The late night Saturday combined with the “short week” has many folks scratching their football itch by saying “what day is it?” Well, for one, it’s a day when Northwestern is now a Top 20 team, as the ‘Cats were ranked #19 in the AP Top 25 Poll and landed at #20 in the USA Today Coaches’ Poll.
It’s also a day when we welcome Dan Persa back to LTP to get his thoughts on week one of the Wildcats’ season. But first, It’s a day that I really don’t look forward to because I’m not a fan of asking you, the readers to help me out directly. However, with the mounting costs of providing daily content for you, the costs are real enough that for the next month, I’ll be passing the hat to help ensure we can make this free site, as enjoyable as possible for the coming year.
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Wednesday Morning QB W/Dan Persa
Dan Persa, a friend of LTP, is the former NU standout QB and Wildcat captain. Persa set the NCAA career accuracy record by completing 72.7% of his passes, crushing the previous mark set by Hawaii’s Colt Brennan. Dan was a fan favorite for his tireless work ethic and cool under pressure approach. Dan, let’s jump in to it.
LTP: The gameplan got thrown out the window on the second play of scrimmage for NU. Tell us about your perspective of what that did to the obvious pass-first, limiting of the zone option read element of our game. What did you see and how or how not did Trevor need to adjust?
DP: I wouldn’t say the gameplan got thrown out the window. Our offense can be adapted to any type of player. With Kain, obviously his strength lies in the read option attack. With Trevor, obviously his strength lies in the passing game. That being said, both players can execute either portion of the offense to an extent. As the QB changed, you also saw different players being involved. Both Dan Vitale and Christian Jones had huge games because of the increased downfield passing. On the contrary, Venric had a slower day because he thrives off the read option play and being in space (not to mention what appeared to be a lingering injury). With Trevor, Treyvon had a bigger game since his strength lies in running between the tackles. It is not my place to say which offense is better, but depending who is at QB you can see there is an obvious impact on the production of the other skill players.
LTP: Dan, let me clarify. With regards to the gameplan, I meant the change of pace and challenge that the Kain/Trevor alternation presents to opposing defenses. With just one QB, the “D” has a chance to really focus on the tendencies of Trevor (in this case).
DP: Ok. Gotcha. To that point, I agree.
LTP: Give us your take on Trevor’s performance. Which plays stood out to you both on the good and the bad?
DP: I think Trevor played great, aside from a few throws that left you scratching your head. His throws to Tony Jones and Christian Jones throughout the night were very accurate and precise – especially that TD to Tony. Trevor just has to eliminate the double coverage throws that lead to INTs. Trevor was able to make those tough throws because he was being aggressive, but he has to be careful not to overstep that line and be careless with the football.
His first INT was just a great play by the defender. As a QB, you just have to tip your hat to a play like that. Trevor’s second INT (along with a few other balls that could have been picked) needs to be eliminated, especially late in the game. There is a difference between a 1-on-1 jump ball, and a jump ball into double coverage. One-on-one jump balls, especially with our WRs, are chances that he needs to take every time. A jump ball in double coverage is just careless, and very few times does it lead to anything positive. But overall I thought Trevor played with great confidence and conviction, and he was a large part of why we won.
LTP: Let’s assume Kain is out this week (and possibly more). How do you anticipate the offense adapting if we go full throttle with Trevor only? What adjustments do you see Mick McCall making?
DP: I think it will be very similar to what you saw on Saturday -less zone read and more downfield passing and inside the tackle running. The beauty of the spread is that it fits a multitude of playing styles and can easily be tweaked or adapted to fit all situations.
LTP: Our run game last year benefitted from spreading the field and the ability to go boundary to boundary. Obviously Trevor struggled with the option pitch Saturday night. How do you see us adjusting our run game to accommodate Trevor’s strengths?
DP: Again, I see us relying on our tempo and inside the tackle running. It is obvious that we are a better running team with Kain in the game. What you will see with Trevor is an increase in the offense’s tempo that tires the “D”-lines and allows for gaping holes in the middle of the defense. We will still run the zone read and option, it just won’t be a staple of our offense if Trevor is in the game.
LTP: Clearly Goff had a huge night. From a defensive side of the ball, NU sure seemed to be in “keep the play in front of you” mode with few blitzes and only a couple of successes on our four man rush. It’s no secret every team is going to try and ISO Daniel Jones’ vacated CB slot. What does the “D” need to do to adjust, considering a Dan Persa-like passer would likely be licking his chops at that game tape?
DP: First of all, I was extremely impressed with Goff. To come in and play like that against our defense as a true freshman was unbelievable. If it wasn’t for a few tip ball picks that are just bad luck, he would be up for national player of the week.
But yes, I agree with you. Every team is going to continue to attack our secondary, and we need to make sure we don’t get into that “keep everything in front of you mode”. That is the quickest way to give up long, uncontested drives. We need to rely on our D Line and LBs to provide pressure and hurry the QBs. We also need to change more looks in the defensive backfield. We were stuck in cover 4 too often, and for QBs that is one of the easiest coverages to throw against. We need to help out whoever fills in for Daniel Jones by providing him with safety help until he gets his feet underneath him. Playing CB is not an easy thing to do, you are out on an island and if something bad happens to your side there is only one person to blame. We need to build confidence in our new corner and rely on the strength of the defense as a unit.
LTP: Thanks Dan. We appreciate your insights. If you want to dig in more with Dan, you can do so by signing up for HuddlePass, a new football venture that Dan is a part of that enables fans to get football insights from former players.