Rockford couple follow Illini to Rose Bowl
John Paulsgrove sat in his home Dec. 2, watching the BCS Selection show to find out the fate of his beloved Illinois football team.
Finally, it was announced the 9-3 Illini will return to the Rose Bowl for the first time in 24 years to face USC.
With just a click of his computer mouse, Paulsgrove immediately began searching for flights bound for California. He found one, and now he’ll join other local Illini fans on their way to Pasadena for Tuesday’s big game.
“The flight was expensive, but it’s worth it,” Paulsgrove said. “Illinois hasn’t gone out there that many times, so we want to make sure we go out there and enjoy it when they do.”
Paulsgrove, who is making the trip with his wife, Kris and friends Bill and Babs Erickson, are among a group of 16 people that will attend the game in style, taking a limo ride to the Tournament of Roses parade and game.
“We got about four pages of planned itinerary from breakfast, lunch and dinner each day there,” Bill Erickson said. “We have a plan for the Rose Bowl parade and pep rally, the Rose Bowl game, shopping and other things. We don’t have to do much thinking.”
The last time the Paulsgroves and Ericksons got together to cheer on the Illini in the Rose Bowl was in 1984. UCLA defeated Illinois 45-9. This year’s trip marks the fifth time in school history that Illinois has played in Pasadena.
“It’s extremely exciting because it was so unexpected,” Babs Erickson said. “After having season tickets for 24 years since the last Rose Bowl, we were hopeful at the beginning of the season. We thought we would make the Motor City Bowl in Detroit. But to go the Rose Bowl is beyond belief.”
Terry White said he wouldn’t miss his chance this time.
White, who grew up in the Champaign area, will be one of 10 family members headed to the game.
“It’s tradition,” White said. “The Rose Bowl is the granddaddy of them all. It’s the one. My brother and mother went in (1984). If I had to wait all these years to get a chance to go, I had better go now.”
White will make the trip with his son, Tracy, who lives in nearby Los Angeles. White said he waited too long to get his flight which was $600 on Southwest Airlines.
Paulsgrove said he paid $500 for his flight, and considers it an investment.
“This year, it’s my Christmas and birthday present,” said Paulsgrove, who turned 63 on Friday.
Paulsgrove, a 1967 Illinois grad, said he intends to enjoy great memories win or lose.
“We are going to enjoy the whole atmosphere of being there,” he said, “We had a wonderful week there in 1984. I remember I saw a sign in the parade that said windchill 79 degrees, and back in Rockford it was like 10 degrees. We had a wonderful week out there, but Illinois didn’t play that great.”
Bill Erickson, 1974 Illinois alumnus, said the game will be tough. The Rose Bowl stadium has been USC’s home away from home, as this will be the Trojans’ 48th game there between regular season and bowl games. Nine of USC’s 11 national titles have been sewn up with Rose Bowl wins.
The No. 6 Trojans take on No. 13 Illinois at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday.
“It will be a huge challenge,” Erickson said. “According to the odds makers, we are the biggest underdogs (13 1/2 points) in all the bowl games. I think we can actually win this if we play good football and don’t turn the ball over, run the ball well and get first downs.”
White said he knows it will be a competitive game. He hopes it ends in an upset victory like the one Illinois pulled against top-ranked Ohio State in November.
“USC is arguably one of the best teams in the country if not the best, but if we come and out and play our game. It could go either way. That’s why you play the game.”
Staff writer Brenda Young can be reached at 815-987-1388 or email@example.com.