No one’s complaining right now on the University of Wisconsin football team.
Things are looking bright for the eighth-ranked Badgers. They’re 5-0 with a signature win over a ranked Michigan team under their belts. Their defense is among the nation’s best in the significant statistics, including the most important of all, points allowed per game (5.8). Doubts about a retooled offensive line have been answered and star tailback Jonathan Taylor is rolling, leading the Football Bowl Subdivision with 16 total touchdowns.
But senior receiver A.J. Taylor admits the receivers are itching for chances to make plays for an offense that’s averaging 43.4 points per game. Winning is what matters, he says, and the receivers are fine doing what’s needed to keep the offense humming. But a couple of more catches wouldn’t hurt either.
“You know, everybody’s … I wouldn’t say antsy, but everybody’s ready. It really just goes back to practice — we’re all executing and doing what we need to do in practice. Hopefully they call it in a game and we can dial it up,” A.J. Taylor said Monday.
“Patience is a virtue, you know? You’ve got to be humble enough to understand that it’s a team game and it’s maybe not always going to come your way. You’ve just got to keep playing and keep playing hard.”
UW’s top quartet of receivers — Quintez Cephus, Danny Davis, Kendric Pryor and A.J. Taylor — have accounted for 13 catches and 153 yards over the past two weeks. UW junior quarterback Jack Coan attempted 39 passes and completed 27 of them in that span.
A few factors contributed to the receivers not seeing as many chances as when they combined for 36 catches, 450 yards and two scores in the first three games.
First, Jonathan Taylor and UW’s run game have been so efficient that coach Paul Chryst and offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph don’t need to take many chances in the passing game. Second, Northwestern’s defense did a good job disrupting timing between Coan and the receivers, so the passing game never found a rhythm. Also, against Kent State, the top receiving corps didn’t play much of the second half due to the lopsided score.
Junior Danny Davis didn’t have a catch against the Golden Flashes, his first game without a reception this season. He said the receivers have done well staying patient, knowing that as Big Ten Conference play resumes Saturday when Michigan State comes to Camp Randall Stadium, the ball will start coming their way.
“Of course, it can get tough. But we’re 5-0, so at the end of the day, we’re winning and everything’s going smooth right now. We’re not complaining, we’re just staying locked (in),” Davis said. “Our number will be called soon, so you’ve just got to keep getting through and keep blocking for J.T. And when your number’s called, go out there and make those catches and score those touchdowns.”
Chryst was asked about getting Pryor more involved in the offense after he didn’t record a catch against Michigan or Northwestern, and then had one for 33 yards against Kent State.
His answer could apply to the whole receiver group.
“We feel confident with him. We do have more depth there (at receiver), and we all know we’re going to need everyone. When do they (opportunities) come? You don’t know,” Chryst said. “For us to be our best, we need him to be his best.”
Coan has done well in distributing the ball among receivers and backs, and his completion percentage of 74.6 is tied for sixth-best in FBS. He was stellar using play-action, especially on first downs, against Kent State to add some spark to the passing game, and that will be needed as defenses get tougher in coming weeks.
“Everybody just wants to win. So if that’s running, these guys will block their tails off. I’m going to hand the ball off and try to do my job. We’re always staying patient and ready for the next pass whenever it’s coming,” Coan said.
The receivers can see more opportunities presenting themselves soon — Michigan State’s defense allowed just 3 yards per rushing attempt, so the receivers may need to create chunk plays for the offense.
A.J. Taylor said competing against one another, and UW’s stout defense, in practice will pay off for the group.
“We all understand that to be the best we can be, we have to maintain a positive attitude. We have to maintain the attitude that when it comes our way, we’re going to do something with it. That’s how you overcome that, if you just keep working hard,” he said. “It’s going to come to fruition at some point.”