Central Michigan braces for No. 17 Wisconsin’s Taylor

Field Level Media

September 03, 2019 at 7:49 pm.

First-year Central Michigan coach Jim McElwain knows his defense will have its hands full with Wisconsin junior tailback Jonathan Taylor.

The Chippewas will get their shot at Taylor on Saturday as No. 17 Wisconsin hosts Central Michigan in the Badgers’ home opener at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison.

“I hope he doesn’t try to win the Heisman in our game,” McElwain told Central Michigan Life of the Heisman Trophy hopeful. “He’s an unbelievable player, but I like our guys.”

Taylor, a first-team All-American in 2018, earned Big Ten offensive player of the week honors for his stellar performance in last week’s 49-0 season-opening win at South Florida.

Playing less than three quarters against the Bulls, Taylor rushed 16 times for 135 yards and two touchdowns and had two catches for 48 yards and two scores.

Saturday’s game could become a faceoff between a pair of strong running backs, if Central Michigan senior Jonathan Ward has a say in the matter.

Ward found success on the ground and in the air in the Chippewas’ 38-21 home victory last week against Albany, a Football Championship Subdivision opponent.

Ward finished with 22 carries for 158 yards and two scores and added 53 yards and three catches.

Ward and senior transfer quarterback Quinten Dormady will need to navigate a Wisconsin defense that allowed only 157 yards on 56 plays to South Florida. The Badgers didn’t give up a gain of 20 or more yards to the Bulls. They also allowed only 26 rushing yards on 23 attempts.

Dormady, a transfer from Tennessee and Houston, completed 27 of 37 passes for 285 yards and three TDs in the first half against Albany in his CMU debut.

McElwain is tasked with turning around a moribund program that finished 1-11 during the 2018 season. The Mid-American Conference program will receive $1 million for playing at Wisconsin.

McElwain said he has confidence in his team. “It’s important that your guys know you believe in them, and I do,” he said.

Meanwhile, Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst lauded the effort of Badgers junior QB Jack Coan, who won the starter job over Chase Wolf and freshman Graham Mertz.

Coan, in his fifth start, completed 19 of 26 passes for 199 yards and two touchdowns against South Florida. He was sacked three times. Coan was the only quarterback with significant experience following the departure of three-year starter Alex Hornibrook, who went to Florida State as a graduate transfer.

“I thought Jack, for the most part, saw things pretty well,” Chryst said. “I thought he was purposeful as far as getting the ball out of his hands.

“I love the way he played and competed, and his demeanor throughout it all.”

Wisconsin (1-0) will be without a handful of starters against Central Michigan (1-0).

Right tackle Logan Bruss and safety Scott Nelson both have left leg injuries and were listed as out on the Badgers’ injury report released Monday. Outside linebacker Izayah Green-May (right arm) also will be on the sideline.

Wisconsin senior inside linebacker Chris Orr, a starter with a right leg injury, was listed as questionable on the report.