Dan Persa threw four touchdowns in his return as starting quarterback for the Northwestern Wildcats. It was not enough to defeat Illinois.
Behind 12 catches for 268 receiving yards and three touchdowns for Illinois wide receiver A.J. Jenkins, the Illini were able to rally from a third quarter 28-10 deficit to knock off the Wildcats 38-35 in Champaign.
Although Illinois took a 7-0 first quarter lead, the ‘Cats held a 14-10 advantage at the half and increased that lead in the third quarter with two touchdowns. Persa found his favorite target Jeremy Ebert for three touchdowns during the game, two of which came in the third quarter.
Unfortunately for the Wildcats, Persa left the game in the second half after limping off the field. The details of the injury are not yet clear, but Persa did not return after leaving the game. Kain Colter, who started the first three games of the season for the ‘Cats, replaced Persa for the rest of the contest.
Persa finished 10-14 for 123 yards and four touchdowns, with no interceptions. Colter only threw the ball twice, and completed both passes for a total of 40 yards.
Illinois found its way back into the game with a heavy emphasis on the passing game. Nathan Scheelhaase threw for 391 yards and three touchdowns, all to Jenkins.
After Northwestern took its 28-10 lead, the Illini struck back with three straight touchdowns to take a 31-28 lead in the fourth quarter. The Wildcats, however, regained the lead with only 1:15 remaining on a Jacob Schmidt 6-yard touchdown run.
Illinois was able to march down the field and score with only 13 seconds remaining in the game. Nathan Scheelhaase ran a quarterback sneak for a touchdown on 3rd and goal from the one-yard line.
A last-second scoring attempt by Northwestern — a hook and ladder play — moved the ‘Cats into Illinois territory, but the Illini were able to stop the play before Northwestern could make a serious threat at the endzone.
Northwestern falls to 2-2, while Illinois improves to 5-0.
More coverage to follow.