CHICAGO – For many fans of the program, this has been the best fall of football in 15 years.
That’s because Illinois has a shot for a desirable bowl game and potentially their first Big Ten West division championship as they enter the final three games of their season at 7-2.
The last time things were this good was the 2007 season when the Illini went 9-3 and made it to their first Rose Bowl since January of 1984. Ron Zook’s team, which had won just two games the season before, was one of the great turnaround stories of that season.
But where that campaign became historic was a late afternoon and early evening in Columbus 15 years ago on Thursday, when the Illini pulled off one of their greatest wins in program history.
Facing undefeated and No. 1 Ohio State on November 10, 2007, Illinois used a strong rushing attack and a defense that forced three turnovers to stun the Buckeyes 28-20 at Ohio Stadium. It gave the Illini their biggest victory of that season and arguably in a generation of the program as it represented their first-ever win over a top-ranked team on the road.
It was their first overall win over a No. 1 ranked team since 1956 and remains the last time they’ve knocked off someone that high in the pols.
Quarterback Juice Williams, who was a standout at Chicago Vocational High School, was a focal point of the contest. While his four touchdown passes represented all of the Illini’s scores on the day, it was the signal caller that helped to spearhead a strong rushing attack against the Buckeyes.
Daniel Dufrene gained 106 yards on the ground, Rashard Mendenhall 88, while Williams got 70 on his own, but the quarterback was the star on the final drive. He rushed for three first downs, the first coming when he convinced Zook to go for it on 4th-and-1, which helped the Illini play keep away from the Buckeyes.
The visitors held the ball for the last 8:09 of the game, triggering a major celebration on the field and with the group of Illini fans in one of the endzones of Ohio Stadium once the clock hit zero.
Larry Hawley remembers that game in this edition of #WGNTBT from WGN News Now, which you can see in the video above.