Those Were The Days - Purdue
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I enjoy when these TWTD posts go back before my time. And the Bob Blackman era was before my time. I was alive in the fall of 1974, but I had yet to turn two years old. Chubby Phillips and Jim Kopatz are just names I've heard before, not players I remember.
So here's Detlef to tell us about the trip to Purdue in 1974.
Illinois travels to Purdue on Saturday and gets to see the World's Largest Drum up close and personal. Yawn. Hopefully our boys win and can enjoy dinner at The Beef House in Covington on the ride home. Bring the Cannon Trophy home! Today's tale goes back to the bell bottom days of the 1970s and Bob Blackman as head coach.
October 12, 1974: Year Three of the Blackman Era in the 217 had been up and down. Illinois started 2-0 with wins against Indiana and at #19 ranked Stanford. Illinois shot up the rankings to #16 and beat Washington State. The next week, Illinois was ranked #14 and hosted California, coached by Mike White, and lost 31-14. Now 3-1 and unranked, Illinois hoped to stay undefeated in Big Ten play with a trip to West Lafayette, Indiana.
Near the end of practice on that Thursday, Illinois tight end Fuzzy Johnson ran a downfield pass pattern in a noncontact drill and collided with a reserve defensive back. Johnson injured his knee and had to be carried off the practice field on a stretcher. Head Coach Bob Blackman thought Johnson was done for the season. Blackman's fears proved premature--not only was Johnson not seriously injured, but he played a decisive factor in the 27-23 Illini victory over Purdue.
Johnson caught two touchdown passes--one covering 68 yards. Johnson and Chubby Phillips scored all of the Illinois touchdowns. Phillips first put Illinois on the board with a one-yard plunge in the first quarter. Phillips' sixth touchdown of the year capped an Illini drive that was aided by a Boilermaker mistake. A Phil Verneisel (Chicago Taft) punt was fumbled by Purdue and safety Jim Stauner (Palatine) recovered on Purdue's 23-yard line, setting up Phillips score. Phillips rushed for 98 yards against Purdue. "Chubby wanted to do well in his home state of Indiana," Blackman said. "The more I look at the game films, the more I realize what a great runner Chubby Phillips is."
Purdue immediately responded and marched downfield on the injury-ridden Illinois defense to tie the score at 7-7. "Illinois was without its starting players at both anchor linebacker and rover. Roy Robinson (Niles Notre Dame) and Bill Uecker (York) were both injured. Terry Ormsbee (Arlington Heights) filled in at rover and Brian Ford replaced Robinson at anchor linebacker. Ford, a junior college transfer, led the Illinois defense with 13 tackles .
Quarterback Jim Kopatz (Springfield Lanphier) put the Illini back out front by directing a 78-yard drive. He floated a 28-yard pass into the end zone, where Johnson leapt high over a Purdue defender for the second Illinois touchdown. Following an exchange of punts, Purdue again drove on the Illini defense, scoring on a one-yard run. The Illini took the lead to stay on a wind-aided 52-yard Dan Beaver field goal. Beaver finished with three field goals. "Danny seems to aggravate (Purdue head coach) Alex Agase particularly," said Blackman. "Last year he scored 15 points against them and now he scores nine."
With a little more than a minute left in the first half, Jeff Hollenbach, who alternated again with Kopatz at quarterback, found Johnson in the open and threw to him for a 68-yard touchdown pass, giving Illinois a 24-14 halftime lead. "Breaks, turnovers, call it what you will, Illinois got two big ones," Agase said. "They scored right after they recovered that punt fumble in the first quarter. And they also scored on the long pass right before the end of the half."
In the second half each team had the ball three times. In their first possession of the half, the Boilermakers brought the score to 24-21 on a four-yard run by fullback Pete Gross. Beaver then capped off the Illini scoring on a 39-yard field goal with 5:42 remaining in the third quarter.
Illinois finished 6-4-1 overall and 4-3-1 in the Big Ten conference which would be good enough for a bowl game in the current era of college football. But back then, nope. Sad!
Sources: "Johnson key to Illini victory over Purdue" by Randy Kulat. Daily Illini: October 15, 1974. FightingIllini.com