Iowa City, Ia. — They all played quarterback for Northwestern, and took turns tormenting Iowa’s football team.
That’s where the similarities begin for Dan Persa and the purple-clad passers who preceded him: Brett Basanez and C.J. Bacher.
“They always find ways to try and win the game,” Hawkeye cornerback Shaun Prater said, “really make my job a lot tougher.”
Persa, Basanez and Bacher have combined to orchestrate four victories over Iowa since 2005 — more than any other Big Ten Conference opponent.
The 6-foot-1, 210-pound Persa will try to notch his second win Saturday, when the No. 13 Hawkeyes visit Ryan Field for an 11 a.m. game.
“The one thing is, they’re all great competitors,” said Mick McCall, the Wildcats’ third-year offensive coordinator. “They all played the game with passion.
“The other part of it is, they really worked hard to be accurate passers, with timing and ball placement.”
Persa, from Bethlehem, Pa., currently ranks 10th nationally in passing efficiency, completing 73.4 percent of his attempts for 2,263 yards.
He’s also rushed for 469 yards.
“I think maybe I run a little bit more than (Basanez and Bacher) did,” Persa said, “but overall, we’re pretty similar.”
Persa distinguishes himself by not shying away from contact.
“I haven’t seen him slide that much,” Prater said.
Persa’s combination of mobility and passing touch make him perhaps the most versatile quarterback Iowa has faced this season.
He ran for a team-high 67 yards in last year’s 17-10 triumph in Iowa City and threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to tight end Drake Dunsmore.
“He’s not in awe of anything,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “He just plays very well and he’s a guy who throws the football well.”
Northwestern established its hex over the Hawkeyes five years ago, with a 28-27 comeback win in Evanston, Ill.
Basanez threw for 338 yards and two touchdowns.
The following season, Bacher passed for 218 yards, helping the Wildcats snap a six-game losing streak by beating Iowa 21-7.
He returned to Kinnick Stadium in 2008, completing 28-of-45 passes for 284 yards and three touchdowns.
Northwestern won 22-17.
“All three of those guys, really studied the game,” McCall said. “(Basanez) took his game to another level as time went on, and I think the other two guys did the same thing as well.”
Persa spent most of last season as the backup behind Mike Kafka, now a member of the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles.
When Kafka suffered a leg injury, Persa took a majority of the snaps against the Hawkeyes.
“He’s a very good dual-threat quarterback,” Iowa safety Tyler Sash said. “If the pocket is collapsing, he’s not scared.
“He’ll try to run you over. He’s not like most quarterbacks in the Big Ten, who are just going to try and pick up the first down. He’s going to fight for extra yards.”
Outsiders might dismiss Persa’s performance as a product of the Wildcats’ spread offense.
He offers a different viewpoint.
“I don’t really think it’s the system,” Persa said. “The past couple years, we’ve had pretty good quarteracks who prepared themselves pretty well.
“And I’m just trying to follow in their footsteps.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football