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September 24, 1966: Missouri 21, Illinois 14

September 24: Missouri (1-0) at Illinois (0-1)

From the Savitar.

The most fun thing about writing these history pieces is the discovery of great games you had no idea existed. When Mizzou traveled east to Champaign for their second game of the season and first against Illinois since 1949 (not to mention their first of three straight road games), they were facing an Illini team coming off of three consecutive winning seasons; UI, however, was dumped by SMU, 26-7, in the season opener, causing Dan Devine to worry that the Illini would be even more fired up than before.

Illinois had All-American candidates on both sides of the ball; John Wright was the Big Ten's leading returning receiver and led a potentially explosive offense, while defensive end Bo Batchelder led a defense that had been exposed a bit by SMU's rollout passing. A crowd of over 55,000 filled UI's Memorial Stadium, and they had to like what they saw the first three quarters.

Early on, it was Illini RB Cyril Pinder doing the damage. On their first possession, UI unleashed a 13-play touchdown drive, highlighted by Pinder runs of 23 and 25 and capped by an over-the-top, 3-yard Pinder plunge to put the Illini up, 7-0. After a second straight quick punt from Mizzou, Illinois rode the exact same gameplan to another touchdown. Pinder and Wright did most of the damage, and Illinois converted third down after third down against Mizzou's tough defense; two minutes into the second quarter, it was 14-0 Illinois.

Thanks to some timely play from Gary Kornbrink, Mizzou struck back. Chuck Weber caught a key third-down pass, and thanks to a great fake pitch to Charlie Brown by Kornbrink that fooled the entire Illini defense, Earl Denny scored easily from 19 yards out to bring Mizzou to within 14-7 at halftime. From then on out, it was all about the Tiger defense.

Mizzou forced nothing but punts from Illinois in the third quarter, turning around the field-position battle but not quite being able to even up the score. Early in the fourth quarter, Roger Wehrli officially announced his presence as a big-time player, making a nice pick of a Dean Volkman pass at the Illini 38. The very next play, Kornbrink found Denny again--Denny was just as dangerous as a pass-catcher as a fullback--for 36 yards; Kornbrink snuck over from two yards out, and the game was tied at 14-14.

Wehrli returns a fourth-quarter pick.

The Mizzou defense was not done. With under three minutes remaining, Illinois began to drive again. Wright and Pinder were finding their rhythm, but with 2:14 to go, Bill Whitaker stepped in front of a Volkman pass and took it 60 yards for a touchdown. As time began to expire, Illinois got one more chance until a huge Russ Washington sack ended the game. Mizzou had faced a fired-up border rival, taken their best shot, and been outplayed a majority of the game; but the defense dominated when it counted, and they flat out stole the game from Illinois. Mizzou moved to 2-0 on the season with a huge game out west against Gary Beban and UCLA on the horizon.

Missouri 21, Illinois 14