Here is our weekly roundtable featuring Ryan, Bob, Belz and Drew. There aren’t enough adjectives in the English language to describe how good the Wisconsin defense is, but we try. Let’s break down Saturday’s thorough evisceration of Michigan State and also discuss our early thoughts on Illinois and how much playing time the backups should get in that game.
What was your favorite part of the Wisconsin defense’s performance against Michigan State?
Belz: The secondary. Darrell Stewart was averaging over 100 yards a game through the air, and Cody White is another big body pass catcher. Neither player could get going against the defense. It didn’t matter what combination of cornerbacks were out there, the Badgers dominated again. Shutouts are fun.
Bob: I very much expected Wisconsin to dominate on defense, but shutting out a non-Rutgers Big Ten team is special. MSU is clearly trending down the past three years, but it is still a mid-level program.
To answer your question, my favorite part is that the defense did not let up at the end like it did against Michigan.
Ryan: The goose egg. Is that too vague? Wisconsin’s defense is just so so so good. MSU nearly scored in the final moments, but just as they have all year, Wisconsin came up big as Rachad Wildgoose intercepted a pass, securing the shut out.
Drew: Sitting around my living room and watching this game, the tensest moment was the final MSU drive. I absolutely loved that the Badgers didn’t allow MSU to score. It’s really solid commitment to the bit. The bit of shutting everyone out two thirds of the time.
How would you rate Jack Coan’s game on an afternoon where Jonthan Taylor was bottled up (for him, he still had a pretty good game)?
Belz: It was a big statement. He has been looked at as mostly a game manager by many people outside of the Badger program, but he really played well. He shouldered the load and should have had two more touchdowns. Coan has really impressed this year, and is a big reason for the improvement on offense.
Bob: I thought it was his best game. A lot of his completions were against fairly good coverage, and he distributed the ball nicely. The offensive line’s pass protection was excellent, and that gave Coan time to work through his progressions and check down to the flat when needed.
Ryan: Jacky Heisman played very well and I would rate him with seven stars, completing 85.7 percent of his passes (18-21) and completed passes to eight different receivers. He is showing that even when Taylor is hindered, Wisconsin can rely on Coan to lead the offense.
Drew: Coan had a wonderful game against Michigan State. It was easily his most impressive performance this season. If Jake Ferguson didn’t have money on Taylor winning the Heisman, Coan’s stat line would’ve looked even more impressive. The only thing he needs to work on is ball security, as he did fumble twice, because the fumble luck won’t always be in his favor.
On a scale of 1 to boner-riffic, where do you rate Paul Chryst’s fourth down call that resulted in Jake Ferguson being tackled by the 10-yard line?
Belz: Shwing! Chryst obviously has increased trust in the Wisconsin offense, as he has already gone for it on fourth more times this year than any other time in his career. It has been a thing of beauty this season after watching a fairly conservative approach a year ago at times. The play call was awesome, and it was a creative way to get Jake Ferguson into the action.
Bob: I’m having trouble finding formatting information on “boner-riffic” in the AP Style guide. I would call it insulting; it embodied how Chryst was multiple steps ahead of MSU head coach Mark Dantonio throughout the game.
Live life like you're 2019 Paul Chryst going for it on fourth down.— Jake Kocorowski (@JakeKoco) October 12, 2019
Ryan: Boner-riffic, without a doubt. Chryst keeps forcing the issue and its working. Wisconsin is 8-8 on the season on fourth down.
Drew: That play call was boner-riffic to the max. I absolutely LOVE Chryst’s 4th down strategy this year. He’s playing it basically perfectly and coached circles around Dantonio on Saturday.
Anything at all that you want to complain about?
Belz: There should be two t-shirt cannons for the student section.
Bob: I wish the Big Ten was a better conference -- would be nice to see some challenges in these conference games. I guess we will have to wait two more weeks.
Ryan: The turf tackled Jake Ferguson!
Drew: I didn’t have the proper sugar for the rimmer I made for the apple cider mezcal margaritas we had during the first half. The drinks were still good.
Who gets your game balls on offense and defense?
Belz: Jack Coan. He played so well. On the defensive side of the ball, Isaiahh Loudermilk. He had a sack, and batted down a pass. Even when he wasn’t getting to the quarterback he was able to disrupt passing lanes with his length.
Bob: Jack Coan on offense, and I will go with Chris Orr again.
Ryan: On offense, Jake Ferguson. He had arguably his best game of the season, hauling in four receptions for 62 yards and setup two 1-yard Taylor rushing touchdowns. On defense, Zack Baun for his pick-six.
Drew: For the offense I’m going to give it to Quintez Cephus for his ridiculous touchdown catch. On defense it has to be Zach Hintze who was so mad about not kicking the ball through the endzone on one kickoff that he charged down the field and made the damn tackle his God damned self.
Early thoughts on the Illinois game next weekend? The team’s first road game in over a month...should be wild!
Belz: Illinois should be a good tune-up game. Wisconsin just needs to stay healthy and play their game.
Bob: Will Illinois score negative points? Will Taylor run for 2,500 yards and, in one game, catch Ron Dayne’s career rushing record? Does Wisconsin even need to bring any starters? Will Mike McCarthy take over for Lovie Smith after Smith is fired? If Wisconsin only wins 59-3, is that a signal that UW was looking ahead and not focused on Illinois?
Ryan: Illinois gave Michigan a bit of a scare, scoring 25-unanswered, but Michigan then rattled off another 14-straight to close out the game, winning 42-25. Zack Baun said postgame that the only difference is the location of the stadium, and I agree - it will be more of the same for Wisconsin and they will cruise to 7-0 overall, set on a collision course with Ohio State, the following weekend.
Drew: Heading down to the mausoleum that is Memorial Stadium should be kind of a letdown, but this Badgers team doesn’t seem like the type to be bothered by that. They should win this game convincingly and let the backups have a quarter of playing time.