Illini Bowl History: Mixed Results, Lots of UCLA for some Reason



This year marks Illinois’ 17th bowl appearance, where they are 7-9 all-time. The Big Ten has had to play 16 bowl games in the state of their opponent since 2005. That’s more than double that of any other conference, and extremely unfair. And that number will increase by five this holiday season.

By appearing in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco versus UCLA, the Illini are facing a bowl opponent in their home state for the 4th consecutive time. For some reason, they’ve drawn UCLA in 4/17 appearances, nearly one quarter. In this match-up of two traditional college basketball powers, the Bruins hold a 3-1 advantage over Illinois.

Let’s take a look at Illinois’ bowl history:

1947 Rose Bowl, UCLA, W, 45-14: The first bowl game on national television, according to the history books.

1952 Rose Bowl, Stanford, W, 40-7:

1964 Rose Bowl, Washington, W, 17-7: I refrained from commenting too much on these games because they happened decades before I was born.

1982 Liberty Bowl, Alabama, L, 15-21: Legendary coach of legendary coaches Bear Bryant’s last game! He forever lives on in houndstooth. Random coincidence, Joe Paterno’s final game was also a win over Illinois.

1984 Rose Bowl, UCLA, L, 9-45: You see that lopsided score and wonder what happened? UCLA Entered the game 6-4-1 and unranked while Illinois was 10-1 and #4 in the nation. It was the first time that an unranked team defeated a top five team in a bowl game!

So now you’re REALLY wondering how did this upset happen?

Well there’s a very infamous urban legend surrounding this game. It’s never been verified, but it’s a story retold many times within the college football world. I’ll tell you what I heard offline/off the record.

This game also has a ton of personal relevance to me, as it’s my first sports memory. It was the first sporting event I can ever remember watching on television.

1985 Peach Bowl, Army, L, 29-31: Jack Trudeau! legend of Tecmo Bowl lives here.

1988 All-American Bowl, Florida, L, 10-14: Don’t remember much of this game. But my sister once told me she got a ride home from Jeff George on his motorcycle.

1990 Citrus Bowl, Virginia, W, 31-21: Jeff George, king of petulance and whiny entitlement cemented his status as a #1 overall NFL Draft pick with his 300+ yard, 3 TD performance. It’s a shame he was such a bust in the NFL. At least he has his sweet Jeff Kent level pornstache.

1991 Hall of Fame, Clemson, L, 0-30: This Big Ten-ACC Challenge didn’t go so well.


1991 John Hancock Bowl, UCLA, L, 3-6: YAWN! Should have been a shoot-out, with Tommy Maddox vs. Jason Verduzco, two prolific passers. Instead it was one of the most boring games in history.

1992 Holiday Bowl, Hawaii, L, 17-27: The Rainbow Warriors’ mainland bowl debut was celebratory; at the expense of the Illini.

1994 Liberty Bowl, East Carolina, W, 30-0: Fun-filled way to rock in the New Year! Johnny Johnson had 250 yards passing in three quarters.


1999, Virginia, W, 63-21: Illinois owns another blue/orange team, UVA in bowl games. Kurt Kittner had an end-around reverse pass TD catch from Brandon Lloyd, highlighting the 28 point outburst of the second quarter. Ron Turner must have taken the Y2K end-of-the-world fears seriously, given the way he called plays and ran up the score. My senior year in Champaign, I covered this game for the school paper and ushered in the millenium in Miami. Team set a school record for points as the Illini fight song was more over-played in 1999 than “Livin la Vida Loca!”

2002 Sugar Bowl, LSU, L 34-47: I really thought Illinois had a great chance in this game. Especially since LSU had to start second stringers at numerous skill positions. But Josh Reed owned the Illini secondary the way Goldman Sachs owns the U.S government. Don’t be fooled by the final number, halftime score was 34-7 LSU.


2008 Rose Bowl, USC, L, 17-49: I knew Illinois had no chance at all in this game. Yet, they were a couple momentum swing plays away from taking the lead in the second half….right, uhm yeah. They really didn’t belong here and the Trojans just blew them out of the water.

2010 Texas Bowl, Baylor, W, 38-14: Nathan Scheelhaase had one of his best games ever, completing his first 13 passes; Mikel Leshoure ran wild, rewriting the Illini record book in the process. And most impressive the Illini defense effectively contained Robert Griffin III, this year’s Heisman winner.

For more on this game go here

Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports, an official Google News site that generates millions of unique visitors. He’s also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, Walter, Yardbarker, and Fox Sports

A Fulbright scholar and MBA, Banks has appeared on live radio shows all across the world. The President of the United States follows him on Twitter (@Paul_M_BanksTSB) You should too.

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