What a difference a year makes.
A year ago, Jack Coan was still in the shadow of Wisconsin’s then-starting quarterback Alex Hornibrook, waiting for his shot at leading the Badgers’ offense. The Sayville standout would get his chance within a few weeks, making his first collegiate start against Northwestern after Hornibrook suffered a concussion.
It didn’t go so well. Coan connected on 20 of his 31 passes for 158 yards, but he averaged just 5.5 yards per attempt and had a critical fumble as Wisconsin lost, 31-17. In one afternoon, Badgers fans felt a mediocre season slide a couple rungs down the ladder to a disappointing one.
As Coan gets set to take the field Saturday at noon — at home against Big Ten foe Northwestern on ABC — his on-field curriculum vitae now features some impressive bullet points.
• No. 8 Wisconsin has outscored its opponents 145-14 this season, coming out of the gate 3-0 and jumping 11 spots in the AP Top 25 with Coan as the team’s first-string quarterback.
• Coan ranks 15th in the nation in passing efficiency, having completed 58 of 75 passes for 692 yards. That equates to 9.2 yards per attempt. Only four NCAA Div. I quarterbacks in the country boast a higher completion rate.
• Coan has thrown five touchdown passes and no interceptions.
• During Wisconsin’s rout of Michigan last week, Coan ran for two touchdowns and completed a season-high 81 percent of his passes against Big Blue’s vaunted defense.
• Coan has a bowl victory under his belt. He guided Wisconsin to a 35-3 win over Miami in the Pinstripe Bowl last December.
“Obviously, I feel more experienced, probably a little more comfortable,” Coan told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel this week. “But still with the same excitement.”
Northwestern is 1-2 this season, having lost 17-7 in the opening week to Stanford and 31-10 last week to Michigan State. It’s defense ranks 32nd in the nation in passing defense, allowing 193 yards in the air per game.