that includes me,” said White to his athletes, “but we got what we wanted. All the seniors will be captains against Indiana next weekend and we’ll have a chance to clinch the Big Ten championship and the Rose Bowl in front of our own fans in Champaign. What more could we ask?”
The postgame period brought no more show of emotion than the contest itself. With most of 35,514 fans sitting on their hands, Illinois led from the third minute, built it to 20-0 in the second quarter and responded to the excitement created by three Brett Sadek TD passes with a steady stream of touchdowns.
The 50-point spree was the most points since the 1973 UI team beat Iowa, 50-0, and the 8-game streak matches the longest UI streak since 1946-47. Junior safety David Edwards started last night’s triumph with a fumble recovery and capped it with a 35-yard return on an interception.
In between, sophomores Jack Trudeau, David Williams and Thomas Rooks laid more foundation for future All-America quests. With Minnesota repeatedly rushing six or seven men — “I never saw anyone blitz so much,” said White — Trudeau completed 25 of 38 passes for 342 yards and three touchdowns. Williams caught 11 passes for 188 yards and two scores and Rooks scored twice.
But Sadek, who left the game in the fourth period with a shoulder separation — another in a long string of Gopher injuries — made it interesting with 17-for-24 passing. He hit two long TD passes to Dwayne McMullen (30 and 34 yards) and a 13-yarder to Fred Hartwig.
UI defensive head coach Max McCartney spoke for his proud unit when he said upon reaching the locker room: “I think we’re still ahead, aren’t we?”
Actually, as has been the season trend, Illinois was in control at the end, outscoring Minnesota’s dwindling forces 16-0 in the last quarter to ice it. Illinois’ fourth-period point margin is 69-13 this season.
Sadek, showing freshman jitters, fumbled the ball away twice in the first four minutes to dig a deep hole for the Gophers. Edwards recovered on a blitz at the Gopher 15, and Rooks dove in from the 1-yard line with just 2:35 elapsed.
The Illini failed to capitalize on a recovery moments later by linebacker Ed Brady but rode a 42-yard Mitch Brookins reception to the 18, and Chris White booted a 40-yard field goal.
White added another 3-pointer from 48 yards early in the second quarter when quarterback Ken Cruz directed the Illini into Gopher territory. But the coach’s plan to use Cruz more extensively was called off when Cruz reported blurred vision stemming from a bump on the head.
Illinois made it 20-0 when Dwight Beverly swept end for 13 yards following a 44-yard interference call on a long pass towards Brookins.
That’s when the Gophers came to life. Sedek took the home forces 70 yards just before the intermission, firing a 33-yarder to McMullen, who outmaneuvered freshmen Keith Taylor in the end zone.
Receiver Cam Benson’s fumble set up Minnesota’s Jim Gallery for a field goal in the third quarter, and Trudeau’s perfect pass to Scott Golden wound up in the hands of the Gophers to give Gallery another chance. However, he missed and Trudeau put Illinois ahead 27-10 with a 77-yard TD pass to Williams.
That should have quieted the uprising, but it didn’t. But Minnesota forced Chris White to make two kickoff return saves at midfield, and Sadek passed the Gophers on in. He fired 13 yards to Hartwig for the score, and Trudeau retaliated with six compilations in an 80-yard assault, capping it with a 7-yard flip to Rooks.
Sadek struck again in the wild, 30-point third stanza, using McMullen for a 30-yard reception before the fourth quarter arrived and the Illini, ahead 34-23 but were struggling when the defense finally brought order to the contest.
New quarterback Greg Murphy, in for Sadek, was sacked by Archie Carter and Rob Glielmi for Illinois’ second safety in two weeks, and the Illini scored twice more in the last 3:06, first on Trudeau’s 17-yard lob pass to Williams and then on Edwards’ 35-yard interception return.
1. Nebraska 10-0
2. Texas 8-0
3. Auburn 8-1
4. Georgia 8-0-1
5. Illinois 8-1
6. Miami 9-1
7. Southern Methodist 7-1
8. Brigham Young 8-1
9. Michigan 7-2
10. Ohio State 7-2
11. Maryland 7-2
12. Iowa 7-2
13. Boston College 7-1
14. Florida 6-2-1
15. West Virginia 7-2
16. Alabama 6-2
17. Clemson 7-1-1
18. Washington 7-2
19. North Carolina 7-2
20. Pittsburgh 7-2
And we mean 10. No Penn State, Nebraska, Maryland or Rutgers to worry about. Here are the league’s standings after the Nov. 5 games:
Big Ten Overall
Illinois 7-0 8-1
Michigan 6-1 7-2
Iowa 5-2 7-2
Ohio State 5-2 7-2
Wisconsin 3-4 5-4
Michigan State 2-4-1 4-4-1
Purdue 2-4-1 3-5-1
Indiana 2-5 3-6
Northwestern 2-5 2-7
Minnesota 0-7 0-9
30 years ago this week ...
— The Rev. Jesse Jackson announces he will seek the 1984 Democratic presidential nomination
— George “Papa Bear” Halas dies at his home on Chicago’s North Side at age 88
— Tom Cruise stars in “All the Right Moves,” showing at Market Place Cinema
— UI prepares for Rose Bowl ticket sales, priced at $30.50 each
— Lillian Carter, mother of President Jimmy Carter, dies at 85