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    BLOG: Scattershots from a Monday Gathering

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    * Quarterback Dan Persa showed up for the player portion of Monday's weekly presser with a haircut the toughest of Marine sergeants would proudly style. "I don't know. I had head lice, so," he said when asked about his new look. "No. Just kidding. I don't know. Woke up on Sunday, felt like shaving it, so I shaved it."

    * That haircut could well be a metaphor for Persa, who is still not the same performer he was before he tore up his Achilles last season...

    He admitted that when, at one point on Monday, he avowed: "Obviously I'm not as fast as I was last year. That's evident."

    Then, minutes later, he was asked when he felt he might be 100 percent.

    "Like last year? I don't know," he said. "I don't know if it's realistic to say that. I think I'm close. But obviously I've got a little ways to go."

    Finally, at yet another juncture, a question came about the interception he threw on the first 'Cat possession last Saturday against Iowa, that interception the Hawkeyes returned for a touchdown. "I was trying to throw it away," he said. "I just got hit when I was throwing it."

    Is it tough for him to throw it away sooner, which he should have done, since his first instinct is to scramble?

    "Right, right," he admitted. "It's just adapting to a new skill set. I used to be able to run pretty well and now I can't do it as much as I want to. That's part of the growing curve (of learning to play after major surgery)."

    "He's played now three games after overcoming a major surgery," 'Cat head coach Pat Fitzgerald had already said, elucidating this point. "For me, it probably took until Big Ten play when I came back from my injury (near the end of his junior year), which was about three or four weeks, until all the doubt about your injury is gone, all your self doubt is gone, all your rust is knocked off and you're back out there playing fast again. Danny's been getting better at that each week."

    * Here was one more telling observation Fitzgerald made about Persa: "When you have an injury, it's tough to overcome between your ears first. I think through the whole process he's handled that well. Then when you get in there, your body responds a little bit differently from the last time you played. So now you're internalizing some things a little bit different. He's handled that well and he's had some really spectacular plays and been outstanding. But then he's had some unfortunate ebb and flow of some valleys in his play. I thought he responded very well Saturday night to an uncharacteristic decision he made. I thought he played really well as the game went along. He's just going to continue to get better. We've got him for six more guaranteed (games) and I look forward to watching him just play within the framework of the offense and manage what we're asking him to do on Saturday night (when they face Penn State at Ryan Field)."

    * One final area that is different about Persa is that he is now sharing playing time at quarterback with Kain Colter, who started there in his stead through this season's first three games. Does that affect the rhythm of the offense? "I just try to play each play, not get caught up in that," he said. "It's good to be in a rhythm and everything. But at the same time you can't let past plays affect how you're going to play in the moment. So I just try to stay in the moment. If they're bringing in Kain, they're bringing in Kain. If they're not, I try to do my job."

    "We're trying to get our best 11 players on the field and the guys are handling it pretty well," Fitzgerald would say when asked the same question. "We've tried to package it where there's no confusion. I don't think we've gotten a delay-of-game penalty or had a formation issue. . .so we're on the same page there. . . So I think their rhythm's fine. We put 500 yards up. (Actually, 495 against Iowa.) So I don't think we're out of rhythm. I don't think that's it."

    * The problems against the Hawkeyes, of course, were the interception and untimely penalties, a breakdown of communication in the defense and the same kind of explosion plays that had doomed the 'Cats earlier against both Michigan and Illinois. That meant, on this Monday, that Fitzgerald would echo much of what he had said on Monday's past, repeating a refrain that is now familiar to both him and his team's fans. "We can't keep beating ourselves," he would say at one point.

    "Work your butt off. That's the nature of life, man, you know," he would say when asked what he does now. "You don't make a sale, you go home and cry about it if you're a professional? No. You figure out what went wrong and do something about it."

    "We don't do anything exotic. We don't ask them to do anything exotic," he would say when asked about miscommunications in the secondary. "If there's something different formationally and they need to get into A, B or C and one guy's doing A and the other guy says B, we've got a problem. We've had too much of that this year."

    "For the majority of the plays we're seeing in the passing game, we're playing pretty well. It's the home runs over our head that have killed us," he would say in the answer that best represented many he gave this day. "As I told the kids today in the Leadership Council, it's not like you're putting a pin into a balloon and it's a slow leak when you do that. It's like taking a machete and taking all the air out of every balloon that you have. We have to eliminate that. We have to eliminate those self-inflicted wounds. If it's mental mistakes, if it's communication mistakes, if it's execution mistakes, if it's the position we're putting the guys in schematically, if it's personnel, we've got to eliminate those. We're too good a football team to have that happening and that starts with us as coaches. We've got to do a better job coaching the guys. You can't take back what's happened. You've got to learn from them and press on. That's our plan."

    * In a hint of what might come, Fitzgerald did note on Monday that senior safety David Arnold and junior safety Jared Carpenter have recovered from their injuries and are now ready for action. "Those are two guys who've played a lot of football for us," he said, "so it'll be nice to add those guys to the mix a little bit. It's been tough. We've had some guys out there with a little bit less experience. . . We've got some guys out there, we're doing a lot of coaching on game day."

    * And finally, this from senior safety Brian Peters: "We're six, eight plays away from being undefeated right now. There's no reason we can't go undefeated the rest of the season. We're going to take 'em one game at a time. We're coming out swinging no matter who we're playing, no matter what our record is. Doesn't matter. All that's in the rear view. We're looking forward to this next game."

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