Forty years ago on Sunday, Dave Wilson’s replacement as the Illini quarterback led Illinois to a 27-17 victory at Michigan State in the 1981 Big Ten opener. Junior quarterback Tony Eason directed the Spartan Stadium visitors to 534 yards in total offense, including an impressive 294 yards and two touchdowns through the air.
Illinois’ defense shown as bright as Eason, intercepting four Spartan passes and holding Michigan State to just 15 rushing yards.
Other memorable moments in Illini history on Sept. 12:
➜ Sept. 12, 1962: Former Illini pitcher Tom Fletcher made his only appearance in a Major League game. Pitching two innings for the Detroit Tigers, the 20-year-old lefthander struck out one Red Sox batter, walked two and yielded two Boston hits.
➜ Sept. 12, 1987: A crowd of 70,060, the last of 28 consecutive sellouts at Memorial Stadium, saw Arizona State beat Illinois 21-7. Ken Thomas’s 57-yard touchdown run was the day’s only Illini highlight.
➜ Sept. 12, 1992: Lou Tepper’s Illini football team jumped off to a 24-0 lead, then held on to beat Missouri 24-17 in Champaign. Running back Darren Boyer was named ABC-TV’s Player of the Game after rushing for 92 yards and two TDs.
➜ Sept. 12, 1998: Despite trailing 20-7 at the end of the first quarter, Illinois snapped its 18-game losing streak with a 48-20 win versus Middle Tennessee State. Illini freshman Rocky Harvey rushed for 215 yards, while Steve Havard ran for 175. It was Ron Turner’s first Illini coaching win.
➜ Sept. 12, 1998: Coach Don Hardin’s Illini volleyball team ran its record to 6-1 with a 3-2 upset victory over No. 7 Texas at the Chicago Challenge.
➜ Sept. 12, 2009: Jason Ford ran for 137 of Illinois’ 384 rushing yards as the Illini dispatched visiting Illinois State 45-17.
➜ Sept. 15, 2015: Illini football recorded its first shutout in three seasons, a 44-0 victory over Western Illinois at Memorial Stadium. Coach Bill Cubit’s squad improved its record to 2-0.
Sunday: Jim Juriga, football (57)
Monday: Mark Avery, track & field (65)
Tuesday: Will Parsons, baseball (53)
Wednesday: Paula Smith, golf coach
Thursday: John Ericks, baseball (54)
Friday: Mike Poleskey, football (52)
Saturday: Justin Janas, baseball (21)
By Mike Pearson, author of Illini Legends, Lists & Lore (Third Edition now available in stores). Get more Illini birthdays, trivia and historical tidbits daily on Twitter @IlliniLegends and @Spartifacts2021. His website is www.SportsLLL.com.