“He just felt different,” said junior wide receiver Kendric Pryor when describing junior quarterback Jack Coan compared to last season. He said there was a visible difference in his confidence and the way he led the offense through two convincing wins to start the 2019 season.
Much of the talk going into the season surrounding Wisconsin football had been about Jack Coan and his play. The spotlight was on him after three-year starter Alex Hornibrook announced his decision to transfer to Florida State.
So far this year Coan has stood out under the bright lights, giving the Badgers a new, dynamic offense they haven’t seen in years.
“His confidence is just different,” offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph said after looking back at the tape from the USF game. He also noted Coan’s poise in the pocket was vastly improved.
The junior signal-caller played the best football of his young career against Central Michigan in Week 2, and his abilities as a passer were fully on display. He had a historic afternoon, throwing for 363 yards, and three TD’s on a 79 percent completion rate.
His passing output was good for the fifth-most passing yards in a single game in UW history, and was the first Wisconsin quarterback to throw for over 300 yards since Joel Stave back in 2015.
The 61 point total was only the 11th time the Badgers have ever eclipsed the 60 point mark.
His performance was even more encouraging considering Coan had only thrown for 515 yards and five touchdowns in five appearances in 2018.
Through just two games into the 2019 season, he now has 564 yards and five touchdowns which could be just the start as he continues to spend more time developing chemistry with Quintez Cephus and his other receivers.
Coan’s teammates and coaches alike are constantly asked about how he has improved since last year. The most common answer is always his consistency, maturity and confidence.
Senior captain Chris Orr said Coan brought “consistency and confidence.” Head coach Paul Chryst went further, pointing to his improved understanding and command of the offense.
Going into the season, offensive personnel brought up the need for the offense to become more balanced. Wisconsin has always had plenty of talent at offensive line and running back, but the receiving group and Coan have acknowledged their need to add a more productive passing attack in 2019.
The receiving core welcomed back Quintez Cephus with open arms after he was forced to sit out for a full season.
After Cephus and Coan failed to connect on two deep balls against South Florida, there was some concern about Coan’s ability to make deeper throws and give the Badgers a vertical attack.
“He’s a doctor on the field,” running back Jonathan Taylor said in response to the Coan’s Week 1 critics, “I feel like Jack can make all the throws.”
Coan echoed that sentiment, saying he felt he could make those throws and would connect with Cephus in the future. He was tough on himself, noting that he has to give Cephus a chance, but said that they would get better as they got more reps.
With one more week of work under their belts, the tandem of Cephus and Coan caught fire in Week 2. Cephus had an incredible game, with six catches for 130 yards and two touchdowns. The two scores were bombs by Coan, one down the left sideline for 36 yards and the other down the right sideline for 46 yards.
“It was a beautiful play and a beautiful ball,” Taylor said.
The two deep balls proved to everyone that Coan can make all the throws required of him, confirming the belief and trust that the coaching staff and players placed in Coan this offseason.
With a talented wide receiver group and of course Jonathan Taylor, the group expects to play well week in and week out. With a balanced offense and stout defense, the Badgers are looking to surprise everyone in the college football world, and return to the Big Ten Championship after missing out last year.
Next week, Wisconsin welcomes a much tougher defense then they have faced thus far in the No. 10 Michigan Wolverines. Hornibrook completed only seven passes for 100 yards and two picks in the blowout loss against the Wolverines last year. Michigan also had success containing Taylor in that matchup, so an improved passing attack is crucial to the team’s success.
Wisconsin and Michigan will kick off at 11 a.m. on Sept. 21st at Camp Randall.