During his only season at Wisconsin in 2011, graduate transfer Russell Wilson pieced together one of the most efficient seasons for a college quarterback.
Wilson finished with a passer rating of 191.8, setting a Football Bowl Subdivision record that stood until it was eclipsed by Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield in 2016.
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None of the Badgers’ starting quarterbacks to follow Wilson in the subsequent seasons, including Alex Hornibrook or Joel Stave, came close to touching Wilson’s mark.
Their best efforts came as Hornibrook compiled a 148.6 passer rating as a sophomore in 2017 and Stave had a 148.4 mark while starting about half the season as a freshman in 2012.
Unlike most modern spread offenses, Wisconsin’s old-school approach relies largely on its running backs, not quarterbacks, to shoulder the heaviest burdens. But it does seek game management and efficiency from them.
Junior Jack Coan, in his first full season starting for the Badgers, has fit the description.
Through seven games, his passer rating of 160.9 stands as the highest since Wilson, and his 76% completion percentage is higher than Wilson's 72.8% in 2011.
“He's playing at a high level,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said, “doing a good job on third down, keeping them on schedule on first and second down.”
Coan debuted as a starter last season, replacing Hornibrook in four games while he was in concussion protocol. Hornibrook later transferred to Florida State for his final season of eligibility.
The presence of Coan has helped complement star running back Jonathan Taylor, a chief reason why the Badgers have recovered from their disappointing 8-5 season last fall and began this season with six straight wins before losing at Illinois last Saturday.
“Coan has done an excellent job of managing that offense,” Day said. “He's a good player. I think as the team goes, it's between Taylor and Coan, they're the guys that get these guys going.”
Though largely mistake-free, Coan made a critical one late in the loss to Illinois, when he was intercepted near midfield with 2:32 left. The Badgers were ahead 23-21, but the interception led to the Fighting Illini's winning field goal.
It was only Coan’s second interception this season.