UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — What we learned after Wisconsin’s 22-10 loss at Penn State…
Wisconsin’s Handling of Coan is Maddening
For the record, Coan had his share of struggles. With the game tied 7-7 and the Badgers driving, the sophomore quarterback fumbled a snap on 3rd down that killed a drive and seemingly all of the momentum in the first half. Just before the half, Coan badly under threw a pass and was intercepted with 12 seconds remaining.
However, the play calling was baffling.
UW was at their own 29-yard line. If that pass is completed, best case scenario, maybe Wisconsin can get a Hail Mary pass off in windy conditions.
“Backed up, they had three timeouts,” Chryst explained. “Can we hold onto that and not give it away? Got some breathing room. Thought we had a chance for a hit and maybe get some points out of it.”
In each of Coan’s last two starts, Chryst has done very little to help get the young signal caller in a rhythm.
It was a very heavy dose of Jonathan Taylor, which worked early, only until PSU stacked the box and got Coan and the offense into numerous third downs. Three of the most talented receivers Wisconsin has had in recent memory — A.J. Taylor, Danny Davis, and Kendric Pryor, have been turned into blockers.
Heck, Penn State has one of the most experienced quarterbacks in the country and even they see a need to get him in a rhythm, throwing short, quick routes on early downs to establish some momentum.
Up until the final two drives of the game, where UW needed two touchdowns in seven minutes, Coan was able to pass twice on second down and once on first down.
Coan is being forced to not only throw way too much on third downs, but sit in the pocket and make decisions. No slants, no roll outs — nothing you’d expect from a coach trying to help a quarterback, or in this case, a struggling passing offense out. Heck, UW didn’t even run their famous jet sweep in the first half.
After the game, Chryst said that Penn State getting some pressure on Coan early, despite running the ball so heavily, altered his play calling.
“Knew coming in that’s a good defense,” Chryst said. “You want to be smart on some of the things you’re doing. It does affect you some, but you’ve also got a number of different things you can go to.
“I think it’s always hard on a quarterback when you’re getting hit early.”
This isn’t the first time Chryst has had a subpar quarterback, whether as a head coach or offensive coordinator. Yet it feels like he’s been unable to supplement the passing game in any way.
Coaches spend countless hours on the game plan. There’s certainly a reason for the handcuffing, but when all is said and done, Wisconsin wasn’t going into Happy Valley and getting a victory without some offensive creativity.
There’s No More Quarterback Controversy
They say curiosity killed the cat.
There were very few UW fans who didn’t want to at least see what Coan was capable of and see if he could turn this offense around. After a 9-of-20 passing performance for 60 yards, two interceptions, and two fumbles (one of which was the result of a backside pressure), it’s evident that turning the keys to the car over to Coan isn’t the answer.
We thought this after the Northwestern game, but now we know for sure, Hornibrook gives Wisconsin the best chance to win.
Coan is mostly a nickel and dime quarterback who fails to get receivers the ball at the second level. Right now, this offense desperately needs somebody who can get chunk plays and force defenders out of the box.
Hornibrook hasn’t been great in that area this season, but defenses will respect his passing ability far more.
“This one doesn’t fall all on Jack,” Chryst said. “He’s in there and he’s part of the offense, but just like anything, no one guy can do it all.”
The Offensive Line Was a Major Disappointment
This is not the best offensive line in the Big Ten, let alone college football.
When you’re noticing their play, they’re either doing something is going either very right or very wrong. On Saturday, it was much of the latter.
The Badgers allowed five sacks and seven total tackles for loss. UW’s offensive line also committed four false start or snap infraction penalties.
This isn’t a young group trying to find its way either. This is an offensive line with six pros, five of which have played together for multiple seasons.
Wisconsin’s offensive line is supposed to be the foundation of the offense. How can we expect the passing game to get going if the offense has to play behind the sticks or the quarterback can’t dro
p back without somebody in his face?
“It’s super annoying,” said senior left guard Michael Deiter. “That stuff just can’t fly or you’re never going to win football games.”
Taylor and the Run Game Did What We Expected
As we predicted, Wisconsin would be able to do some serious damage on the ground.
On the third play from scrimmage, Jonathan Taylor ripped off a 71-yard run to put the Badgers on the board with 7-0 lead. Taylor later busted a 27-yard run in the first quarter and it appeared all was good for the Badgers on that side of the ball.
As a team, UW had four runs of 20 yards or more. Not bad considering they were trailing for the final 47 minutes. Taylor ran for 185 yards on carries. With those kinds of numbers, you’d expect Wisconsin to be much more competitive offensively.
The Badgers came in 6-0 when they rush for at least 205 yards as a team. They hit 209 yards on Saturday, although only 75 came after halftime.
“That’s one of our big emphasis’, establishing the run, but just establishing the run won’t get you wins,” said Taylor. “You’ve gotta compliment that with the pass game and play clean football.”
The Defense is Missing That Game Changing Play Ability
It’s hard to point fingers at the defense this season and we’ve given the defense a pass much of the year.
Wisconsin already came into the year dealing with key personnel losses and having to replace it with youth. The Badgers were also bit hard by the injury bug. That side of the ball has carried the program since 2013 and in the one year they need the offense to step up, they been let down.
The defense seems to get better week-to-week. They held Penn State to 22 points and 343 yards of total offense, which should have given UW a chance to win.
However, the Nittany Lions held possession for nearly 34 minutes, which shouldn’t happen when UW runs the football 37 times in 57 plays. PSU was just 6-of-15 on third down as well, but many of those conversions ended up sustaining long drives.
Of their 13 drives, five for Penn State went eight plays or longer, including two in double digits. Wisconsin also failed to force a turnover on Saturday until PSU gave them a gift late in the game on a fumbled exchange.
“Against good teams, not just on the road, but anywhere, you’ve gotta make those plays, and we’re not making enough,” Chryst said.
Wisconsin is All But Out Of the Big Ten West Race
If the season wasn’t officially a failure before, it is now. For a team that came in with such high aspirations and sights set on the college football playoff, 2018 couldn’t have gone much worse for the Badgers.
Handed their fourth loss of the season, Wisconsin has the most defeats in the Chryst era. Unless they win out and Northwestern loses their final three games, the Badgers won’t get to 10 wins for the first time under Chryst.
It’s one thing to not reach the college football playoff. It’s another to not win the Big Ten or get to Indianapolis.
Even after a stunning loss to BYU, a slap in the face from Michigan, and an uninspiring effort against Northwestern with the division on the line, UW has been nonchalant with the media, held off from hitting the panic button, and insisting things would get turned around.
To potentially be eliminated from the West Division title race with two weeks left in the regular season, Wisconsin can no longer play it cool.
“Everybody is just kind of frustrated right now,” said senior safety D’Cota Dixon. “I think all of us knew our potential. I think we all still believe in that potential. We’ve yet to reach it though.
“That’s the good news. You can still peak and get better.”
Source : https://247sports.com/college/wisconsin/Article/What-We-Learned-After-Wisconsin-Badgers-Football-Falls-22-10-at-Penn-State-Nittany-Lions-124497728/