All-Big 10 QB Dan Persa Completes Comeback Trail; Ready for 2011 (Video)

A couple weeks ago, the Northwestern Wildcats launched “PersaStrong,” a media campaign to promoting senior quarterback Dan Persa as a 2011 Heisman Trophy candidate. Persa enters this season after being named the All-Big Ten first-team quarterback in 2010, a season in which he broke the Big Ten’s all-time record for completion percentage with a 73.5 mark. He missed the last three games due to a ruptured Achilles, but still had a 5 touchdowns, threw just four interceptions and ran for another nine scores. He is healthy and ready to go for training camp.

Today was NU Media Day; and Persa spoke about a whole host of topics. Watch the video after the jump

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Northwestern Spring Scrimmage Preview

pat fitzgerald

The Northwestern Wildcats have completed 14 of their allotted 15 spring practices, with only the spring game remaining. On Saturday at noon, the ‘Cats will take to Ryan Field and showcase the 2011 team in what Pat Fitzgerald referred to as a “situational exhibition.”

If you’re hoping for a big game on Saturday, don’t get your hopes up. Pat Fitzgerald is leaving it to (NU Senior Associate Athletics Director of External Affairs) Mike Polisky to take care of making the game pretty. For Fitzgerald and his team, Saturday’s scrimmage will be just that—a scrimmage.

If you were looking forward to see First-Team All-Big Ten quarterback Dan Persa, you’re out of luck. He has been out all spring, as he rests his achillies injury.

Now that I’ve officially played the role of Debbie Downer, let’s get to what will be showcased on Saturday.

By Chris Emma, PurpleWildcats.com

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Dan Persa Named Big Ten All-Conference First Team Quarterback

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Northwestern’s Dan Persa (Bethlehem, Pa./Liberty) was selected as the All-Big Ten first team quarterback by a vote of the conference coaches while wide receiver Jeremy Ebert (Hilliard, Ohio/Hilliard Darby) is an All Big Ten first team choice of the conference media.

Persa, one of the most valuable and dynamic players in the Big Ten and all of college football, led Northwestern to a 7-3 record in 10 starts this season before suffering a season-ending injury in a victory over the then-No. 13 Iowa Hawkeyes on Nov. 13.

He ranks second in the Big Ten in passing yardage per game (258.1), total offense per game (310.0) and led the nation in completion percentage (73.5).

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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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Northwestern QB Dan Persa Ruptures Achilles, Out for Season

dan persa passing

The Northwestern Wildcats 21-17 upset win over #13 the Iowa Hawkeyes came at a price, a hefty price. They lost one of the most valuable players in the Big Ten, and college football overall, in Junior QB Dan Persa.

Persa threw the game winning,  20-yard TD pass to Demetrius Fields with 1:22 left, but ruptured his Achilles just after the play ended.  Iowa’s Adrian Clayborn, a favorite for Big Ten Defensive player of the year, was blitzing him, but only lightly brushed him. A back-side Iowa rusher also went past Persa untouched. It appeared that Persa may have jumped up, or was about to commence running after the play, expressing the positive emotion of a thrilling comeback, which culminated in a 91-yard drive.

Either way, the freak injury means Persa will miss the final two games, along with NU’s bowl appearance. Redshirt Freshman Evan Watkins, a native of suburban Carol Stream, will start next week versus the Illinois Fighting Illini at the Cubs’ Wrigley Field in the Allstate Wrigleyville Classic.

By Paul M. Banks

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Northwestern QB Dan Persa leading the NATION in Pass Efficiency

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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

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Northwestern Passing Attack breaking in new QB, WRs

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During his time at the podium at Big Ten Media Day, Northwestern Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald discussed how his team’s appearance in a New Year’s Day bowl is changing the program’s national image.

“I believe our system is quarterback friendly. It’s amazing, when you come out of the Outback Bowl, I get a bunch of calls from quarterbacks nationally saying:  So you throw the ball 79 times?  Cool.  Okay.  So obviously it’s pretty quarterback friendly from the standpoint of development, too.”

Ah yes, the 2010 Outback Bowl, it was certainly one for the ages. Nine FBS and/or NCAA records were set in that 38-35 overtime loss to Auburn. A game where NU out-gained the Tigers by nearly 200 yards, and QB Mike Kafka set a NCAA record for offensive plays (78 passing, 20 running) compiling 562 yards. He also threw for a school (and Outback Bowl) record 532.

By Paul M. Banks

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Dan Persa taking over for Mike Kafka in Northwestern Air Show

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Last year, Northwestern led the Big Ten in passing offense and were among the national leaders in passing completions and plays per game. Their offense was extremely fun to watch as their QB Mike Kafka was one of the nation’s best in the total offense department, and wide receiver Zeke Markshausen was essentially the Wes Welker of college football; one of the best go-to receivers you can find on third down.

But today, Markshausen is at Chicago Bears camp and Kafka was a fifth round draft pick of the Philadelphia Eagles.

So this fall, it’s Dan Persa‘s turn to take the reigns.

By Paul M. Banks

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