Against Penn State this past weekend, Dan Persa dropped back to throw late in the second quarter and looked long. He sailed the ball deep, splitting two defenders in the process and hitting favorite target Jeremy Ebert for a 54-yard gain. It looked like two guys playing catch in the backyard.
The Persa to Ebert connection is nothing new for ‘Cats fans. Since Persa returned from injury earlier this year, Ebert has returned to 2010 form, and has caught 44 passes for 540 yards and six touchdowns so far this season. Only one of these touchdowns came in the first three games, when Persa was still sidelined. What is it that makes these two such a dynamic pair?
“For the past four years, we’ve been on a scout team and just summer workouts and stuff like that,” Ebert said. “I think it’s the amount of reps we’ve had together that makes our chemistry work.”
Though Persa joined the team in 2007, he redshirted his freshman year. Ebert arrived in 2008. Both have seen four years of field time, though Persa took over as starting quarterback in 2010. Still, the two players are familiar with each other’s on-field tendencies.
“We’ve been working with each other for so long, it’s just kind of second nature,” Persa said.
Last year, Persa was the most accurate passer in the nation before suffering his season-ending Achilles injury. Not coincidentally, Persa’s accomplishments translated into success for his favorite target: Ebert was the leading receiver for the Wildcats last year, totaling 62 receptions for 953 yards.
Part of the reason the duo works so well together, Persa said, is because Ebert has played the quarterback position before. “He knows what I’m looking at, so it helps a lot for him to have such a great knowledge of the game,” he said.
Combine that with the amount of time Persa and Ebert have spent working together, and the two men know what to expect from each other.
“I think Jeremy does a great job in knowing what I’m thinking,” Persa said. “I think we’re always on the same page.”
Even though Ebert only caught five passes during Saturday’s loss to Penn State, the two looked in sync for most of the game – even when the Wildcats failed to convert a big opportunity.
Early in the fourth quarter, with the Wildcats trailing by 10, Ebert shot past the defense on a fly route. Persa heaved the ball deep and put it perfectly in Ebert’s hands, but Ebert dropped the sure touchdown. Such a failed play is very uncharacteristic of the duo.
Ebert agreed with Persa’s perception of the tandem’s good chemistry. Between knowing the position Persa plays and knowing Persa well himself, the wide receiver knows what to expect from his primary quarterback.
“I know where he’s going to put the ball, I understand where he’s seeing the defense,” Ebert said. “Just having that knowledge of each other, it’s really helpful on the field.”