MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Kent State coach Sean Lewis insists Saturday’s matchup at No. 8 Wisconsin isn’t about him. But in some respects it is.
Lewis played quarterback and tight end for the Badgers from 2004-07. Now, the 33-year-old Lewis returns to Camp Randall Stadium to face Wisconsin (4-0) as the youngest head coach in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
“When we get up there, I know a lot’s going to be made about that and my history going back there,” Lewis said. “There’s a lot of great memories. But it ain’t about me. It’s about these kids. The games are about the kids. It’s all about them.”
Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst, who was the Badgers’ offensive coordinator when Lewis was at Wisconsin, said he had no idea Lewis had aspirations to be a coach.
“I think at the time, he’s one of those guys that you were glad he’s in your room,” Chryst said. “I had a chance to be around him a lot. Whatever the team needed, he was going to jump in, and do whatever he could do. I couldn’t say at the time I knew ‘He’s going to be a head coach,’ but it didn’t surprise me and I’m glad that he did choose that. Obviously, he’s done well.”
Lewis, who was named Kent State coach in December 2017, is also the play-caller for a Golden Flashes offense that racked up a school-record 750 yards (375 passing and 375 rushing) in a 62-20 win over Bowling Green on Sept. 21.
“Plays come alive because of the players,” Lewis said, “and we got great players. We got great young people in our program and because of that, that’s what happens.”
Quarterback Dustin Crum leads the Mid-American Conference in completion percentage (70.9) and passing efficiency rating (158.2). The 6-foot-3 junior completed 26 of 31 passes for 310 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions in the record-setting victory for Kent State (2-2). Running backs Jo-El Shaw and Joachim Bangda combined for 223 yards and three touchdowns.
Wisconsin has the No. 1 defense in the country. The Badgers lead the nation in scoring defense (7.3 points per game) and total defense (192.3 yards per game). Wisconsin has scored three defensive touchdowns while allowing just four touchdowns this season. The Badgers have allowed opponents to convert a nation-low 15.5% of their third-down attempts.
Inside linebacker Chris Orr was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week after recording nine tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble in the Badgers’ 24-15 win over Northwestern.
“We’ve done a really good job of pressuring the quarterback,” Orr said. “I would say that’s probably the biggest thing. … And also, we’re just attacking the ball.”
Heisman hopeful Jonathan Taylor has rushed for at least 100 yards in nine straight games for the Badgers, the longest active streak in the country. The junior running back has 4,730 career yards rushing and is 186 yards shy of passing Melvin Gordon for third place on Wisconsin’s all-time rushing list.
LOOKING TO BOUNCE BACK
Wisconsin’s Jack Coan won his sixth straight start last week despite a lackluster performance against the Wildcats. The junior quarterback finished 15-for-21 with 113 yards and an interception.
“Throughout my whole football career, I’ve had a bunch of bad plays and things like that,” Coan said. “You really learn to bounce back from those bad plays and have a short memory.”
Kent State and Wisconsin have never played each other in football. The Golden Flashes will look to pull off the upset at Camp Randall Stadium, where the Badgers have won 48 of their last 49 nonconference games.