Daniels: ESPN highlights for Illini

Daniels: ESPN highlights for Illini

Must-see TV
Once Tim Beckman finished his stay at Big Ten Media Days, he had more media obligations. Like getting in a plane and flying to Bristol, Conn. The Illinois football coach is making his second annual trip to ESPN headquarters, and so are the 13 other Big Ten coaches. Beckman plans on bringing both his sons, Tyler and Alex, with him on the trip after his wife, Kim, and daughter, Lindsay, went out there last year.

“It’s awesome,” Beckman said. “It’s a great opportunity for our family, and it’s great to see how ESPN is structured.”

Beckman will appear on several different ESPN platforms during his stay. That got us to thinking about some memorable Illinois football and basketball games ESPN has captured since the network started in 1978:

Illinois vs. Northwestern, Nov. 20, 2010 (ESPNU)
The setting at Wrigley Field was memorable. So was the fact only one end zone was used. And the 330 rushing yards Mikel Leshoure churned out in a record-setting performance made the 48-27 Illini win all the more enjoyable.   

Illinois at Michigan, Oct. 23, 1999 (ESPN-Plus)
Rocky Harvey’s famous dive into the end zone after a 59-yard touchdown run and Kurt Kittner’s near-flawless passing helped end a three-game losing streak the Illini were on as Illinois won five of its final six games that year.

Illinois vs. Baylor, Dec. 29, 2010 (ESPN)
The Texas Bowl victory was the third bowl appearance by the Illini in the 21st century and first bowl win since the 1999 Micronpc.com Bowl. Smothering defense contained Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III less than a year before he won the 2011 Heisman Trophy.

Wisconsin at Illinois, Oct. 20, 2001 (ESPN)
Ron Turner’s best team became bowl eligible with a 42-35 win in a game in which Kittner threw four touchdown passes to become the career leader at Illinois, passing Jack Trudeau. The homecoming victory, played in front of a sellout crowd of 70,904, Illinois’ first sellout since 2000, solidified Illinois as a legitimate Big Ten title contender that season.

Men’s basketball
1. Indiana at Illinois, Feb. 7, 2013 (ESPN)

Announcers: Joe Tessitore handled the play-by-play and Sean Farnham provided the expert analysis

Still resonates today ... Tyler Griffey won’t mind talking about this shot. For the rest of his life. Tom Crean won’t bring up this moment, however, when he writes his all-encompassing history of hoops. Illinois defeated the top-ranked Hoosiers on Griffey’s wide-open layup at the buzzer off a perfect out-of-bounds bounce pass from Brandon Paul to set off a court-storming in a win that helped solidify an at-large NCAA tournament berth for the Illini.

2. Wake Forest at Illinois, Dec. 1, 2004 (ESPN)

Announcers: Sean McDonough handled the play-by-play, with Bill Raftery and Jay Bilas providing expert analysis

Still resonates today ... Orange everywhere you looked. From the jerseys Dee, Deron & Co. rocked at a sold-out Assembly Hall, to the orange blazer Bruce Weber donned and the boisterous Orange Krush. The Demon Deacons, led by point guard Chris Paul, came in ranked No. 1 in the country. By the time Wake Forest left the court after a 91-73 pasting by Illinois, it was clear which team was  tops in the country. And who would hold that title all the way until early April.

3. Michigan at Illinois, Feb. 21, 2007 (ESPNU)

Announcers: Mike Gleason handled the play-by-play and Shon Morris provided the expert analysis

Still resonates today ... Not for the final score (Illinois won 54-42). More for what transpired at halftime. Dan Maloney performed Chief Illiniwek’s final dance to a sold-out crowd at the Assembly Hall. Whether you’re pro-Chief or anti-Chief, the moment was so captivating ESPN cameras stayed glued to the dance instead of letting talking heads dissect the first half. It’s a night those in attendance and those watching won’t soon forget.  

4. Michigan State at Illinois, Feb. 6, 2010

Announcers: Dan Shulman handled the play-by-play and Dick Vitale provided the (loud) expert analysis

Still resonates today ... The first and only visit so far by "College Gameday" to Champaign, which brought Rece Davis, Jay Bilas, Hubert Davis and Digger Phelps to town. If that wasn’t enough, Illinois won its most notable game during a season that ended with a loss in the NIT quarterfinals, defeating the fifth-ranked Spartans 78-73. Demetri McCamey tallied 22 points and 11 assists in front of a sellout crowd before a court storming ensued after the upset win.

5. Austin Peay vs. Illinois, March 12, 1987

Announcers: Bob Rathbun and Dan Bonner

Still resonates today ... Game wasn’t actually broadcast on ESPN, but Vitale famously said from the ESPN studio during the second half he would stand on his head if Austin Peay beat the Illini. Which it did, and he followed through on his promise. Vitale stood on his head at his desk shortly after the game ended with Austin Peay winning 68-67, and then he did so again at Austin Peay’s season banquet.



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bendsen1 wrote on July 30, 2014 at 8:07 pm

Great article. Gave me chills reading through the basketball moments and at least the top four always will.