Archive for Saturday, September 23, 2000

Illini hope to repeat triumph over UM

September 23, 2000


— Rocky Harvey hung a poster of himself in his room on campus.

He pinned another copy in his locker at Memorial Stadium. And, he admits, at his parents' house, too.

Nobody can resist the image of Harvey diving into the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown at Michigan last season.

The photograph, along with the 35-29 win over Michigan, has come to define the resurgence of Illinois under coach Ron Turner. With No. 10 Michigan in Champaign to open the Big Ten season today, last year's big moment is hardly forgotten.

"We needed proof that all of that stuff that had happened to us meant something," defensive end Fred Wakefield said.

The Illini went 0-11 in Turner's first year, then 3-8 in 1998. They started 1999 better, defeating the first three opponents, but stumbled and lost three straight Big Ten games.

The last loss was a 37-7 homecoming defeat to Minnesota. Turner reacted by doing something he's never done before. He put the team in pads Sunday for a full-contact scrimmage.

"I didn't like the look in their eyes," Turner said. "I didn't like the attitude. Yeah, I took a bet on them responding to that. And they did."

So at 3-3, and fresh off Turner's remedial lesson in work ethic, Illinois packed its gear for Ann Arbor to play then-No. 9 Michigan. The Wolverines were favored by more than 24 points and jumped ahead 27-7. But Illinois came back, scoring four straight touchdowns in the final 18 minutes.

Illinois has lost just once since. It finished 8-4 in 1999 and started this season 3-0.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.