Those Were The Days - Iowa
I enjoy when Detlef takes us back beyond the games I remember in a TWTD post. This week, it's just before I became an Illini fan - the Iowa game in 1981. Tony Eason! Mike Bass! Ron Ferrari! I mean, how awesome is a linebacker named Ron Ferarri? Take it away, D:
This week, Illinois travels to the state to the west and the land of the gold & black Huns. If you need reasons to hate that team, think about Bruce Pearl, the pink locker room, Hayden Fry, Steve Carfino and his bubble perm, Nick Bell, the obnoxious sideline conduct of Fran McCaffrey and Jake "The Lockport Messiah" Christensen. I am sure our readers can come up with even more reasons. BEAT IOWA.
October 31, 1981: Illinois was beginning to turn the corner under second-year head coach Mike White. Our boys entered the game at 4-3 overall, 3-2 in the Big Ten. Iowa also had improved under Hayden Fry. Iowa stood at 5-2 overall and 3-1 in the Big Ten. Excitement abounded in Champaign, with the slogan "The Eighties Belong to the Illini" all over campus! A sold-out crowd of 66,287 awaited kickoff in Champaign.
Illinois led early 3-0 from a Mike Bass 27-yard field goal. In the second quarter, Illinois had pinned the Hawkeyes at their own two-yard line. Iowa quarterback Mike Gales, who had missed the previous three games due to injury, dropped back to throw a screen pass. The fierce Illini pass rush, led by linebacker Ron Ferrari, forced a fumble. Fellow linebacker Pete Burgard recovered in the end zone for an Illini touchdown! "He never saw me coming!" said Ferrari, a Moweaqua native whose hometown brought 300 fans to the game.
Iowa tried to strike back quickly. On the first play after the kickoff, Gales threw a bomb that Illini cornerback Charles Armstead intercepted. Two plays later, Champaign Tony Eason threw his own bomb, a 56-yard touchdown strike to Oliver Williams for a 17-0 lead. "The defenders went past me, they bit on Mike Martin's fake." said Williams.
Iowa then replaced Gales with Gardy Bohannon. He threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Jeff Brown to cut the lead to 17-7 at halftime. Illinois iced the win in the fourth quarter when Eason threw a four-yard touchdown pass to Williams for a final score of 24-7. Any Iowa comeback got snuffed out by fumble recoveries by Mark Butkus and John Janata.
Eason performed admirably despite being sacked seven times. He finished 22 of 34 passing for 263 yards. He had a shot at 300 yards but Mike White took him out of the game. White substituted future Illini star Jack Trudeau for Eason at the game's end. Miguel DeOliver finished with 64 receiving yards and Kirby Wilson contributed 56 receiving yards.
The Illini defense held firm the entire game. Iowa had only 43 rushing yards and threw the ball 33 times. "That's what we wanted them to do," said defensive lineman Don Thorp. Illinois confused the Iowa quarterbacks with weak side blitzes. Further, Illinois forced six turnovers.
Head Coach Mike White expressed his joy with the win. This was especially true since Illinois could not go to a bowl game due to Big 10 sanctions imposed over Dave Wilson's transfer from a junior college. "We can be spoilers. This was a total team victory, especially the defense." Iowa ended up as co-Big Ten champions and won the tiebreaker to go to Pasadena. Washington dominated the Hawkeyes 28-0.
Sources: "Defense leads Illini over Iowa" by John Husar. "Illini may be best in Big Ten" by David Condon. Chicago Tribune, November 1, 1981.