Dan Persa makes 2011 debut

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Northwestern
senior quarterback Dan Persa made his 2011 debut Saturday, starting against Illinois.

Persa had not played in a game since rupturing his Achilles tendon against Iowa on Nov. 13. He was hopeful to return for the 2011 season opener, but he was not cleared by the team's medical staff for the Wildcats' first two games and was only considered an emergency option in their third game against Army. Northwestern did not play last week.

Persa was a first-team All-Big Ten selection by the conference's coaches last season after completing 222 of 302 passes for 2,581 yards, 15 touchdowns and four interceptions. He sat out the team's final three games due to his injury.

Northwestern lost 48-27 to Illinois last season without Persa at Wrigley Field.

Scott Powers covers college sports for ESPNChicago.com.