Zack Baun vs. Hunter Johnson
Coming into this year, there was a lot of expectations that former 5-star quarterback Hunter Johnson would come in and help Northwestern pick up where they left off last season.
Losing four-year starting quarterback Clay Thorson is a big deal. He played in 53 games as the quarterback for Northwestern, including last year’s Big Ten Championship game.
What doesn’t help, is losing your backup quarterback too. T.J. Green was also a senior and was Thorson’s primary backup for a long time. Although he saw little action, he was suitable to put in when he was needed.
Coming into the year, the Wildcats didn’t have a quarterback on their roster that had played for them in the past four years. That makes things tough, even if you are a transfer from the highly-touted Clemson Tigers.
Unfortunately for Johnson, he’s had a tough start as a Wildcat. In three games has completed just 48.5 percent of his passes for 308 yards for one touchdown and four interceptions. The last game against a tough Michigan State defense was more of the same. He eventually got pulled in the fourth quarter and Aidan Smith got some playing time, but he didn’t play any better, throwing for a pair of interceptions on four of eleven pass attempts.
After the game, Coach Fitzgerald said that Johnson would be starting against Wisconsin this weekend.
Even though he has had a rough start to the year, I think it will still be important for this Wisconsin football team to keep him from getting comfortable. Last week they seemed to be hitting or pressuring Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson all game, and we all know how that turned out. Twitter had a field day at Patterson’s expense.
If there is anyone on this team to make the quarterback feel uncomfortable, it’s Zack Baun. He has been a menace this season, whether the stats reflect it or not. He leads this Wisconsin football team in solo tackles (10), total tackles (13), tackles for a loss (5), sacks (3) and forced fumbles (2).
He’s also been pressuring the quarterback on a consistent basis, but that isn’t a stat that is kept regularly like it is in the NFL. Baun’s performance will tell a lot about the outcome of this game. If he can harass Hunter Johnson and this Northwestern passing attack, life will be a lot easier for the Wisconsin secondary, which is short two safeties after a couple of targeting penalties last week.
All stats are courtesy of sports-reference.com.