I know it’s only week two of college football. And both of Northwestern‘s first two terrible opponents are TERRIBLE. Especially Illinois State, who gave up 547 yards passing in week one to a bad FCS team, but the numbers are the numbers. And NU QB Dan Persa rested for pretty much the entire second half Saturday, so he didn’t exactly have a chance to further augment his prestigious numbers.
NU Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald often likes to say “stats are for losers.”
He said it again Saturday, but there’s nothing “loser” about these statistics.
After completing 19 of 21 passes for 222 yards and three touchdowns in his first career start at Vanderbilt, Persa’s pass efficiency rating on the year actually dropped to a national-best 212.1 after he connected on 19 of 23 passes for 240 yards and two scoring strikes against Illinois State. And that rating should be even higher when you consider wideout Sidney Stewart let a perfectly placed throw go right through his hands while he was in the end zone during the second quarter yesterday.
By Paul M. Banks
And again it’s only week three, but when is the last time a NU QB led the nation in passing? I know off-hand Mike Kafka and C.J. Bacher never did. So Steve Schnur? Brett Basanesz? Len Williams? Sandy Schwab? Zak Kustok?
Maybe Sarah Kustok?
Ok, scratch that last one, but Persa is four points ahead of second place Ryan Corbun of Fresno State, and seven points ahead of California’s Kevin Riley. Persa’s 86.4 completion percentage is 3 pts ahead of second place Nick Foles of Arizona. And he’s not doing it with the dinks and the dumps, padding stats with easy-to-complete short routes.
Persa’s yards per attempt of 10.5 is 5th best in the nation.
Fitzgerald said this about his QB’s development on Monday.
“It’s not about perfect it’s about execution and he’s done that. You look at his passer rating, No. 1 in the nation, and I’d like it to stay there. Why not? We ask our players to play to their strengths. For Mick McCall and our offensive staff, it’s players, formations and plays. Danny is a perfect fit for our offense, he’s done a great job managing things, spreading it out.”
And one of Persa’s favorite targets, Drake Dunsmore had plenty of praise as well.
“He’s a leader and he knows the system. He throws a great ball and he can run when he needs to.”
The official Chicago Air and Water Show may have been in August, but expect to see the skies filled with action along Lake Michigan again on NU home Saturdays this fall as Northwestern’s air attack looks pretty impressive. And remember this is the same offense that threw the ball 79 times in last year’s Outback Bowl.
And if Persa’s numbers continue to look like this, then the Bethlehem, Pennsylvania native will soon be regarded (at least on the NU campus) like somebody else born in Bethlehem. Albeit a much more famous town of Bethlehem.
Paul M. Banks is President and CEO of The Sports Bank.net , a Midwest focused webzine. He is also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, the Chicago Tribune’s blog network, Walter Football.com, the Washington Times Communities, Yardbarker Network, and Fox Sports.com
You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank and @bigtenguru