Dan Persa exits late with foot pain

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Northwestern senior quarterback Dan Persa sat out his team's final two offensive series of Saturday's 38-35 loss to Illinoisi as a precautionary measure after feeling pain in his right foot.

The injury occurred when Persa was tripped up from behind by Illinois' Michael Buchanan on a second-down play early in the fourth quarter. Persa left the game following the play and did not return.

"I got hit when I was running, and I felt some pain at the bottom of my heel, and the top of my toe started to stiffen up," Persa said. "In the past, that's when setbacks have happened. It was a tough decision.

"It's tough when you want to go back in, and the same time, you don't want to risk another injury."

Persa was making first his start since rupturing his right Achilles tendon against Iowa last season. He missed the final three game of last season and the first three of this season.

Persa did not anticipate missing any further games due the injury.

"I feel fine," Persa said. "I'm sure I'll be fine."

Before the injury, Persa was looking like his old self. He quickly shook off his rust Saturday and found creative ways of avoiding Illinois' tacklers and then finding open receivers.

Persa was 11-of-15 passing for 137 yards and four touchdowns. He had zero rushing yards on 10 carries. His longest run was 7 yards.

"He's a young man who makes a lot of plays in a lot of areas," Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said. "He understands conceptually what we want to do. When a play breaks down, he can make a play like [Illinois quarterback] Nathan [Scheelhaase.] Two great quarterbacks were on display, two great Big Ten quarterbacks."

Scott Powers covers high school and college sports for ESPNChicago.com and can be reached at spowers@espnchicago.com.