Football notebook: Orange jerseys make second appearance of season

The Illinois defense takes down Indiana running back Marcus Thigpen during the game at Memorial Stadium on Saturday night. The Illini beat the Hoosiers, 55-13, sporting custom-designed orange uniforms. Erica Magda

Adam Babcock

The Illinois defense takes down Indiana running back Marcus Thigpen during the game at Memorial Stadium on Saturday night. The Illini beat the Hoosiers, 55-13, sporting custom-designed orange uniforms. Erica Magda

By Wes Anderson

It may seem like an inconsequential detail, but the orange jerseys Illinois wore against the Hoosiers on Saturday came about only through some careful negotiation.

“I was talked into it,” Zook said regarding the uniform choice.

According to Zook, the team was going to wear their traditional blue tops and white pants until Brit Miller and Juice Williams approached him on Friday night about changing up their look – again.

In three home games this season, the Illini have donned a throwback uniform, an orange jersey and a blue jersey. Williams said he and Miller wanted to debut yet another combination on Saturday.

“We were saying all blue,” Williams said. For reference, Illinois has not worn a blue-on-blue look since the infamous blowout loss to Penn State in 2005.

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    Perhaps aware of this obscure piece of history, Zook came up with a compromise on Saturday morning.

    “I went to Brit and said ‘I’m going to meet you halfway, we’ll go with the orange jerseys,'” Zook said.

    The problem? The normal blue jerseys had already been tailored to the players’ equipment for the game. So head equipment manager Trent Chesnut worked overtime to make the switch on Saturday.

    “Trent gets some kudos. They already had the blue jerseys on the shoulder pads, some of them were taped and so forth, so they had to redo that stuff,” Zook said.

    Interestingly, the Illini have worn their regular blue uniforms just once this season – in last week’s loss to Minnesota. They were worn for every game at Memorial Stadium last year.

    Miller said that after a 42-point win, the blue tops could be stashed away for the rest of the year.

    “I like the orange. We went out (Saturday), and I think we played well,” Miller said. “Some of those guys are superstitious in this football world, so that just might be the look for this year at home.”

    Dimke’s debut

    After a six-game wait, freshman kicker Derek Dimke finally got his chance.

    The Rockford, Ill., native, who was ranked the nation’s No. 13 kicker coming out of high school last year, saw his first game action on Saturday, kicking off for Illinois.

    “It was one of the best experiences of my life,” Dimke said.

    Dimke was tabbed for the start during the week after junior Michael Cklamovski struggled against Minnesota, sending two kickoffs out of bounds.

    The 18-year-old was thrown right into the fire and made the game’s opening kickoff after Indiana won the coin toss.

    “I was just trying to relax, just do what I do in practice,” Dimke said of his first college kick.

    The Illini’s subsequent blowout of the Hoosiers meant there was no shortage of playing time for Dimke. He finished with nine kickoffs, the longest of which sailed 69 yards to the Indiana 1-yard line before being caught.

    “I was just trying to put the ball where they wanted it,” Dimke said. “A couple of them weren’t quite where I wanted it but for the first game, it was alright.”

    Two plays, seven points

    After a crushing loss to Minnesota, Zook and his coaching staff had the week to decide how they would respond offensively against the Hoosiers.

    The play call they came up with for Illinois’ first possession could hardly have been more effective.

    After the Hoosiers went three-and-out to start the game, the Illini offense took over at their own 39-yard line and wasted no time in marching down the field.

    From the I-formation, typically a run-heavy set, Juice Williams faked a handoff before connecting on a deep arc to Will Judson, who gained a total of 60 yards before being tackled at the 1-yard line. One play later, Illinois had its first seven points on the board.

    The drive gained more yards (61) than seconds ticked off the clock (45) and foreshadowed the decisive victory that was to follow.

    Zook confirmed to reporters that the play was scripted beforehand and was designed to throw off the hard-hitting Indiana secondary.

    “They play a lot of quarters, so with the play action, we get them to get down in there, which it did, and Juice put it on the money,” Zook said.