Those Were The Days - Purdue
Now this is a great year to revisit. You're probably not going to ever top 1989 in Champaign. In the spring, a Final Four run for the Flyin' Illini (with Nick Anderson and Kenny Battle both getting picked in the first round of the NBA Draft). In the fall, a 10-win football team (with Jeff George eventually going #1 overall in the draft the following spring). Those were certainly the days.
So here's Detlef. Let's see if he dials it back and says something nice about our neighbors to the east in his opening paragraph...
Illinois visits that hell on earth known as West Lafayette. Last year's game really grinds my gears, that phantom pass interference penalty on Devon Witherspoon…and now former Illinois defensive coordinator Ryan Walters is the Purdue head coach. I hope that Illinois scores a big win and can bring home the Cannon trophy. Today's game recalls a Fighting Illini win where the margin of victory did not compute with the statistical dominance.
October 14, 1989: Illinois entered the game as a 17-point favorite over your typically bad Fred Akers-coached Purdue team. Jeff George returned to the school where he started his college career. On a pleasant day at Ross-Ade stadium before 41,101 fans, Illinois figured to cruise to an easy victory.
The Fighting Illini scored a touchdown on its opening drive. Jeff George completed a three-yard touchdown pass to Frank Hartley (Chicago Bogan) and Chris Siambekos (Lyons Township) added the extra point. From there, Illinois met the enemy, and they was us. Illinois proceeded to get all kinds of penalties that killed momentum. This included a clipping call to nullify a 36-yard touchdown run. The officials penalized wide receiver Steven Williams for unsportsmanlike conduct for complaining about the lack of pass interference calls. A fake field goal attempt blew up. Purdue blocked a 48-yard field goal attempt by Siambekos who then missed a 29-yard field goal. "Every time I looked at the scoreboard it was first and 25 or first and 30," said George. "That just kills you."
So the score stood at 7-0 entering the fourth quarter. Purdue had not even crossed its own 33-yard line in the first half! Purdue suddenly gained momentum when it blocked a Brian Menkhausen punt out of the end zone for a safety. Naturally, Illinois created this when a 38-yard pass to Mike Bellamy (College of DuPage) got called back for a penalty, resulting in the Fighting Illini having to punt from its own two-yard line.
After the free kick, Purdue got its best drive of the game and had a first down at the Illini 35. From there, the defense continued to dominate as it had all day. Purdue then ran a reverse and had the ball at the UI 27. On third down, Moe Gardner sacked the Purdue quarterback at the UI 42. Purdue punted and UI took over at its own 20. Head Coach/Athletic Director John Mackovic told the offense that "the next time you get the ball you better put a drive together." "Coach Mackovic told us, 'You've got to have ball control, run out the clock, and score," said tackle Craig Schneider.
Finally, the beloved got its act together, putting together a time-consuming drive that featured Howard Griffith (Chicago Julian) carrying the ball seven plays in a row. This ended with Griffith scoring on a one-yard run with 36 seconds left for a 14-2 win. George finished 24 of 42 passing for 254 yards and a touchdown. Griffith had 24 carries for 94 yards and a touchdown. Illinois held the ball for 35 minutes. The defense dominated: Purdue had 144 total yards of offense. Illinois counted itself lucky to win, having committed 13 penalties for 122 yards. "Our defense put on a sterling performance," said Mackovic. "We were fortunate, to say the least. I think we finally did wear them down on that last drive."
Illinois finished 10-2 with a beatdown of Virginia in the Florida Citrus Bowl. THOSE WERE THE DAYS!
Sources: "Illinois 14, Purdue 2" by Robert Markus. Chicago Tribune: October 15, 1989. Credit to Detlef's parents for the research.