NU QB Colter ready to step aside for Persa

EVANSTON, Ill. -- Northwestern sophomore quarterback Kain Colter knows who the man is.

“Dan’s the man,” Colter said following Tuesday’s practice.

With Dan Persa's expected return to the field Saturday against Illinois after missing the team’s first three games due to injury, Colter’s role will diminish, and he’s accepted that.

“It’s his senior year,” Colter said of Persa. “We all want him in there. I think it’s good for me watching Dan on the field and being able to take some things and incorporate them into my game. I just want Dan to be good in his senior year.”

Colter filled in as the starting quarterback for Persa in the Wildcats’ first three games. Persa wasn’t cleared for the first two games as he continued to rehab from rupturing his Achilles tendon last season but could have been used in an emergency against Army.

Colter held his own as the Wildcats went 2-1 during that stretch. Colter was 39-for-60 passing for 390 yards, one touchdown and one interception and he rushed for 237 yards and four touchdowns.

One of the challenges for Colter this season, aside from opposing defenses, has been the constant talk of whether Persa would play each week.

“This year has been a rollercoaster. Ups and downs. Dan in and Dan out,” Colter said. “It’s really helping me mature a lot. We’d all like to feel comfortable and know exactly what’s going to happen, but you never do. You just have to prepare like you’re the guy even if you’re third or fourth string. It just takes one play, and I can be back in there.”

Colter is still expected to be in the Wildcats’ plan. Persa may not be ready to play an entire game just yet. Plus with Colter’s athleticism, he could be used in a variety of ways outside of quarterback. Neither he nor Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said Tuesday whether he would play another positions against Illinois.

“It’s good to have that kind of athlete in the program,” Fitzgerald said. “He’s very dynamic, can do a lot of things.”

Colter struggled the last time he was on the field. In the Wildcats’ loss to Army, he had season lows of 89 passing yards and 57 rushing yards.

“Every game is not going to be great just like the Army game,” Colter said. “There’s a lot of things I need to fix in my game. I want to be a better passer. That’s just something I’m going to focus on and try to improve.”

Fitzgerald felt Colter was too hard on himself about the Army game.

“We got together last Sunday after the game,” Fitzgerald said. “I read his comments and I said, ‘At the end of the day, the reason that we're in a position to win every game is because of you. I don't mind you being hard on yourself, but there's also a point of being overly critical.’

“That's part of the maturation of a quarterback -- you're going to have some great experiences and you're going to have some experiences that you'd like to have back. That's part of growing up in that position. He’s played outstanding. He's given us a chance to win all three football games. He's a very talented young man who has a bright, bright future."