MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Quintez Cephus has been through a lot.
The junior wide receiver missed the final five games of Wisconsin’s 2017 campaign because of a broken right leg and did not play at all last year after being expelled from school following sexual assault charges.
Cephus was acquitted by a jury last month, reinstated by school officials and was ruled academically eligible for last week’s opener at South Florida.
After hauling in only three catches for 39 yards in the Badgers’ 49-0 victory last week, the Georgia native finally had his breakout game at Wisconsin.
Cephus scored his first two touchdowns of the season, Jonathan Taylor rushed for three touchdowns and caught another, and No. 17 Wisconsin cruised past Central Michigan 61-0 in its home opener Saturday.
“I think that was just a moment where I realized what God has in store for me,” Cephus said of scoring his first touchdown — a 36-yard strike from junior quarterback Jack Coan — at Camp Randall Stadium since the ninth game of the 2017 season. “He’s brought me to this point, and to have a little success was a great thing for me.”
Cephus finished with six receptions for 130 yards — both career highs — and tied a career high with his two scores.
“I’ve worked hard to get back here,” he said. “I’m just very thankful for the plans that God has had for me, and I’m just living as His son and trusting everything that He has come for.”
While Cephus and Wisconsin had 599 yards of total offense, Central Michigan (1-1) managed just 58 yards and three first downs. Chippewas quarterback Quinten Dormady completed 5 of 12 passes for 36 yards and was picked off by Badgers linebacker Jack Sanborn.
“I wish we could have played better, but it is what it is,” first-year Central Michigan coach Jim McElwain said.
Taylor had 102 yards on the ground, surpassing the 100-yard rushing mark for the 24th time in 29 career games. The 2018 Doak Walker Award winner also had his third receiving score of the season after having none in his first two seasons with the Badgers.
“He is well-deserving to be in that Heisman race,” McElwain said of Taylor. “I really like the way he plays the game. I think he’s a good player, and people in the Big Ten are going to have to wrap him up.”
Through two games, Wisconsin’s defense has pitched two shutouts, forced safety and allowed just 215 total yards and 41 yards rushing, the team’s lowest two-game totals since at least 1998.
“Yeah, you love to see the zero on the scoreboard,” said senior linebacker Zack Baun, who recorded his second sack in as many games. “That’s the goal every week, keeping our opponents to as minimal points as we can. Stopping the run, stopping the pass, or even zero on the scoreboard, you love to see it.”
After missing Cephus on two deep throws last week in the season opener, Coan found the receiver for a 36-yard score and a 46-yard strike on Saturday. Coan finished 26 of 33 passing with 363 yards (fifth highest in program history) and three touchdowns. He had zero turnovers for a Wisconsin offense that has found a nice rhythm heading into a bye week.
“I think we’re going to look back and see things we improved on, and we will have plenty of stuff to work on over the bye week, but Jack did do some good things,” Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst said. “Defensively, there was a lot, but we will still have a lot to work on.”
Central Michigan struggled to get anything going offensively a week after defeating Albany 38-21. Senior running back Jonathan Ward, who ran for 158 yards and two scores last week, went to the locker room early and did not return.
Minimal. The Badgers were a 35-point favorite against the Chippewas, who won just one game a season ago. Wisconsin improved to 17-2 in regular-season nonconference games under Chryst.
Highly touted Wisconsin freshman quarterback Graham Mertz saw his first action of the season, completing 4 of 5 passes for 35 yards.
“If the circumstances were right, we wanted to get him in, and fortunately they were,” Chryst said. “First snaps, first pass, all those things are good to get, and I thought he did some good stuff with it, and it’s important.”
Mertz can play in up to four games without losing a year of eligibility.
Badgers wide receiver Kendric Pryor left the game with an upper-body injury and did not return.
Central Michigan: Hosts Akron in its Mid-American opener on Sept. 14.
Wisconsin: Opens Big Ten play against No. 7 Michigan on Sept. 21 at home.