Five factors heading into Saturday’s game at Wisconsin

Quarterback Dustin Crum passes with wide receiver Javaughn Williams before the Homecoming game on Sept. 21. 
  1. Jonathan Taylor. Enough said.

He has 84 carries/567 yards/11 total touchdowns through four games.

His 11 touchdown mark (eight rushing touchdowns, three receiving touchdowns) is tied for first in the country. The Heisman hopeful rushed for over 100 yards in each of his first four games this season, including 203 yards and two touchdowns against Michigan. 

“Obviously the opponent and the challenge that we have this week coming up is pretty unique,” coach Sean Lewis said. “They average 6 ‘5.5,” 6’6” and 320 pounds apiece upfront. Jonathan Taylor is a Heisman candidate and is probably the best back in the country so we need to do a great job being disciplined and exceeding their violence.”

Kent State held Bowling Green to 154 yards on 41 carries, a season-best for their defense. Prior to that game, The Flashes gave up 890 yards and nine touchdowns on 174 carries.

  1. Dustin Crum will need to continue to take shots.

In the previous five games against Power 5 teams the Flashes’ offense averaged 5.2 yards per attempt. Kent State’s previous mark of 10.4 yards per attempt against Bowling Green is the high since Lewis took over. 

Constant screen passes will not work against the Badgers.

It worked for most of the first quarter against Auburn a few weeks ago, but the Tigers quickly put a stop to it. Crum had 60 yards in the first quarter and added 85 yards and a touchdown at the beginning of the second quarter. He had added 53 yards before he was pulled at midway through the third quarter.

Power 5 defenses generally key in on the dink-and-dunk offense quicker than Mid-American Conference opponents. 

  1. Isaiah Mckoy and Mike Carrigan will need to have big games.

Mckoy and Carrigan each caught touchdown passes of over 50 yards so far this season. McKoy served as the vertical threat for the first three games. Carrigan missed the first two games because of a team matter. He caught a 53-yard touchdown pass and had another long touchdown called back because of a penalty.

“It really helps make it so defenses can’t overload coverages one way or the other,” Lewis said. “Having (Carrigan) back is a benefit to everyone on our team.”

Carrigan and McKoy combined for 11 catches and 146 yards against Bowling Green.

  1. The offensive line will need to have its best performance of the season against a strong Wisconsin defense.

Wisconsin’s defense holds teams to 1.1 yards per rush, which is best in the nation. They have only allowed one touchdown this season. The longest run they have allowed so far was a 31-yard run by Northwestern running back Drake Anderson last Saturday.

The Badgers passing defense is also top-10 in the country, allowing 147.8 yards per game and three touchdowns, while forcing six interceptions. They also hold opposing quarterbacks to 42.9 percent completion rate on average, and they have 12 sacks this season. 

The Flashes offensive line will have to hold up to give Crum time to find McKoy and Carrigan down the field.

“They have a defensive line that’s disruptive,” Lewis said. “They can get pressure rushing only four. I feel like a lot of teams struggle to do that.”

The Flashes have suffered injuries on the offensive line throughout the season. Senior offensive lineman Bryce Gibbs has not played in a game this season, and senior offensive lineman Jamil Viaud is questionable with an ankle injury. 

  1. President Diacon and his wife fondly remember Wisconsin

    President Todd Diacon met and began dating his wife, Moema Furtado, while both were studying at UW-Madison. It’s been a “quarter of a century” Diacon joked, since he or Furtado visited UW-Madison. “The university is very different,” Furtado said. “With new buildings, and the downtown is very different, but we have a good time. Their memories from Wisconsin include a big football win. “I can remember the day Wisconsin beat Michigan in football,” Diacon said. “And they were not very good in football, so I can remember that.” The travel to get to Wisconsin doesn’t give either a lot of time to enjoy their alma-mater, but if they have time, they plan to enjoy the campus and the city. “The university is set up around the beautiful lake,” Furtado said. “It’s a beautiful city.”

    The defense will have to hold up playing man-to-man with limited help.

The defense’s main focus will be Taylor, which will leave the defensive backs one-on-one with Wisconsin’s receivers. The Badger’s quarterback Jack Coan has five touchdowns and one interception this season, but he has not thrown a touchdown the past two games.

Coan’s threw for a season-high 363 yards and three touchdowns against Central Michigan. 

Senior defensive back Jamal Parker and junior defensive back KJ Sherald will likely play a huge role in that plan.

“KJ’s a guy that probably doesn’t get enough recognition,” Lewis said. “He’s kind of the girl next door. He’s there, he’s steady, and he’s the general in the back end. Even though he doesn’t make the flashy plays, he’s consistently good.”

Parker has two interceptions this season. Both came in the 62-20 win against Bowling Green on Sept. 21. 

According to USAToday, Wisconsin is favored by 36.5 points. 

“We either win or we learn,” Lewis said. “There is no other L’s that we take, and so we’ve taken something from each one of those moments when we were at Arizona State, when we were at Auburn, that we’ll take those lessons and we’ll apply them this week and we’ll continue to improve and grow as a family so that we’ll be better this next time out.”

Contact Ian Kreider at [email protected]