CHICAGO — Washington running back Jesse Callier never envisioned a particular play while he rehabilitated a torn knee ligament.
After being named the starter last season, Callier tore an ACL in the opener against San Diego State. He was done for the year and redshirted.
While working over the winter, then spring, then fall camp, he thought about the simplest thing.
“Go out there and have fun,” he said. “A lot of people ask me, ‘When are you going to get more carries? When are you going to do this?’ I block all that stuff out, and I’m glad to be playing football again, whether it’s getting to run on a kickoff or getting a punt return.
“Whatever it is, I’m just glad to be competing out there with the Dawgs again. Everything else is going to fall in place. I just try to go out there and have fun.”
Callier learned at halftime Saturday that he would be the No. 2 back in the second half against Illinois. Dwayne Washington’s two fumbles on two first-half carries made him a liability. He sat the rest of the night.
Callier had six carries for 66 yards, including a 39-yard touchdown, in Washington’s 34-24 win. He caught two passes for 30 yards.
Callier’s touchdown — his first since Oct. 15, 2011 — was not easy.
Callier said he was gassed before the run ended. After breaking into open field, he was running out of steam and a defender closed him down. That’s when he had a thought: Madden.
Callier often plays “Madden NFL 13” with teammate Kevin Smith. When the players lose their sprinting speed, Callier goes to a “wiggle” late to cut back. It’s precisely what he did on the field for his score.
“All the hard work, rehab, working out I did in the offseason, it definitely paid off that moment,” Callier said. “A relief moment.”
Middle linebacker John Timu injured his shoulder late in the second quarter and did not play the second half. Thomas Tutogi and Princeton Fuimaono took turns in the middle of Washington’s defense in his place. Illinois had a lot of success running up the middle in the second half.
“Timu hurt his shoulder and doesn’t even know when,” coach Steve Sarkisian said. “We’re not real sure (what is wrong), so we’ll have to get him checked out.
“I thought (the replacements) did a fine job.”
QUIET DEBUT FOR ASJ
Tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins made his 2013 debut after being suspended for the opener as part of his punishment for a March citation for driving under the influence.
Seferian-Jenkins was limited to three catches for eight yards, with a long of seven yards. He also committed two holding penalties and was called for encroachment.
“We’ve just got to get him back in the fold,” Sarkisian said. “I’m sure there was a lot on his mind, and it was his first game, too.”
Despite the muted stat line, Seferian-Jenkins had a large impact on the game, according to his quarterback.
“They keyed in on him,” Keith Price said. “They knew he was a big asset, so they tried to take him away from us. So big, he opened up enormous lanes for Bishop (Sankey) to kind of get off and do his thing.”
The Huskies committed 12 penalties for 104 yards, often negating large gains.
A hold by Seferian-Jenkins brought back a big gain by Jaydon Mickens. A block in the back by Josh Perkins during a kick return wiped out a strong John Ross return.
“We were moving the ball, but it’s hard when you have laundry out on the field,” Price said. “We knew that was the only way we were going to be stopped is if we just kept daggering ourselves.”
A personal foul on nose tackle Danny Shelton kept an Illinois drive alive after it was stopped on third down.
Washington was fooled twice on trick plays, including a wide receiver pass for a 35-yard gain on third-and-2. … Ross had one catch for four yards, and fellow freshman wide receiver Damore’ea Stringfellow was shut out. … Sophomore linebacker Scott Lawyer saw his most playing time since joining the Huskies. … Rush end Josh Shirley recorded three firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/uwsports @Todd_Dybas