Illini Football: “The Streak” Could Turn 24 vs Purdue on Halloween

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For the first time since 1995, a 38-14 loss to Michigan, Illinois will open their home schedule against a Big Ten opponent. The Purdue Boilermakers, 4-8 last season, but surprise winners over Iowa last week despite being sans their best player and head coach, come to town on Halloween.

There is however one trick for the Boilermakers that could treat Illini fans- University of Illinois football has not lost a home opener in nearly a quarter of a century. Sure, this streak is composed of opponents which are overwhelmingly cupcake, as you have plenty of mid-majors, low-majors, some FCS and even I-AA as the streak stretches back to when FCS was known as IAA.

However, this fact remains: the Illini football program is 93-33-5 all-time in home-openers. And their 23 game home opener winning streak is the fourth-longest active run in the nation behind only Florida (31), Oklahoma State (26) and Wisconsin (26). You might have caught the Badgers’ most recent home opener.

The last home opening day loss came in 1997, 6-24 to Southern Mississippi. That was Ron Turner’s very first game in charge, and this was the last time Illini football went winless in a season. Because power conference teams just don’t go winless these days.

The streak began three years before America’s longest-running war even began.

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When the first win in this streak transpired, Google was only in its infancy, Bill Clinton was still president and social media were still many years off.

1998   Middle Tennessee St 48-20

Stormed the field and took down the goal posts at this one! This game also ended an Illini football overall 18 game losing streak.

1999  Arkansas St 41-3

Turner regime starts to show signs of progress.

2000  Middle Tennessee St 35-6

In the words of Frank the Tank in Old School, “WE’RE GOING STREAKING!”

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2001  Northern Illinois 17-12

A lot of Huskies fans have serious little brother syndrome with Illinois, however, NIU never played the Illini during their recent but brief golden era.

2002  Arkansas State 59-7

Turner would have had a bowl team had he realized sooner that the talented, highly rated Jon Beutjer was his next QB1, not the weaker-armed Dustin Ward that he elected to go with first.

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2003   Illinois State 49-22

Horrid team that went 1-11, this should have been the year Turner was fired, but he stuck around for another year.

2004   Florida A&M 52-13

Honestly, who cares about this one? Amazingly, at least 46,106 people did!

2005   Rutgers 33-30, OT

This streak has survived five different coaching regimes and this was Ron Zook’s very first game in charge. And this wasn’t Rutgers as you know it either, the Scarlet Knights would go on to have a winning record that season.

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This was probably the closest that the streak has come to ending.

2006 Eastern Illinois 42-17

Sean Payton, Tony Romo and Jimmy Garoppolo were not a part of this one.

2007 Western Illinois 21-0

Banner year, but easily forgettable beginning

2008 Eastern Illinois 47-21

Illini love themselves some Directional Illinois to warm up with

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2009 Illinois St 45-17

This team was actually picked to finish third in the league at Big Ten Media Day, but ended up 3-9.

2010 Southern Illinois 35-3

The only Illini-SIU game worth discussing is the 1990 Howard Griffith record setting game.

2011 Arkansas St 33-15

Just invite them every year at this point

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2012 Western Michigan 24-7

Power five teams just do not go winless in this day and age, but this 2-10 side really deserved to. Tim Beckman’s first season was an absolute disaster.

2013  Southern Illinois 42-34

Close shave! SIU was on the goalline in the closing seconds!

2014  Youngstown St 28-17

Honestly don’t recall anything about this one. Do I want to?

2015 Kent State 52-3

Yawn.

2016 Murray State 52-3

Lovieball begins

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2017   Western Kentucky 20-7

Illini football entered as eight point underdogs!

2018  Kent State 31-24

Illnois overcomes dumpster fire of a first half with furious rally. It really felt like the streak was going to die that afternoon.

2019 Akron 42-3

Lovie’s crew did exactly what needs to be done to lower level #MACtion

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2020 ???? Purdue are favored by a touchdown.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank, partnered with News NowBanks, the author of “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” has regularly appeared in WGNSports IllustratedChicago Tribune and SB NationFollow him on Twitter and Instagram.

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