Upon Further Review: Badgers completely stymie Michigan State
Question: How can Wisconsin win if Jonathan Taylor doesn’t have a big game?
Answer: Watch the Michigan State game.
Taylor was largely bottled up by the Spartans defense Saturday, gaining 80 yards on 26 carries – the 3.1 average his lowest in a regular season game (he had never been below 4.18) and second lowest of his career (2.73 vs. Ohio State in the 2017 Big Ten title game).
But quarterback Jack Coan helped pick up the slack as Wisconsin’s efficient offense gained 402 yards and converted two fourth-down plays. The Badgers had three drives of 11+ plays and overall controlled the ball for nearly 40 minutes.
“Control” could have been the word of the day on the other side of the ball as well as the real story Saturday’s 38-0 win over the Spartans came from Wisconsin’s defense.
Wisconsin’s top-ranked unit sparkled once again, holding Michigan State to 149 yards of offense (only the third time since 2000 it had been held under 150 yards) – the Spartans didn’t top 100 yards until late in the fourth quarter, and 20 of their total yards came on a fake punt – in pitching yet another shutout. Michigan State converted just 2-of-14 third downs and crossed midfield only twice, and one of those was in the final drive of the game with backups in.
Michigan State was thought to be a decent test for Wisconsin. Instead it was another feather in the cap of a 6-0 start. A 6-0 start, by the way, in which the Badgers have never trailed and have outscored opponents 152-3 in the first half.
And on Saturday, Wisconsin proved it didn’t need to have to rely on Taylor to win.
Here's a recap of Saturday’s game:
PLAYER OF THE GAME
While Taylor did punch in two short touchdown runs, it was Coan who helped him get in that position. In fact, with Taylor only having two runs of 10+ yards, it was Coan who came up with the majority of big plays on this day. Coan completed 18-of-21 passes for 180 yards. Coan had four passes of 15+ yards, but three stood out. Early in the first quarter, on a fourth-and-2 from the Michigan State 28, Wisconsin lined up in its offensive lineman heavy Hippo offense, only for Coan to execute a play fake and hit a wide open Jake Ferguson in stride for a 27-yard gain to the 1. It would have been a touchdown if Ferguson hadn’t been tripped up by the turf monster. Later in the quarter, Coan hit Quintez Cephus with a 19-yard stike for a TD, despite Cephus being well covered and there being a tight window in which to throw. Then in the third quarter, it was another connection to Ferguson to the 1-yard line, this time for 21 yards. There might have been worries that if Taylor couldn’t get things going, could Coan respond and help lead UW to a win. Well, we found out.
DON'T FORGET ABOUT ME
Since we don’t like to give an entire unit an award (seems like a cop out), what Chris Orr has been doing at inside linebacker is very impressive. On Saturday, Orr led Wisconsin with six tackles. His sack of Brian Lewerke helped snuff out a potential scoring drive early in the third quarter when the Spartans, down 17-0, could have, perhaps, made it a game. Orr also had a QB hurry and a pass broken up. His five sacks on the season are the most for a Badgers inside linebacker since Derek Landisch had eight in 2014. In addition, his six QB hurries have only been topped by one Wisconsin ILB since 2009 – Chris Borland who had six in 2013 and seven in ‘09.
We already mentioned the great fourth-and-2 pass and Orr’s sack which helped quell a drive, which was extended after a fake punt. Our favorite play came in the fourth quarter with the game already out of hand. Kendric Pryor took a jet sweep and went 66 yards for a touchdown. But it was how he got to the end zone which stuck out – executing a nasty stiff arm halfway down the sideline, throwing a defender out of the way. It was the longest run for a Wisconsin wide receiver since Jazz Peavy went 71 yards against Northwestern on Nov. 26, 2016. After that run, Pryor had 88 yards on two touches while Michigan State had 91 yards on 38 touches (and, again, 20 of those yards were on a fake punt). That about sums things up.
— Wisconsin Football (@BadgerFootball) October 12, 2019
4 – take you pick. This could be the amount of touchdowns Wisconsin has allowed this season. Or, after Zack Baun’s interception for a TD in this game, the number of defensive score, Or, the number of shutouts the Badgers have through six games, the first time UW has had that many shutouts since recording five in 1930. Wisconsin is the first team with four shutouts in six games since Florida in 1967 and the first Big Ten team to do it since Minnesota in 1962. The last Big Ten team with four shutouts in a season was Michigan in 1978. Wisconsin has allowed 29 points, the fewest in six games since Florida State had 24 in 1993.
THEY SAID IT
"Yeah, I mean everyone — it's no secret that everyone — the plan is going to be how do you stop JT (Jonathan Taylor) or minimize him, right? You knew that going in. For us to be the best offense we can be we've got to be able to move the ball a number of different ways." -- head coach Paul Chryst
“Well, I suppose what they've been doing all year, it's their fourth shutout. They do a good job in terms of giving you different looks, they have good players coming off the edge and overload you with some different types of blitzes … they get on you. They've been playing well all year and you saw the effect of it today.” – Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio on Wisconsin’s defense
“I said it last week, those guys are playing lights out. I don't have any other words. They're No. 1 in the nation.” – running back Jonathan Taylor on UW’s defense
"I feel like it just shows everybody how dominant our defense is. Whenever you can shut out anybody, it's obviously a dominant display on defense. We take pride in that, for real." -- linebacker Chris Orr
“I didn’t know what happened. For a second I thought that i tripped him because I didn’t know what happened. But I definitely went up to him after the fact and told him I have to do something for him because that was definitely a touchdown for him." -- Taylor on Jake Ferguson tripping at the 1-yard line
Wisconsin leaves the friendly confines of Camp Randall Stadium for the first time since August. After five straight games at home, the Badgers will play at Illinois next Saturday at 11 a.m. The Fighting Illini opened the year with wins over Akron and UConn but have since lost four straight, including Saturday at home to Michigan, although they battled back from down 28-0 to make it 28-25 before falling 42-25. Quarterback Brandon Peters didn’t play after being injured the previous week.