Player Spotlight: Dan Persa
Dan Persa, the Bethlehem, Pennsylvania native who starred at Liberty, is now the star player on a much-improved Northwestern Wildcat squad. Despite being ranked the third best quarterback in Pennsylvania coming out of high school, Dan Persa left the state to go west, right underneath Joe Paterno’s nose.
Persa stayed in Big Ten country, joining a Northwestern team with a 4-8 record. He redshirted his freshman season. During that season, the team saw improvement under head coach Pat Fitzgerland, finishing 6-6, but was on the outside looking in come bowl season.
In Persa’s first year on the roster, he was a backup quarterback. The team was much better than the year before and reached the Alamo Bowl, where they lost to Missouri.
Persa continued to see limited action in his redshirt sophomore campaign, as he sat behind current NFL player Mike Kafka. Persa was able to enjoy his team’s success, though, as the team finished 8-4 and a bid to the Outback Bowl. They would fall in that game to the Auburn Tigers.
With Kafka graduating, 2010 was the year for Persa to take control of the quarterback position for the Wildcats. Expectations were high after two straight bowl appearances, and Persa led the team to a 7-3 record. However, an Achilles injury sidelined him for the end of the season, and the team lost its last three games, including a Ticketcity Bowl loss to Texas Tech.
Persa set the FBS single-season record for completion percentage with a mark of 73.5 percent last season. The precision passer also set Northwestern records in single-season and career passing efficiency ratings.
After missing the first three games of this season while recovering from surgery, the 2-1 Wildcats welcomed their leader back to action. The team co-captain went off in his return, going 10-for-14 for 123 yards and 4 touchdowns.
Now three games into his comeback campaign, Persa is focused and poised to earn his first victory in 2011. So far this season Persa has amassed 700 passing yards and five touchdowns while going 73-for-98. His completion percentage stands at 74.5 percent this season, which would put him on a crash course with his own FBS single-season record.
Persa faced the Michigan Wolverines in his only home start since returning. Despite going 32-for-44 for 331 yards, Persa was unable to throw a touchdown pass and threw his first pick of the season.
Persa and the Wildcats welcome the Nittany Lions to Ryan Field looking to halt a three game skid. A tough opening schedule in conference play led Northwestern against undefeated Illinois and Michigan squads. Despite inspiring play by Persa the Wildcats lost to both the Fighting Illini and the Wolverines.
They went on the road to face Iowa who was returning home after a tough loss at Penn State. The Hawkeyes ambushed the Wildcats and their losing streak continued.
Persa will be hungry at home to throw his first touchdown pass while the stout Penn State defense looks to build upon its sixth ranked scoring defense.
In last year’s matchup in Happy Valley, the Pennsylvania native led his 6-2 Wildcats with a solid performance. He went 16-25 with 201 yards and a touchdown, while rushing for 109 yards and two touchdowns. However, Penn State’s second half comeback overshadowed his performance, as Penn State won 35-21 and earned Penn State head coach Joe Paterno his 400th victory.
Persa looks to lead the 2-4 Wildcats to an upset over the 6-1 Nittany Lions this weekend. He will have to rely on his arm much more this season than he did a year ago. Persa’s adjustments and the strong Penn State defense will limit him on the ground and force him to use the passing attack in any attempt to upset the Lions.
Jared Abbott is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism and psychology. To contact him, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.