Those Were The Days - Wisconsin
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I just gave up on publishing the CTT this week. Not enough hours in the day. I have another article I need to finish here, so I'm gonna do something lame like publish two CTT posts during the bye week. I considered skipping basketball media day yesterday to get everything finished, but I didn't. And I'm still glad I went.
It's a shame. I have some really good stuff in this CTT. I just.. can't get it all done.
Anyway, that's just an update for those of you who read everything published on the site. The intro to Detlef's post gave me the opportunity to update everyone. I'll get back to it now. Here's his article:
This week Illinois hosts Wisconsin for Homecoming. I shall attend the game with Mrs. Detlef, a loyal Badger who swears Al Toon is the best wide receiver in Big 10 history. This week's tale harkens back to the magical 2001 season and a wild game at Memorial Stadium…..
October 20, 2001: Illinois entered this game at 5-1, 2-1 in the Big Ten. Wisconsin was having a down year at 4-3 and 2-1 in the Big Ten. I drove from Joliet for this game on a gloriously sunny and warm fall day in the 217. It was Homecoming and Illinois needed to protect its house to continue its quest for a Big Ten title. A sellout crowd was on hand for the Fighting Illini, as was UI linebacker great Dick Butkus, watching the game and his nephew Luke Butkus, playing center for Illinois.
At the end of the first quarter, Illinois trailed 7-6. Wisconsin quarterback Brooks Bollinger had scored a touchdown on a 25-yard run but left the game due to injury; he was replaced by Jim Sorgi. Illinois started the second quarter with an effective nine-play 65-yard drive culminating in a Kurt Kittner 22-yard touchdown pass to Rocky Harvey. Illinois engineered another nine-play, 65-yard drive, Kittner throwing a 34-yard touchdown pass to Aaron Moorehead. To end the first half, John Gockman (Coal City!) boomed a 48-yard field goal. Illinois led 22-7 at halftime.
After the teams exchanged punts, Illinois scored on a 43-yard Gockman field goal. Wisconsin responded with an 80-yard drive for an Anthony Davis touchdown run. Illinois came right back with a Peter Christofilakos 36-yard field goal, so Illinois led 28-14 entering the fourth quarter. (No need to jump around.)
Wisconsin started the fourth quarter with another 80 yard drive. On fourth down and goal, Wisconsin scored on a four-yard touchdown pass to Lee Evans. The score read 28-21 and your author, sitting in Section EE, Row 39, Seat 23, started to feel queasy. With 14 minutes left, Kittner threw a pass that bounced off the knee of Greg Lewis at the UI 36 and into the arms of Wisconsin defender Michael Broussard. Wisconsin took advantage of the short field, going 28 yards to tie the game at 28.
Illini Nation now wondered what else could go wrong. Christian Morton took the kickoff out of the end zone and fumbled at the Illinois 16. Wisconsin recovered and with another short field, Sorgi threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to Evans, giving Wisconsin a 35-28 lead that seemed unfathomable earlier. Wisconsin had scored 21 points in a little over three minutes! I wondered if the concession stands at Memorial Stadium sold Maalox, in addition to the world-famous nachos. Memorial Stadium became a panic room with 70,000 spectators (excluding the Wisconsin fans) fully boggled.
Fortunately, Illinois did not panic and it turned to its special teams to make something happen. Christian Morton took the kickoff and handed off to Mike Hall at the five yard-line, going the other way on the reverse. Hall took the reverse to midfield, giving the Illini a needed boost. ESPN commentator Todd Christensen (RIP) marveled at the decision. "Great call by Ron Turner. He had the courage to make the call." Illinois Head Coach Ron Turner stated "The reverse was called because we thought it was there. We wanted to get a spark. That play got momentum back. Our sideline was on fire."
With twelve minutes remaining, Kittner and the boys went to work. It took just two plays for Illinois to score. Kittner threw a bomb that Brandon Lloyd caught over his shoulder at the Wisconsin 15. On the next play, Kittner found tight end Brian Hodges for a 14-yard touchdown pass. Now with the game tied at 35, the Illinois defense needed to hold Wisconsin, and it did. Defensive coordinator Mike Cassity's charges forced a Wisconsin punt after Christian Morton dropped a sure interception at midfield.
Illinois took over with ten minutes left at its own 36-yard line. Kittner threw in the flat to Walter Young, who I thought fumbled the pass. But the officials called the pass incomplete, giving Illinois a break that it rarely receives from Big Ten officials. Illinois took advantage and methodically marched down the field. After a pass interference penalty on Wisconsin, Illinois had the football at the Wisconsin 22-yard line. With 6:18 remaining in the game, Kittner threw towards the corner of the end zone for Brandon Lloyd, who twisted like a pretzel to make the catch and land one foot in-bounds for the touchdown. It remains one of the greatest catches I have ever seen by an Illinois player. "I knew I was on the sideline, and I leaned my body and came down on the ball of my foot," Lloyd said. "I saw some rubber kick up. I was barely in." Even Wisconsin Head Coach Barry Alvarez admired it. "He is a gifted receiver." Ron Turner stated it clearly: "Brandon Lloyd is a big-time player, and big-time players step up in games like this."
Wisconsin got the ball back and on fourth down, decided to punt with 4:44 left. Illinois got the ball back and Kittner threw a pass that Lloyd caught over his shoulder at the UI 35. This gave Illinois momentum to easily run out the clock for a big win. Kittner led an Illinois offense that could not be stopped: 570 total yards! Kittner finished 24 of 45 passing for 401 yards. Illinois also ran for 169 yards. The offensive statistical buffet also featured Brandon Lloyd having eight catches for 129 yards and a touchdown. Aaron Moorehead contributed five catches for 111 yards and a touchdown. Illinois also enjoyed over 36 minutes of possession, 32 first downs and punted only once! Alvarez conceded that the Badger defense simply got worn out. "Our guys got tired. I hadn't realized we were out there for 20 minutes of the first half."
The Illinois team thanked its fans. "We had a great crowd, especially in the fourth quarter," remarked Carey Davis. "I'm proud of the team. We had a good game in front of a great homecoming crowd," proclaimed Kittner. "I'd like to thank the crowd. They did a great job. The sellout means a lot to our players," said Turner. Above all, the Fighting Illini fought and did not panic (unlike me) when things went south in the fourth quarter. "We had a great game," said Brandon Moore. "We did not fold. We switched the momentum and it was a great feeling." This alumnus, LAS 1994, celebrated Homecoming with beers at Illini Inn.
Sources: "Oh, Happy Day" by Loren Tate. Champaign News-Gazette: October 20, 2001. Fightingillini.com. Credit to JDL for video of the game.