With the exception of the Badgers’ opening drive that yielded a 71-yard touchdown run by Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin’s offense never got going. The defense held the line as best they could, but it was not enough.
Here are the unit grades.
Quarterback Jack Coan, starting in place of the injured Alex Hornibrook, looked like a true sophomore playing in his third game in a hostile Big Ten road environment. The sophomore was 9-of-20 for only 60 yards and two interceptions. Coan once again had issues with ball control, losing two fumbles in addition to the two interceptions.
The offensive line had its hands full with Penn State’s pass rush all game long, giving up five sacks. The entire offense struggled with consistency due to turnovers, drops, penalties, and third-down conversions (4-of-15 in the latter category).
The running game was the lone bright spot for the offense. Taylor was explosive, running for 185 yards and a touchdown, including the 71-yarder to open the scoring. He found rough sledding as the game progressed, as Penn State loaded the box and Wisconsin struggled in the passing game.
It was a cold grind, and without much help from the offense, the defense once again had the pressure of keeping Wisconsin in the game. The unit conducted itself well, getting to quarterback Trace McSorley twice in the first half while briefly chasing the senior with an aggravated knee injury after the second sack against him.
The unit gave the Badgers new life at the end of the game, recovering a fumble deep in Penn State territory with less than two minutes remaining. It was not to be, however, as Coan capped the game with his second interception.
Penn State threw for 160 yards and ran for 183. Linebackers T.J. Edwards and Ryan Connelly recorded 14 and 10 tackles, respectively, with Connelly also registering a sack and two tackles for loss. Redshirt junior outside linebacker Zack Baun tallied 1.5 sacks and nine tackles (three for loss) on the day.
Special Teams: C+
Kicker Rafael Gaglianone made his lone try. Punter Connor Allen averaged 38.8 yards on five punts. Isaiahh Loudermilk partially blocked a Penn State field-goal attempt with time running out in the first half. Wisconsin gave up a fourth-down conversion on a fake punt in the third quarter, with Baun then adding an ill-advised personal foul that extended Penn State’s drive. That PSU series led to a field goal and a 16–9 lead.
Head coach Paul Chryst appeared to run a conservative offense, seemingly to protect Coan. Wisconsin’s run/pass mix was predictable, particularly in the first half when the offense attempted only four passes. Chryst took some heat from the announcers for not being more aggressive as the clock wound down in the second quarter, but was proven correct when Coan threw an interception that almost led to a Penn State field goal at the end of the half.
The offense’s woes aside, Wisconsin was in this game until the end.
All evidence points to the coaching staff lacking faith in Coan’s ability to manage a balanced offense, borne out in the sophomore’s issues with accuracy and ball control. Next week is another tough road match-up next week against Purdue and if Hornibrook can’t go, the Badgers may be hard-pressed for yards.