's Best Performances by Wisconsin Quarterbacks in Paul Chryst Head Coaching Era

Jake Kocorowski

Since Paul Chryst has taken over the Wisconsin football program beginning with the 2015 season, the Badgers have gone 52-16 in five years. UW has captured three Big Ten West division titles, played in three New Year's Six bowls, and are currently recruiting at a high level.

As we continue to make our way through the offseason, will take a look at some of the best performances particular players have had in the cardinal and white since Chryst took over. On the flip side, we will also rank some games where other programs took it to Wisconsin as well.

Let's first start with the position everyone hones in on, that being the quarterbacks. Since the 2015 season, I broke down the stats sheets and ranked the top performances by those under center (or in the pistol, or in the shotgun) since Chryst took over as head coach of UW. So, that means no Russell Wilson or Scott Tolzien or John Stocco, as Chryst held offensive coordinator duties from 2005-11. 

Another disclaimer: There is no scientific or point system designated here. These are purely based on's opinions that take the stats of the respective games, the level of opponents and the eventual outcome into consideration. If fans have differing opinions, do not hesitate to list them below in the comment sections.

9. Bart Houston vs. Western Michigan in 2017 Cotton Bowl: 11 of 12 for 159 yards, zero touchdowns and zero interceptions

Not a bad way to end a career for the strong-armed California native. Houston and Alex Hornibrook both saw time at quarterback during Wisconsin's 11-3 season. 

After initially beginning the season as a starter, Houston lost the job to Hornibrook after the Georgia State win. However, the former bounced back to work more in a platoon role towards the end of the season and emerged in the final three contests after the latter was injured in the regular-season finale against Minnesota.

In the final game of his collegiate career, Houston finished the game nearly perfect with just one incompletion as Wisconsin went on to defeat P.J. Fleck and the Broncos in a 24-16 New Year's Six Bowl win.

8. Joel Stave in 2015 Holiday Bowl vs. USC: 18 of 27 for 217 yards, one touchdown

Again, a senior going out on a high note to end his Wisconsin career. Stave eventually had four offensive coordinators in his time at UW, overcame a 2014 season where he lost the ability to throw an accurate football -- only to regain his confidence and the starting spot that year -- then helped lead the Badgers to two 10-plus win campaigns.

Once Chryst came back to UW to start the 2015 season, you could see Stave develop even further. During this year, one must remember that Wisconsin's run game was not its usual self with Melvin Gordon off to the NFL and Corey Clement sidelined with a hernia injury for a good chunk of the year, and a very youthful offensive line that featured a few redshirt freshmen. The passing game was a necessity, though the defense carried the team in holding opponents to under 14 points and 270 yards per contest. 

I considered his performance against Alabama on this list, where he threw for over 200 yards with two touchdown passes, along with back-to-back 322-yard performances at Nebraska and against Purdue. I think Stave's play against the Trojans earns the nod here, as he threw the ball accurately without a turnover. The former walk-on led the team down the field for Rafael Gaglianone's game-winning field goal in a 23-21 win, and he was eventually named the game's offensive MVP.

7. Jack Coan vs. Purdue (2018): 16 of 24 for 160 yards, two touchdowns

In a disappointing season, two quarterback performances made's list. The first comes against the Boilermakers on the road in what became a triple-overtime thriller. 

Coan entered the fourth quarter of the game completing nine of 14 passes for 90 yards (Jonathan Taylor accumulated 192 yards to that point). In the fourth quarter of the game with Wisconsin down 14, Coan found Danny Davis twice in the end zone in that final frame to help force overtime.

Though Taylor's 321 rushing yards -- and the team's 385 on that afternoon -- derailed the Boilermakers, Coan put together an outing that was a sign of things to come a year later.

6. Alex Hornibrook at Minnesota in 2017: 15 of 19 for 151 yards with three touchdowns

The Badgers blew out the Gophers at TCF Bank Stadium during Fleck's first season in Minneapolis, and Hornibrook found three different receiving targets -- Troy Fumagalli, Kyle Penniston and Davis -- for touchdowns.

For as much as we talked about his interceptions, he threw none on the day where Wisconsin captured its undefeated regular season against its vaunted foe.

5. Alex Hornibrook at Iowa in 2018: 17 of 22 for 205 yards with three touchdowns, zero interceptions

In a game where Wisconsin found itself trailing by three from the end of the third quarter until under a minute left in the fourth, Hornibrook eventually found wide receiver A.J. Taylor on a dart of a 17-yard touchdown throw with 57 seconds left to take the lead. 

That capped off a 10-play, 88-yard drive that took up 4:43 of the clock in that last quarter. He completed all five of his passes for 67 yards in that series as well.

4. Jack Coan vs. Central Michigan in 2019: 26 of 33  for 363 yards with three touchdowns

Coan looked much improved from his 2018 season a week prior in the 49-0 win over South Florida. However, many looked at his overthrowing of a couple of deep passes in Tampa. 

This next week against the MAC opponent, Coan let it fly and hit wide receiver Quintez Cephus for touchdowns of 36 and 46 yards that eventually led to a 61-0 home blowout.

According to UW's game notes, Coan's 276 yards in the first two quarters became the most in a half in program history. His 363 yards currently ranks fifth all-time in Wisconsin lore for a single-game performance.

3. Jack Coan vs. Minnesota in 2019: 15 of 22 for 280 yards with two touchdowns, zero interceptions

With a division title, a trip to Indianapolis and New Year's Six bowl aspirations on the line, Coan and the Badgers delivered an emphatic 38-17 win against the Gophers.

In the winter wonderland that eventually engulfed TCF Bank Stadium, Coan threw for his second-highest yards of his career in a game that called for a big-time performance. He hit Taylor for a 28-yard touchdown pass to take the lead before halftime, then found Cephus for a 47-yard touchdown in the third quarter. On a key fourth-quarter drive that saw UW deep in its own territory, a 70-yard screen pass to running back Garrett Groshek deflated Minnesota. A play later, Taylor ran it in from a one-yard that put the nail in the coffin of the Gophers' outright division title hopes.

2. Alex Hornibrook vs. BYU in 2017: 18 of 19 for 256 yards with four touchdowns

In what eventually became a 40-6 win over the Cougars in Provo, the southpaw set the single-game completion percentage record, breaking Darrell Bevell's mark from the Badgers' 1993 Rose Bowl season. 

His ability to dissect the BYU offense nearly put this performance at the top of this list; however, the Cougars finished 4-9 that season for head coach Kalani Sitake‎.

Here is more from Wisconsin's game notes that day:

He is the first Badgers QB to throw for 4 touchdowns since Russell Wilson threw 4 at Minnesota (11/12/11).

Hornibrook posted a career-best 277.4 pass efficiency rating, the second-highest mark in school history. Only John Stocco’s mark of 296.7 vs. Indiana (9/30/06) is higher.

On third down against BYU, Hornibrook was a perfect 7-for-7 for 95 yards with 2 TDs (308.3 passer rating).

On the season, Hornibrook is 17-for-22 for 222 yards with 4 TDs and 0 INTs on third down. That’s good for a 145.7 passer rating.

Hornibrook completed a 50-yard pass to Danny Davis in the second quarter, the third completion of 50+ yards in his career and first of the season.

1. Alex Hornibrook vs. Miami in the 2017 Orange Bowl: 23 of 34 for 258 yards with four touchdowns, zero interceptions

Hornibrook's BYU performance came very close to claiming the top spot. Playing against a very-hyped Hurricanes defense that thrived throughout the season on creating turnovers, however, he did not throw a pick while allowing his receiving targets to make plays that translated into points.

Three of Hornibrook's touchdown passes came in a second quarter spree where UW rattled off 21 unanswered points to cool off Miami's hot start. Then, his six-yard throw to Davis in the fourth quarter gave the team some breathing room when the Hurricanes brought the game to within a field goal again.

Update, July 21: Modifying No. 3 to state that Wisconsin halted Minnesota’s outright division title. The Badgers and Gophers both finished the season 7-2 in divisional play.

Comments (2)
No. 1-1

Few I'd throw in the mix:

Hornibrook's first start at Michigan St. 16-26, 195 with 1 TD and one INT (thrown on a Hail Mary attempt so doesn't really count). They had no rushing game (41-122) and Sparty was #8 in the country at the time. Hornibrook was great.

Coan vs Michigan last year. Not a ton of yards, but 13-16, 128 and two rushing TDs in what was a toss up game going in turned blowout in large part because of him.

Stave vs Nebraska in 2015. Look, I know the stats aren't great (24-50, 322, 1 TD) BUT, the rushing game was so bad they had to have him throw 50 times and he didn't throw one INT. Incredible.

Most notable for how it ended, Badgers had the ball on their own 30 with 48 seconds left and now Timeouts, and Stave got them into FG range to kick the winner. Feel like I can count recent "game winning drives engineered by a Badger QB" on one hand