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    BLOG: Upon Further Review

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    * He knew the question would come and so, even before appearing for his weekly Monday presser, Pat Fitzgerald asked quarterback Dan Persa how he was feeling after sitting out last Saturday's second half with a shoulder injury. "He told me he was going to play," the coach reported after the question did indeed come.

    * Persa, in fact, did run around Monday morning. "What his status will be tomorrow (for practice), I don't know. I'd list him day-to-day for tomorrow," Fitzgerald also said.

    * Kain Colter, as he has been all season, was a dynamo during the 'Cats' upset of Nebraska, rushing for 57 yards and catching three passes for 57 more and going 4-of-6 as a quarterback for yet 115 more.

    This combustible side of him is something Fitzgerald has, with good reason, often praised this fall. But on Monday he went further, adding a new encomium. "Where I really see his maturation is in his leadership. He's really stepping up," he said here. "Players know players. If you asked the guys in the preseason who they thought was going to be one of our more dynamic players, they would have said Kain. But they've really followed his lead really well.

    "And again. I like Danny. He looks me in the eye (after getting hurt last Saturday) and says, 'I can't go now. It would be more damaging than good.' The first guy he goes up to then is Kain, says, 'Go out there and have some fun.' Just that kind of leadership from a senior who's been dinged up is pretty special. I think having Danny there has helped Kain from the standpoint of showing him the way a little bit. But I think the credit goes to Kain just being humble and just really working hard to be successful."

    This was not the first time Fitzgerald mentioned that he thought Persa's presence helped Colter, and so we asked how he did that. By talking to him? By providing an example with his own habits?

    "I think a little bit of both," Fitzgerald said. "When I watch how he goes about, for lack of a better term, mentoring him, just showing him, 'Here's what we should be studying, here's where we should go, where are you going to be' from the quarterback side. Then, when (Colter) goes to receiver, saying, 'OK. Here's the concept. What are you thinking here?' Maybe it's different from Jeremy (Ebert) or Drake (Dunsmore) or any of the other receivers. So they're on the same page not only quarterback-wise, but also conceptually when they're pitching and catching. A pretty special dynamic duo. Fun to watch." * There is also this about both Persa and Colter: each is tougher to crack than the mystery of the universe. They both expose themselves with their derring-do and they both bounce back from brutal blows, and Persa this season has battled through rehab and turf toe and now his left shoulder woes. Then there was Colter last Saturday providing a memory to be remembered, though none of the witnesses who testified Monday could recall the specifics of the play. "He peeled back on one of our running back's runs," said the running back Jacob Schmidt, "he was behind the play, and he lit up a tackler."

    "I saw it," added the defensive tackle Will Hampton. "To see a quarterback lay out a big guy like that, I know I was excited and the guys around me were too."

    "I agree with that," said the center Brandon Vitabile. "When he's out there at receiver, he's taking people out of their cleats. You love to see that."

    * Teammates not only love to see that toughness exhibited by both Persa and Colter. They, and this is the important point, also respond to it. "He's a really tough guy and that just makes you want to play for him even more," Vitabile will say of Persa. "When he gets up after getting hit, it pushes you more to do your own job. You love to have that kind of guy as your teammate and as your leader."

    "It was easy for us early on to lean on Dan after the season he had last year," Schmidt would later add. "But to see Kain really step up this year was exciting for a lot of us to see. He's real big on leading by example. The way he plays, with the effort he puts in every play, whether it's making a play like the touchdown run he had or coming back and blocking a defensive tackle, we see that in him and, just like Dan, that makes us want to play for him even more."

    * Monday morning Fitzgerald addressed his team's defense and, he would relate, "I told them no girl on campus wanted to talk to them three weeks ago and now every girl wants to talk to them. So. Congratulations."

    "That's definitely true," Hampton later confirmed with a grin. "We were a sad group of guys giving up so many points. But this past weekend, a couple girls talked to us. It was good to have a couple girls talk to us."

    * The defense, of course, performed far better than it had at any point earlier in the season, and forced the Huskers to essentially abandon their preferred smash-mouth style and adopt one more reliant on guile and the forward pass. The reasons for that, in Fitzgerald's iteration, were basic. His 'Cats got off blocks better and tackled better and swarmed better than they previously had and here too they took proper angles to the ball. "We missed about the same amount of tackles on average," he reported. "But we had better swarm and better pursuit and better passion. That's encouraging. The guys are starting to grow up a little bit. It's about time. We're starting to see some positives, some flickers of light, a little flicker of a semblance of a Big Ten defense, which is encouraging."

    * 'Cat coaches, you might remember, did not hand out a Defensive Player of the Game award after their loss to Michigan. That award this week went to linebacker David Nwabuisi, who was selected over numerous nominees. "A couple weeks ago, you guys made a big deal about us not naming anybody. Maybe you can make a big deal out of us naming just one out of a bunch," Fitzgerald would say of this. "I'm proud of the kids. They've stayed the course. They haven't listened to the naysayers."

    * Quickly noted: What should not be forgotten is the 13-play, 66-yard, 7:20 drive the 'Cats put on after the Huskers closed to within three with 8:48 remaining. Every one of those plays was a run and they produced what would be the clinching touchdown. "To run 13 straight running plays, to be effective, to get first downs, to keep that clock rolling and then to put it in the end zone was huge," said Schmidt. "Credit to the O line, credit to Kain making plays and credit to Coach (Mick) McCall (the offensive coordinator) for trusting us and letting us just do what we do." Added Vitabile: "It was good to know we could do our job when it came to crunch time. It was satisfying knowing we could finish the game off.". . . His offensive line, obviously the key to that drive, collectively graded out at 89, which is better than good. "If you're in the 90s, it's maybe like three minuses the whole game. So 89 is probably like five or six," explained Vitabile. "This was the first time they mentioned that the whole unit performed that well and when the whole line is performing at that level it's great. It showed that last drive.". . . Other news on the injury front: Corner Jeravin Matthews, who left the Husker game woozy after absorbing a blind-side block, is good to go Saturday against Rice. Defensive end Vince Browne, who also left that game, is fine as well. But freshman superback Jack Konopka has a bone bruise and, said Fitzgerald, "I'd list him day-to-day."

    *And finally, Schmidt, on whether the 'Cats can come down from such an unexpected win: "We have no reason to get too high on ourselves. We still understand our backs are against the wall. So it's one week at a time and each win is as big as the last one. We need each win and we've got to work our butts off for it."

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