CHAMPAIGN -- On more than one occasion during his 2011 debut on Saturday, Dan Persa pulled a disappearing act.
In the third quarter, Illinois defensive end Whitney Mercilus was prepared to bludgeon Persa from the blind side when Persa ducked his head and Mercilus flipped over his back.
"Man, Persa, uhh!" Mercilus said with a smile. "He's a really good player to me. He definitely made me miss."
Three plays later, Persa ran 20 yards behind the line of scrimmage to escape the clutches of defensive end Michael Buchanan and completed a 10-yard pass to Jacob Schmidt.
That set up his fourth touchdown pass of the day, which gave Northwestern a 28-10 lead.
But two series later, Persa disappeared for good after Buchanan tackled him on a scramble with 13 minutes left.
"I felt some pain at the bottom of my (right) heel and then the top of my Achilles' started to stiffen up," Persa said. "In the past, that's kind of when setbacks have happened."
NU coach Pat Fitzgerald decided to err on the side of caution and made Persa stand on the sidelines the rest of the way.
In his first game since rupturing his right Achilles tendon on Nov. 13, Persa hit 10 of 14 passes for 123 yards and a career-high 4 scores.
Kain Colter, who took two snaps while Persa was healthy, handled NU's last three possessions and led the Wildcats to a go-ahead score with 1:15 to go.
Look for Persa to play in next week's game against Michigan at Ryan Field.
"Yeah, I feel fine," Persa said. "It's one of those things where it tightens up on you, you can't run as well, I can't escape and I put myself into even more problems. I'm sure it'll be fine."
Exceptional Jenkins: For 27 years, college football Hall of Famer David Williams owned the only 200-yard receiving game in Illinois history.
Then senior A.J. Jenkins came along Saturday and smashed Williams' single-game school record by 58 yards.
Jenkins caught 12 of Nathan Scheelhaase's passes for 268 yards and a school record-tying 3 scores.
The Jacksonville, Fla., native also drew a pass-interference penalty in the end zone that set up Scheelhaase's game-winning sneak with 13 seconds to go.
Several NFL scouts, including Bears general manager Jerry Angelo, soaked up the performance.
Offensive coordinator Paul Petrino said NFL people tell him Jenkins has all the traits to make some money some day.
"I think he has great speed and great quickness," Petrino said. "Some guys don't have both."
Injury report: For the second year in a row, Northwestern running back Mike Trumpy suffered a serious injury against Illinois.
The Wheaton North product limped off early in the third quarter with an injured left knee. He needed a cart to get to the locker room and finished the game on crutches.
Pat Fitzgerald said Trumpy has a knee strain "at this time." Trumpy posted 63 yards in 12 carries. Freshman Treyvon Green took over his role and finished with career-highs for carries (17) and yards (67).
Illinois wide receiver Darius Millines spent the game on crutches, too. He wore a boot on his left foot.
Illini running back Troy Pollard injured his right knee in the third quarter and did not return.