EVANSTON, Ill. — Jack Coan’s first collegiate start didn’t exactly go as smoothly as he would have hoped.
Even before the Wisconsin sophomore quarterback and former Sayville standout took his first snap, the Badgers were forced to call timeout.
The day didn’t improve much from there.
The 20th-ranked Badgers committed three turnovers, including a fourth-quarter Coan fumble that set up a Northwestern touchdown that put the exclamation point on a 31-17 victory Saturday.
But for Coan, who admitted to not sleeping well in the overnight hours leading to Saturday’s start, the afternoon will be one that sticks with him.
“I’m definitely disappointed in the loss, but it was really fun to be out there and just battling with the guys,” said Coan, who finished 20-for-31 for 158 yards and a touchdown. “It was a pretty cool experience.”
Coan was officially named the Wisconsin starter prior to Saturday’s game as injured starter Alex Hornibrook remains in concussion protocol. Coan said he had a “pretty good idea” Tuesday that he would be making the start and spent all week working with the Badgers’ first-team offense.
As the week progressed, Coan continued to prepare like he would start. His working knowledge of the offense gave Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst the luxury of not having to scale his playbook down too much.
As Friday turned into Saturday, the emotions began to sink in minus the nerves one might expect from a first-time starter. Coan’s teammates, including fullback Alec Ingold, said afterward that they were confident throughout the week that Coan was up to the task, but that big play the Badgers needed never materialized.
Still the overall experience wasn’t lost on Coan.
“Playing a whole game was huge, especially for a young player like me,” he said.
Saturday’s performance included Coan’s first career touchdown pass, 10 yards to Kendric Pryor with 8:00 left in the game. But the day also included its share of teachable moments, including when Coan fumbled twice on the same play and set Northwestern up for its final touchdown.
“I feel I did some good and some bad,” Coan said. “I just tried to battle and play as hard as I could.”
Chryst, for the most part, liked what he saw. Among Coan’s statistics was a reception when he managed to catch his own pass after it was tipped at the line of scrimmage, which resulted in a 4-yard loss. Coan had three rushes for 10 yards, was sacked only once and was not intercepted.
“You want them to play flawless and yet, that seldom happens with any player,” Chryst said. “I was proud of the way he played and handled it and approached the week with the uncertainly of whether he [would start].
“He’s competitive and certainly there’s going to be some plays he would like back, but he did some good things, too.”
Coan, who was the unanimous Hansen Award recipient as Suffolk’s most outstanding player, was a three-time All-Long Island first team selection. Coan holds Long Island career records for passing touchdowns (128) and passing yards (9,787). Coan also holds Long Island single-season marks for touchdown passes (40), and passing yards (3,431), both of which he established in 2014.
Coan, 6-3, 211, got into six games last year as a freshman and was 5-for-5 for 36 yards. Saturday’s game was his first action of this season for the Badgers (5-3, 3-2 Big Ten), who fell to 1 1/2 games out of first place in the Big Ten West.
Even though day was a bit bumpy and the offense struggled to find a rhythm, Coan will build on the experience as he looks ahead to the rest of his career.
“It was definitely altogether just an emotional week for me,” Coan said. “I’ve worked really hard to get to this moment and be a starter, so it was definitely emotional. I went out there and battled and whatever happened, happened.”