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Three things we learned...Michigan State

What do I think we learned from Wisconsin’s dominant win over Michigan State?

Michigan State v Wisconsin Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Entering the season, many media folks thought Wisconsin might split their B1G match ups against Michigan and Michigan State. Well, neither team provided much contest for the Badgers and UW is 2-0 against them. Wisconsin was able to thump Michigan State on Saturday 38-0, and continued their early season dominance.

In this weekly installment, let’s rattle off three items that I think we learned about the Badgers after their game Saturday.

Jack Coan can shoulder the load

Jack Coan had one of his best games of his career Saturday. The junior signal caller was able to connect on 18 of 21 pass attempts for 180 yards and a touchdown. While his yardage totals have not been overwhelming this year, he has been phenomenal in his opportunities. Wisconsin will always be a run first program, but Coan has shown the ability to carry the team if need be.

Jonathan Taylor was bottled up to the tune of only 80 yards on the ground, but Coan was able to move the chains steadily by distributing the ball around to eight different targets. Coan is one of the major reasons for the offensive resurgence from a year ago, and he has consistently answered the call this year when he is needed.

Jack Coan through six games:

  • 76% completion percentage
  • 1119 yards passing
  • Eight passing touchdowns, two rushing touchdowns
  • One interception
  • QB rating of 164.00

With some tougher contests upcoming, Coan will be tasked with taking on more at times. At this point in the season he has silenced the doubters and his right arm has proved to be invaluable for the Badger offense.

A championship level defense...

The Wisconsin defense has been amazing so far this season. With a collection of talented playmakers, Jim Leonhard’s unit has continually done their job and done it well. On Saturday, Michigan State became the fourth team that has been unable to score against Wisconsin this year. In fact, the Badgers have only allowed 29 points total this year, good for just under an average of five points per game.

While the statistical onslaught of Wisconsin’s number one ranked defense has been impressive, the defense has also taken matters into their own hands at times. The Wisconsin defense has actually scored more defensive points (30) than they have allowed.

Wait, that is crazy.

But it’s true. With Zack Baun recording a 34 yard interception return for a touchdown against Michigan State, the Badgers now have just as many defensive touchdowns, four, as they have conceded. Add in an early game safety against Central Michigan, and the Badgers find themselves with 30 defensive points scored.

The Wisconsin defense, lead by Chris Orr are here to stay. After taking a step back a year ago, the defense has responded in a big way. While Orr and Baun are unquestionably the primary leaders on the defense, they are doing it by committee.

The defense has played assignment sound all year long, and different players have come up big at various times. With Ohio State looming on the horizon, a real test is coming, but the Wisconsin defense is for real, and is B1G championship level good.

4th down, no problem

At times last season fans were frustrated with conservative play calls in short yardage situations. Paul Chryst routinely punted in opposing territory, and rarely took chances on fourth down. This season has been very different.

After converting a fourth and two with a 27-yard play action pass to Jake Ferguson, and a fourth and five with a 10-yard pass to A.J. Taylor, Wisconsin is now a perfect eight for eight on fourth down attempts.

Last year Wisconsin only went for it on fourth down 12 times, converting on five of them. While the improved conversion percentage is certainly noteworthy, the increased willingness to go for it on fourth down through six games is bigger. I believe this shift is indicative of the confidence Paul Chryst has in this years team.

Going for it on fourth down not only shows immense trust in the offense to follow through, but to also with the defense to hold up if the offense is unable to make the yard to gain. Both the offense and the defense have improved in 2019, and that improvement has rekindled the confidence and trust for Paul Chryst to be more creative and aggressive in big time situations.