Northwestern’s Life After QB Dan Persa Begins with a Loss

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Today was Northwestern starting quarterback Dan Persa’s 22nd birthday. Many of his approximately 2,500 Facebook friends posted well wishes on his Facebook wall. But with a 48-27 loss to the in-state rival Illini, in an ultra-hyped contest that injury precluded him from taking part, I’m guessing he’s had better birthdays than this.

Persa brought a lot to NU’s table: a 15-4 TD pass to INT ratio, #1 in the nation in fewest interceptions thrown percentage (302 attempts), 74% completion percentage (also tops in all of college football, and a Big Ten record), The Silver Football trophy candidate also led the team in rushing yards.

His replacement in today’s Wrigleyville Classic, redshirt freshman Evan Watkins, finished 10-20 for just 135 yards, one interception, no touchdown passes. He also ran 7 times for 15 yards. Obviously, there was a huge drop-off in offensive production with NU being sans Persa.

Illinois Head Coach Ron Zook on how Persa’s injury affected NU: “How much did not having Martez Wilson affect our defense last year?”

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Spread-Option Trend-Setters: 2000 Big Ten Champion Northwestern Wildcats

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When it comes to Northwestern Wildcats football, everyone usually brings up 1995, and how that team re-defined the ‘Cats. But I’ve always said that it’s really a different Big Ten championship team, the 2000 squad, who really ushered in a new era for NU. Because that was the first year Randy Walker installed the spread-option offensive system, and the program has showcased exciting, fun to watch, usually pass-happy football ever since.

And the spread has really taken off across college football since then, making the Cats rather avant-garde. And it makes sense, considering the phrase “SPREAD far the fame” is right there in the fight song.

I discussed the system with Damien Anderson, star tailback on that bellwether team, and NU’s all-time leading rusher.

By Paul M. Banks

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