NU’s Dan Persa sets NCAA record for completion percentage

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Northwestern quarterback Dan Persa (7) looks up at the scoreboard during the third quarter of the Car Care Bowl NCAA college football game against Texas A&M Saturday, Dec. 31, 2011, in Houston. Texas A&M defeated Northwestern 33-22. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

HOUSTON – There was something good that came out of Northwestern’s 33-22 loss Saturday to Texas A&M in the Meineke Car Care Bowl in Reliant Stadium.

Quarterback Dan Persa became the NCAA’s career leader in completion percentage (.727, 460-for-633), passing former Hawaii star Colt Brennan (.704).

‘‘My teammates make me look good more often than not,” Persa said. ‘‘It goes to them and the coaches for pushing me through. I don’t know if anyone thought I could do that when I got here.”

Persa needed 19 passes to qualify for the record and reached the mark on his first pass of the second half. He finished the game 25-for-37 for 213 yards but was sacked seven times.

Unacceptable

Three consecutive false-start penalties late in the third quarter highlighted a lot of what went wrong for the Wildcats. Offensive linemen Brian Mulroe and Ben Burkett and superback Drake Dunsmore were called for the penalties after Aggies linebackers shouted ‘‘Boo!” or ‘‘Go!” to startle NU’s line.

‘‘When we’re making our calls and the linebackers go ‘Boo,’ that’s how it happens, and we jump,” coach Pat Fitzgerald said. ‘‘My ears are still ringing because of the noise. The roof was closed, and it went from a home game to a super home game for them. We thought we prepared for it. Obviously, I didn’t do a good enough job.”

Earlier in the third quarter, Wildcats linebacker David Nwabuisi was called for a 15-yard roughing-the-passer penalty. It looked like Nwabuisi led with his helmet and hit Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill under the chin.

‘‘They just said he was late, and I didn’t study the replay,” Fitzgerald said. ‘‘I said to David, ‘If they think [the call] is close, they are going to call it, especially on an NFL prospect.’  ”

In memory

Both teams wore No. 67 decals to honor Aggies reserve offensive lineman Joe Villavisencio, who died in a car accident Dec. 22 while traveling home to Jacksonville, Texas, for the holidays.

Texas A&M interim coach Tim DeRuyter said one of the first condolence calls he got was from Fitzgerald.

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