Going into their game against the Army Black Knights, Northwestern was 2-0 with wins over Boston College and Eastern Illinois. All of this without their star quarterback Dan Persa.
The Wildcats were favorites to win the game, but their offense struggled and the end result was a 21-14 loss to the Black Knights.
Northwestern used quarterbacks Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian in Persa's place, but both were unable to generate enough offense to win the game.
Colter threw for 89 yards and a touchdown. Siemian threw for 105 yards and a touchdown. However, neither quarterback threw an interception.
Last year, Persa averaged 250 yards passing per game.
In a spread offense like Northwestern's, production from the quarterback position is critical to the team's success. The quarterback must manage the game and make good decisions with the ball and generate most of the team's offense.
While Colter and Siemian were successful in managing the game against Army, both were unable to drive Northwestern's offense the way Persa did.
Before Persa injured his Achilles in 2010, the Wildcats were 7-3. In those ten games, Persa threw for 2,581 yards and 15 touchdowns. Furthermore, Persa ran for 519 yards and nine touchdowns. That is over 3,000 yards of Northwestern's offense and 24 touchdowns.
After Persa's injury, Northwestern went on to lose to Illinois at Wrigley Field and to Wisconsin in a rout (70-23). The Wildcats then lost their bowl game to Texas Tech in a shootout 45-38.
The Wildcats cannot expect Kain Colter or Trevor Siemian to replace Dan Persa and provide similar numbers. However, it is reasonable to expect more than 14 points from a quarterback-driven offense like NU's.
Northwestern needs Dan Persa to come back.