Column: Boom goes the football team, but will it finally win big game?

By David Just

I bet a college football game with the final score of 106-40 is one you’d like to see. Well, if you’ve been on this campus the last three years, you have.

That’s the total score of Illinois’ last three Homecoming games. After suffering losses to Iowa and Penn State by scores of 23-13 and 63-10, respectively, the Illini couldn’t sink a gimme with Ohio in 2006, dropping that game 20-17 on a last-second field goal.

All I want in life now is an Illini victory on Homecoming. And this year we have better than a fighting chance at doing it.

A quick intermission: Did you know there was no Homecoming game in 1918 due to the flu pandemic? AND, just five years later the Illini played their first game at Memorial Stadium and beat the University of Chicago for a 7-0 Homecoming victory. The Illini went on to win the national championship that season.

Anyway, since 1967 every Homecoming game has been against a Big Ten opponent – until last year’s bout with Ohio. After duking it out against No. 23 Iowa and No. 12 Penn State, facing an unranked Ohio team made sense for an Illini squad with little to be excited about.

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    Illini Nation was in basketball mode and football was an afterthought. Like cole slaw.

    Look, I was at the Wisconsin game on Oct. 6, and it was the first game I saw Illinois win in person since my freshman year. In more than two seasons of football, I never saw the Illini win. Instead of choosing those early home games against Rutgers, San Jose State and Eastern Illinois, I always chose to attend the Big Ten and Homecoming matchups.

    If I had been a freshman in 2000, I would have seen three straight Homecoming victories. And I wouldn’t have minded the ’04 loss much with a basketball title match waiting in the wings.

    But that title run came during my freshman year, causing me to peak too soon. The football team won four games over the next two seasons and there has, again, been little to be excited about since.

    That is, until now.

    And that is why nothing is more important to me right now than this Homecoming game. There has certainly been a different air around campus this fall and I’d hate to have it spoiled by a letdown against Ball State.

    Another quick intermission: Did you know that the (in)famous “Boom goes the dynamite” sportscast was a product of a Ball State student TV station? If you don’t know what I’m talking about, take four minutes off from this column and type “Boom goes the dynamite” into YouTube. Watch. Enjoy. Repeat.

    With the loss to Michigan , the Illini are still looking to clinch bowl eligibility. I can’t think of a better time for it than on Homecoming.