Those Were The Days - FAU

Sep 22, 2023

The editor (me) just went crazy with the delete button on this article. There's no FAU game in our history to write about, so Detlef chose the Illinois State game from 2003. And, as you can imagine, his anger at everyone (including a certain former athletic director) came boiling to the surface. Believe it or not, this is Detlef after I've edited out some of the vitriol:

This week, Illinois hosts Florida Atlantic. This is the first time the teams have met. This week's tale should have resulted in Ron Turner's immediate firing. This victory sure felt like a loss. In retrospect, a loss would have been more appropriate...

September 6, 2003: Illinois was 0-1 after a frustrating defeat to Missouri in St. Louis that included some dodgy Big XII officiating and another long ride back to Joliet. Anyhow, Illinois figured to "get healthy" against in-state little brother Illinois State. A crowd of 56,304 greeted the teams on this warm day. The DIA boosted attendance by handing out tickets at Market Place Mall during the week.

On the opening possession, the Redbirds marched downfield to the UI goal line. However, Ty Myers forced a fumble by quarterback Jon Souza that went into the end zone and UI recovered. Jon Beutjer (Wheaton-Warrenville South) started on fire with three touchdown passes: 32 yards to Mark Kornfeld; 41 yards to Kelvin Hayden (JOLIET JUNIOR COLLEGE!); and 30 yards to Lonnie Hurst for a 21-0 first quarter lead.

Illinois State kept moving the football but without much scoring. Former Illini wide receiver Dwayne Smith, now a Redbird, kept finding open seams in the porous Illinois defense. Smith, a Rantoul native, played with a heavy heart after the death of his grandmother. "I dedicated this game to her. I got up at 3 in the morning, so hyped, just ready to go." Smith had transferred during the offseason after being suspended for the 2002 Sugar Bowl for an altercation with a teammate.

ISU kicked a field goal to make it 21-3. After a John Gockman (Coal City) 40-yard field goal put UI up 24-3 with 6:17 remaining, ISU went on the march again. At the end of the first half, ISU attempted a field goal. However, UI blocked it and Travis Williams (East Alton-Wood River) went 66 yards for an improbable touchdown. UI led 31-3 at halftime and things seemed under control.

However, UI decided to snooze in the second half. ISU went 78 yards, capped by a ten-yard touchdown catch by Smith. ISU then made a field goal to make it 31-13. After Urbana native Morris Virgil ran for a 35-yard touchdown, ISU's first play from scrimmage was a 74 yard touchdown bomb to Smith. Smith could not be stopped on his return to Champaign. With the score 38-19 entering the fourth quarter, the teams played out the string in the fourth quarter with the final score 49-22.

Although UI won, Ron Turner was angry. For the second straight game, the Illini had a punt blocked. ISU recovered an onside kickoff. The Fighting Illini imitated the Laydown Illini on defense. ISU racked up 511 yards of total offense, an incredible statistic considering ISU was a 1-AA team playing at a 1-A team. "To give up more than 500 yards is unacceptable," commented Turner.

Mike Souza was 33 of 56 passing for 385 yards. Dwayne Smith stole the show with one of the greatest performances in Memorial Stadium history: 14 catches for 243 yards and two touchdowns. Smith wasn't bashful about his exploits. "We talked back and forth. He talks a lot during the game," said Illini safety Marc Jackson. "When you're playing your friend, it's an added bonus."

On the bright side, Jon Beutjer performed flawlessly: 16 of 23 passing for 207 yards and four touchdowns. "Jon's playing great football," said Turner. "I really like the look in his eye." Illinois enjoyed a balanced rushing attack from Urbana native Morris Virgil (84 yards, 1 touchdown), E.B. Halsey (73 yards) and my guy Pierre Thomas of Thornton Fractional South (78 yards).

The game foreshadowed future events. The next week, Illinois lost at UCLA 6-3 (the pregame featured a tailgate with numerous IlliniBoard personalities) where Ade Ademayo (Chicago St. Rita) crashed into the Rose Bowl wall. Further, the UI defense went into the crapper. Illinois finished 1-11, giving up 33 points per game and arguably was the worst team in school history and perhaps the entire nation. So two years removed from a Big 10 title, Illinois failed to beat a Division 1-A (now FBS) opponent.

Sources: "Ex-Illini shows dedication in a losing cause" by Jeff Mezyldo. Champaign News-Gazette: September 7, 2003. "Illini's state of mind isn't winning one" by Loren Tate. Id. "Beutjer draws praise for poise" Id.


SactownIllini on September 22, 2023 @ 02:00 PM


Speak Your Mind

Please login or register to post comments on the IlliniBoard.

Post Preview