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Bye gives Northwestern’s Dan Persa more time to prepare


Quarterback Dan Pershopes make his 2011 debut Illinois Oct. 1. | Nam Y. Huh~AP

Quarterback Dan Persa hopes to make his 2011 debut at Illinois on Oct. 1. | Nam Y. Huh~AP

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Updated: November 30, 2011 12:19AM



Dan Persa remembers it well: the pain in his right foot, walking on crutches, then having to sit in the November cold while his Northwestern teammates lost a highly anticipated game to Illinois at Wrigley Field.

‘‘It was tough,’’ Persa said. ‘‘It was a good feeling for 30 seconds, and then I realized I wasn’t playing. I couldn’t move, either, and I don’t think the drugs wore off yet from surgery [the week before]. I may have been a little woozy from that. I wasn’t feeling good to begin with.’’

Persa’s memory is long, so he would like nothing more than to get some revenge when the Wildcats travel to Champaign for their Big Ten opener Oct. 1 against the ­Illini.

On Thursday, Persa and coach Pat Fitzgerald said they would be shocked if Persa didn’t play at quarterback against Illinois. He has missed six consecutive games since rupturing his Achilles tendon Nov. 13 against Iowa.

‘‘At this point, I’m ready to go and don’t consider myself injured anymore,’’ Persa said. ‘‘I have the same percentage of getting injured as anybody else because I’m [medically] cleared, and the more I think like that, the better off I’ll be.’’

Going up against the Illini’s defense might be a rude awakening for Persa. Illinois sacked Arizona State quarterback Brock Osweiler six times in a 17-14 victory Saturday in Champaign.

Persa has said he felt ready to play for several weeks, but team doctors didn’t clear him until last week, when NU faced Army. Even then, Persa was cleared to play only in an ‘‘emergency situation’’ and didn’t get into the game. With the Wildcats trailing by a touchdown in the fourth quarter, Kain Colter was lifted for Trevor Siemian.

Persa said he feels good physically, but overcoming the mental aspect of his injury is another matter.

‘‘I have the confidence, but it’s working back on getting the 100 percent effectiveness that I had last year,’’ Persa said. ‘‘I’m at a point where I can play. I was totally cleared [at Army], but I hadn’t practiced enough. I know we made the decision before the game, and I knew we weren’t going to change anything mid-game because of the emotions. That’s where you get yourself in trouble.”

NU regrouped after losing at Army 21-14 and has a bye this week. That will give players such as safety Brian Peters a chance to recall what some Illinois players said after the game at Wrigley Field. Former Illini linebacker Martez Wilson said Illinois, not NU, was really ‘‘Chicago’s Big Ten Team.’’

‘‘It leaves a sour taste in your mouth, especially when we’re closer to Chicago,’’ ­Peters said. ‘‘We have the extra week to prepare, and the more time you have, the more film you can watch. It is an advantage.’’



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