Oftentimes it is easy to sleep walk in games when the level of competition is not up to par. After a couple of quotes from Jim McElwain and Central Michigan players made their way into the Wisconsin locker room, it appears that napping was not an option on Wisconsin’s end this Saturday. The team went on to cruise to a 61 point beat down of CMU, and now move on towards a bye week before Michigan comes to town.
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 throw all three levels
After a strong performance against South Florida in which Coan threw for 200 yards and two touchdowns on 73% passing, the noise was all about two missed deep throws he had. Coan took responsibility for the near misses in the opener when speaking with the media last week, and he responded in a big way in game two.
Coan booked one of the best quarterback performances in school history against Central Michigan with 363 yards passing, three touchdowns and connected on over 78% of his passes. Oh, and he hit on two long touchdowns in the second quarter to Quintez Cephus, the first for 36 yards and the second going 46 yards.
Coan flashed the ability to hit receivers in stride deep, but also at the intermediate and short yardage levels. Most importantly, Coan is yet to turn the ball over, a big issue for the quarterback position a year ago.
While many people had been waving the Graham Mertz banner all off-season, Coan has consistently been the best quarterback in practices and he showed that Saturday too. Coan will never win people over with style points, but he is the composed leader that the offense needs, and if his execution in the first two games is an indication of what is to come, the offense may be tough to get off the field.
Quintez Cephus: WR1
With a wealth of talent around Coan on offense, he has shown the ability to spread it around to many targets. Six different players have more than five receptions already this season, with five receiving touchdowns in only two games. While Danny Davis, Kendric Pryor, A.J. Taylor, Jake Ferguson and Jonathan Taylor are all playmakers on the offense, no player has been more vital to the teams early season success on offense this season than Cephus.
AJ Taylor had 7 catches & Quintez Cephus 6 vs. CMU. It marked the 1st time 2 (or more) #Badgers had 6 catches in a game since Oct. 17, 2015 when Alex Erickson (9), Dare Ogunbowale (6) & Robert Wheelwright (6) did it vs. Purdue.— Dave Heller (@dave_heller) September 8, 2019
The junior wideout brings a tremendous amount of talent and excitability to the offense that was lacking last year. In his first two games, he has 169 yards receiving and two touchdowns. He is currently on pace for over a thousand yards, a feat last accomplished in 2013 by Jared Abbrederis.
In addition to his ability in the passing game, Cephus is also a very good blocker. One area that is sometimes overlooked is the presence he has on the field. He is a player that secondaries are keying on, which can be used to open up areas and passing lanes for other targets.
I thought that this was best illustrated on Jonathan Taylor’s receiving touchdown. On the play shown below, Cephus clears the entire sideline on a route that appears he is running a post-corner, which makes the cornerback and single high safety both shade his movements. Also caught in his path is the linebacker responsible for Taylor out of the backfield, and this leads to an easy score.
Cephus is the type of bonafide number one receiver that Wisconsin has lacked the past few seasons.
The run defense is salty
After a large drop off against the run last season, the Wisconsin defense has rebounded nicely during the first two weeks of the year. A big reason for that is an improved depth of talent along the defensive line. Even with sophomore nose tackle Bryson Williams out, the front seven didn’t miss a beat. The Badgers held Central Michigan to only 15 yards rushing, and 58 yards of total offense.
Wisconsin is the only FBS team to not surrender a point through the season's first 2 weeks.— Brian Mason (@Brian_Mason) September 8, 2019
The #Badgers rank...
#1 in scoring defense (0.0 ppg)
#1 in total defense (107.5 ypg)
#2 in rush defense (20.5 ypg)
#1 in pass efficiency def. (58.9)#OnWisconsin
While the defense may not have the name recognition of some of the other teams in the conference, the unit has been strong in all facets. With an added year of growth and development, many of the same players who comprised the defense last season appear more hungry and confident in their roles this season.
In the offseason a lot was made about the team getting stronger and making an emphasis to stop the run by the coaching staff. The players seem to have taken that to heart so far this season. Now entering a harder part of the schedule, it will be interesting to see if the defense can build upon the early season success.