Football is a game of misdirection, of suckering defenses into zigging while you suddenly zag. There may be no more successful practitioner of that art this year than Jack Coan.
The Wisconsin quarterback spends his Saturdays handing the ball to running back Jonathan Taylor over and over, then standing back and watching the Heisman candidate batter his way downfield. But Coan’s timing is impeccable: Just when all those linebackers and nose guards become fixated on his teammate, the junior quarterback keeps the ball and does his own damage.
And lots of it.
Only two quarterbacks in the country, both from teams ranked among the top six in the country, complete a higher percentage of passes than Coan, who is connecting at a 72.7% rate. Overlook him at your peril, in other words.
“He’s a game manager. He knows he has Jonathan Taylor back there, and he uses that to the best of his ability,” said Gophers linebacker Thomas Barber, who will be partly responsible for keeping an eye on the Badgers quarterback Saturday. “So when he has the opportunity to throw it, he’s very accurate, he’s very on point with the ball. And sometimes it’s big plays.”
Coan’s completion percentage rises to 75.0 on third down, second-best in the country. And he’s 4-for-4 on fourth down, picking up the first down every time.
“That’s a credit to him and how he handles his role on that team,” Barber said. “They run the ball a lot, but when it’s time to pass, they can get that done, too.”
Coan’s gift for ball placement has him in some lofty company; his career completion percentage is second at Wisconsin only to Russell Wilson, a former Big Ten Player of the Year. But Coan, a junior from Long Island and All-Academic in the conference, is more a spiritual successor to Badgers quarterbacks like Scott Tolzien and Joel Stave, masters of misdirection on running-dominated teams who had one other thing in common: winning.