2022 Spring Orange and Blue Game provides learning experience for Illini


Sydney Laput

Senior quarterback Tommy DeVito passes the ball during the first half of the Spring Orange and Blue game on Thursday. DeVito led the White team to winning against the Blue team 58-40.

By Ben Fader, Staff Writer

The White team beat the Blue team by a score of 58-40.

The Blue team got the ball first with senior quarterback Ryan Johnson under center. After senior running back Chase Hayden found a hole for six yards on the first play, the White offense buckled down and forced a punt.

Senior Tommy DeVito led the White team out for their first drive, missing last year’s second leading receiver in junior Casey Washington while freshman Shawn Miller was sidelined as well with his left arm in a sling.

The White team’s first drive was anything but smooth starting with a wide-open sophomore receiver Isaiah Williams dropping a 25-yard pass down field that could have easily gone for a 60-yard touchdown.

Two plays later, redshirt freshman defensive back Tyler Strain of the Blue team forced a fumble on a screen pass to Williams in the backfield. The miscues ultimately forced a punt.

Get The Daily Illini in your inbox!

  • Catch the latest on University of Illinois news, sports, and more. Delivered every weekday.
  • Stay up to date on all things Illini sports. Delivered every Monday.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.
Thank you for subscribing!

The White defense was even stronger the second time out after redshirt freshman punter Hugh Robertson downed a punt at the four-yard line.

Sophomore running back Josh McCray got the reps with the White team for drive two and didn’t disappoint. The second man of the two-headed backfield for the Illini totaled 33 yards on six carries and a touchdown.

Despite McCray earning a bulk of the yards and the score on drive two, DeVito looked much more confident communicating the plays, which continued for the remainder of the game.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Samari Collier came on for the third Blue drive and immediately delivered a nice looking ball on first down to redshirt freshman receiver Daniel Edwards.

The Blue team didn’t cross midfield for the third consecutive drive as Collier found himself on the run multiple times with sophomore defensive lineman Jer’Zhan Newton and junior linebacker Ezekiel Holmes providing consistent pressure.

A field goal competition was held between the first and second quarters, but junior Caleb Griffin and redshirt freshman Fabrizio Pinton were unable to consistently make anything past 35 yards. At the end of this competition, White was winning 10-9 after the first quarter.

Team White picked up right where they left off in the second quarter, as Brown ripped off a 17 yard rush and DeVito eventually found Williams again for a 25-yard touchdown, his second of the day.

Johnson of the Blue team had multiple open receivers in the three play run on drive number four, but could not put the ball on the receivers accurately, resulting in White forcing yet another punt.

The White team offensive line continued to open gaping holes which McCray took advantage of to begin the fourth drive as he powered his way through some open holes for 18 yards on two carries.

The blocking was impressive all day for team White as running back Brown showed the ability to pick up blitzes. Even DeVito got in on the block party leading the way for a 28-yard rush by Scott early in the second quarter.

DeVito was the player to watch the rest of the drive as he unleashed a beautiful throw on the line to sophomore receiver Pat Bryant, who tiptoed the sideline for the grab. After a failed quarterback sneak, DeVito found sophomore tight end Tip Reiman for a 21-yard touchdown.

After a spring game Barstool Carl touchdown for the Blue team, the White offense came back for another methodical drive, ending in a 44-yard touchdown to Williams again.

The White secondary got their hands on the ball a lot today with junior defensive back Devon Witherspoon recording multiple deflections and senior defensive back Kendall Smith intercepting a Ryan Johnson pass late in the second quarter.

Chase Brown got his turn to control a drive, converting a two-yard touchdown to cap off a good short field possession from the White team.

To finish the first half, Collier replaced Johnson after the interception and marched team Blue down the field for their first real touchdown of the game. The drive was finished by freshman running back Jordan Anderson, rushed in from two yards out.

The touchdown made the score 51-31 at halftime. The second half went by much faster as the quarters were shortened to 12 minutes and the clock was running at all times.

DeVito stayed strong with a 25-yard pass and a 27-yard pass to begin the second half. McCray took over in the red zone and recorded his second touchdown of the day on a three-yard power run up the middle.

The White team showed strong once again on defense despite Collier and the Blue team being gifted the ball inside the red zone. Freshman kicker Will McManus came on to attempt a field goal after the three down stop but the kicking struggles continued as he missed wide right on a 26 yarder.

The third quarter ended with another kicking competition between Griffin and Pinton. Both kickers looked much stronger during this second go around, and the score after three was 51-40 White.

As the fourth quarter began, DeVito’s exceptional day ended and Johnson came in to replace him. Johnson could not seem to get anything going once again even with the team switch and they punted after a three-and-out.

Freshman quarterback Jake Huber got into the action for the Blue team completing his first two passes. Huber was constantly under duress from Holmes and the defensive line showed ability to get into the backfield as well with junior Bryce Barnes and senior Jamal Woods.

Barstool Carl entered one final time and ended the game with another touchdown pass to solidify the win for team White.

The White team looked smooth and showed early chemistry on both sides of the ball. Every position stepped up on the offensive side of the ball with DeVito at the helm. Newton led the front seven on the defensive side with the secondary being impressive as well.

This looked to still be a run first offense with the skillset of Brown and McCray, but DeVito showed great awareness and accuracy which will be interesting to watch for this fall with a healthy receiving core.

Plenty of mistakes and learning occurred with the Blue team. Collier showed some poise under pressure and led both of the Blue team’s best drives on the day making some quality throws. Redshirt freshman defensive lineman Sed McConnell was another who seemed to be everywhere on the field.

This finishes the spring football season for the Illini but there is much to look forward to for the 2022 fall season with the offense looking much improved.


[email protected]