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It’s still Colter’s show with Persa day-to-day

There wasn’t any mystery this week. When Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald released the depth chart for the home opener ­today against Eastern Illinois, Kain Colter was listed as the starting quarterback and Dan Persa the backup.

So it was no surprise when ­Persa was listed as questionable on the injury report Thursday. When the Wildcats face the Panthers at Ryan Field, it could be the fifth ­consecutive game Persa has missed since rupturing his Achilles last November.

“I think Danny is getting closer and closer, and he is day-to-day,” Fitzgerald said. “Hopefully he’ll play [against EIU], but we’ll see.”

Colter has gained confidence and experience since Persa’s injury, totaling 268 yards of offense in the Wildcats’ 24-17 season-opening victory last Saturday at Boston College. Colter completed 17 of 24 passes for 197 yards with an interception and rushed 23 times for 71 yards and a touchdown.

“[The Panthers are] a good team, athletic and fast, but we have to go out there and execute,” Colter said. “You can’t underestimate anybody [because] you’ll get your butt kicked. We have to prepare like we’re playing the No. 1 team in the nation.”

The game has special significance for EIU coach Bob Spoo, who is in his 25th and final season as the Panthers’ coach. Spoo, who has coached high school and college football for 50 years, announced in November that he would retire after the season.

“We’re going to have our hands full,” Fitzgerald said. “They have a very physical, very aggressive team, and half of their team is from here in Chicagoland. And it’s coach Spoo’s last opportunity against a BCS team. He’s the all-time winningest coach [at EIU] and a Chicagoan himself. This is going to be a battle, and we know what we’re getting into.”

Since Fitzgerald’s decision during training camp to name Jacob Schmidt as the Wildcats’ No. 1 tailback, the ground game has shown a big improvement from a year ago, gaining 227 yards at Boston College. But running back Mike Trumpy is listed as doubtful. Without Trumpy, the load will fall primarily on Schmidt and Adonis Smith.

Defensive tackle Jack DiNardo also will miss the game. He suffered a leg injury at Boston College.

The Wildcats (1-0) have never played EIU (1-0), nor have they played any of the 11 members of the Ohio Valley Conference.

NU has won its last four games against Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA) teams by a combined score of 144-24. Last season, the Wildcats beat FCS foe Illinois State in their home opener 37-3.

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