Quarterback Dan Persa practiced Wednesday and exhibited no signs of the turf toe injury he suffered last Saturday against Penn State. But when we asked if there were any after effects at all, he admitted, "Yeah, a little bit. But at this point of the season everybody's hurt, so you just got to gut it out."
Can he play without thinking about it?
Does the injury limit him at all?
"I don't think so. It hurts. But they protect it, so it's fine."
How likely is it that it will be aggravated during the 'Cats Saturday game at Indiana?
"It's going to get aggravated. There's really no way to stop that. So that's just dealing with the pain."
So it will be a matter of playing through the pain?
"Yeah. Yeah. It's going to happen. I'm not really worried about it."
PICK A NAME, ANY NAME:
So there is again at least some uncertainty surrounding Persa and how long he can go, which brings us back once more to Kain Colter. He is the 'Cats', well, we were stumped on just what to label him, and so we asked him what he would like to be called. He laughed. "I don't know. I don't know," he then said. "What position would I call myself? I just call myself a baller. I just go out there and ball."
JACK OF ALL TRADES, AND MASTER OF THEM TOO:
He is his team's leading rusher and its third-leading receiver and he has taken snaps from center in all seven of its game, and his coach Pat Fitzgerald recently declared "Of everybody on our roster, (he's) playing at an All-Big Ten level. He might be the only guy." That is why we found it interesting that Colter runs only on the field and not between meeting rooms.
"I'm just in the quarterback room," he told us when we asked how he prepares for his various roles. "In that room, we go over what every position does on offense. So, being in those meetings and learning that, it really prepares me for every position I have to play. There were times in last week's game where we might call a play that we never repped in practice, but being in the quarterback room and having that quarterback mind, I know what to do on that play. So I feel if the coaches need to make a switch on the field and call a different play, I can do that."
WHAT? ME WORRY?
Fitzgerald, with good reason, has often lauded Colter this season, and once said he wished he had more like him on the 'Cat roster. He was reminded of that statement this week and then asked just what about Colter he would like to see other players embody. "I think he's having a lot of fun," Fitzgerald said. "I think he's enjoying the opportunities that he has, he's cutting it loose, he's not fearing failure, he's not worrying about making a mistake, he's not trying to be perfect. He's just going out and having fun. For whatever reason, when you have a lack of success, I think sometimes that other aspect manifests within your psyche and it slows you down because you're worrying making that mistake that might hurt the team. Then you play a little slower."
"It's football, you know. I've been playing it since I was little," Colter himself would say when informed of his coach's comment. "You've got to love the game, so every chance I get I try to go out there and have fun and make plays. There's going to be ups, there's going to be downs, there's going to be good games, there's going to be bad games. You can't really control that. But if you just go out there and have fun and let the cards fall where they may, I feel you'll be successful.
"Nobody ever wants to let their team down. But I don't go out there panicking and feeling like, oh, oh, I can't mess up this game. You have to go out there and have confidence. You can't play (if you're) over-thinking yourself and second-guessing. You just got to go out there and trust your technique and all the blessings God gave me, all the talents that you have and just go out there and play hard."
THE THIRD MAN:
He entered late in the Army game and threw a 62-yard scoring pass to Jeremy Ebert. He entered late in the Iowa game and threw a 35-yard scoring pass to Rashad Lawrence. He entered late in the Penn State game and just missed Ebert on a fly that, if successful, would have gone for 82 yards and one more touchdown. That is what Trevor Siemian has done in his brief appearances this season, which is notable for this reason. He managed that success even though each of those opponents knew he was in there just to throw.
"But when you're out there, you're not thinking that," Siemian would say when asked how it felt to be a marked man. "It's more, 'What do I have to do to make this thing work.' I try not to go, 'Oh, this is tough.' It's just getting in there, cutting it loose and finding a way."
He was a redshirt last season and, at this season's start, resting on one of those proverbial back burners. But now, with Persa's status tenuous and Colter's possibilities unlimited, Siemian could well find himself behind center (and under the spotlight) earlier than ever against the Hoosiers. He, in fact, is taking snaps with the first-team offense this week in practice, which is why we asked him if he is preparing with any more urgency for the trip to Bloomington. "There's definitely that direct line to where you're pretty close to getting in the game," he answered. "Not that I wasn't focused last year. But you've got to turn it up, get locked into the game plan, know what the defense is doing, know what your guys are doing."
THE SIEMIAN SCRAPBOOK:
He chose the 'Cats over Rutgers and North Carolina State and, most notably, Harvard. "I was looking at Harvard a little bit. But, Harvard? I don't think I'm that smart," he says. . . His Orlando high school, Olympia, ran an offense similar to the one he is in now, which was one of the 'Cat attractions. Another was the opportunity break some geographical bounds. "I kind of wanted to get away a little bit. I wanted to grow up," he explains. . . When asked why the 'Cats were attracted to Siemian, Fitzgerald says, "First, his command of the quarterback position. He understood schematically what they were trying to do and how they were trying to do things. And balls just jumped out of his hand. He throws a real clean ball. He's a quarterback. That's what he's done his whole life. You can see it. He's got some moxie. He understands the position.". . . Here is what Bob Head, his coach at Olympia, once said of Siemian's arm strength: "He can throw it through a shower and the ball won't get wet." . . . After he committed to the 'Cats, Siemian went to work on his Olympia teammate Lawrence, who had been offered by the 'Cats but was still deciding where to go to college. "Yeah, a little bit. A lot, actually," he says when asked if he recruited the wide receiver. "He really didn't know what he wanted to do, so I talked to him a little bit. I don't know how much that influenced him. But.". . . Ebert, who hosted Siemian on his official visit, good-naturedly calls him "A goofball." Siemian, who roomed last summer with Ebert and safety Brian Peters, says he and that pair (whose lockers are close) are always giving each other stuff like that. In fact, he says, he continually busts Peters about "Being soft. I tell him I can beat him up any day. He knows that."
As always, there is a story when someone wears No. 13, which Siemian does: "I was like nine years old and I think my favorite number was two or something. But my baseball coach gave me 13, told me 'This is all we have.' Then I actually played really, really well that year and thought, 'You know, 13's pretty good.' After that, it just kind of stuck with me."