Broadcasters Booth View of an Illini Rout

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The on-going construction adding to this magnificent structure did nothing to take from its rich, historic feel. Indeed, for someone who had not been to the Big House, Michigan Stadium is a site to behold. But an angry bunch of visitors from central Illinois interested in making their own kind of history left a huge home crowd maize and very, very blue.

This was my first trip here, one for which I couldn't wait. As always, I handled national radio play-by-play for the game on Touchdown Radio Productions with my weekly partner, Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Gino Torretta, a veteran of many trips here who handled the color and sort of showed me around.

We saw the campus, the frat houses, the athletic fields, the downtown areas. He showed me the whole gamut.

Then, before you knew it, after Michigan jumped to a quick 14-3 lead, I showed him a team of whom perhaps the nation will take notice -- the Fighting Illini we all expected to see this year.

By now, you know all the numbers -- Juice Williams totaling 431 yards, the most ever by an opponent in this venerable stadium, tying for the most ever against Michigan, period. You know the Illini had more than 500 yards of offense, that they scored more on Michigan than any Illini team ever has. You know, they blew out the Wolverines 45-20.

But for Illinois, this meant so much more. It was affirmation that we weren't all crazy, that this Illinois team is special. That the two losses, both games that were still anybody's game in the fourth quarters, came against two of the nation's top teams in difficult venues.

Look, I know Michigan isn't vintage Michigan. They have a new coach, are switching to a new offense, have lost a great deal of players. This is a period of transition, a time in which you would expect a team to be down.

But don't kid yourself, they've been playing football in this stadium a long time and not many teams have come in here and done what the Illini just did -- which is to run roughshod over the Wolverines. Ron Zook and the Illini had the stadium emptied with five minutes to play -- how many teams have done that?

Remember, also, this is not the Michigan team that lost early in the year to Utah and Notre Dame, but rather, it is the one that rallied to beat then No. 9 Wisconsin a week earlier. A team under an extremely good coach that believed it was finding itself. A team that was pretty savvy, pretty experienced and pretty damn salty on defense by all accounts.

Until the Illini arrived.

With Juice heeding a challenge from his head coach, and the defense doing the same, Illinois finally stepped up. They ran, they passed, they blitzed, they hit. And when it was over, Michigan's proud team walked slowly, sheepishly to its locker room.

The biggest play of the game? A 46-yard pass from Juice Williams to Arrelious Benn right after the Wolverines had made it 14-3. At that point, Michigan was making it look easy, the crowd was in it, the Illini were reeling a bit. That is when Mike Locksley dialed up the right call and Juice and Benn executed it to perfection.

A few plays later, Illinois scored to cut it to 14-10 and from that point, you knew it would be a game. Both teams swinging from the heels. Who would get knocked out? You now know the answer.

Sure, it is only one game. But it was against Michigan, a team Illinois had beaten all of once in its last 10 tries. And it reestablishes a swagger, an air of confidence that served the Illini so well down the stretch last year.

For me, it was a chance to call an Illinois game, my second one, which is so special to me. A chance to see a stadium that is among the most historic of all time in this fabulous sport.

And a chance to see Ron Zook's Illini introduce themselves, once again, to the heirarchy of college football.

In fact, with apologies to the stadium, that was the best part.

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