Quintez Cephus made sure to make the most of Axe week and the matchup against rival Minnesota.
He had missed the last two games against Minnesota. He missed the 2017 matchup due to a season-ending right leg injury that he suffered early in the season at Indiana. He would miss the entire 2018 season, including the loss at home to Minnesota, amidst a suspension due to charges of sexual assault.
“For every player that misses it, you feel for them, and yet ‘Q’ will bounce back. One of the beautiful things about coaching is seeing these guys play and grow and develop, and football is the vehicle we get to use,” head coach Paul Chryst said following the news that the injury would end the season for Cephus.
Chryst thought ‘Q’ would bounce back and he has done so in an emphatic way.
The junior wide receiver now leads a talented group of receivers on the season with 45 catches for 720 yards and six touchdowns. Cephus leads a group that junior running back Jonathan Taylor labeled as one of the best ever, if not the best.
“We haven’t seen a receiving core in Wisconsin like this in a long time, probably ever,” Taylor said.
Cephus’s year started with a bang in Week 2 when he torched Central Michigan for six catches, 130 yards, and two touchdowns. Now with the Axe and a Big Ten West title on the line, Cephus had perhaps his best performance of the season considering the snowy, wet conditions the teams were dealing with.
“‘Q’ was big. [He] kind of had that look from the beginning that he was going to go attack this one,” Chryst said.
He finished off the game with five catches, 114 yards, and a touchdown.
“Getting a shot in these types of games, I wasn’t able to be there but now I am here and I have everything in front of me and I want to make the most of the opportunity,” Cephus said following the win.
In the days leading up to the game, all of the talk was focused on Minnesota’s talented group of wide receivers that included two 1,000-plus yard receivers, but Cephus was arguably the best receiver on the field and made the biggest plays.
Junior quarterback Jack Coan found Cephus open down the middle to open up the scoring in the second half for the Badgers with a 47-yard bomb to put Wisconsin up 17-7. The Gophers defense was getting setup after Mason Stokke motioned out wide, leaving a linebacker Thomas Barber to cover Cephus.
“The coverage we were getting, we knew we might have a chance with ‘Q’,” Coan said. “Whenever we have a one-on-one, it’s always a good matchup for us and I just tried to put it in a location where he can get it.
“I’m just really lucky to be able to throw to him,” Coan added.
Quintez Cephus was reinstated to the university and allowed back on the football team just days before the season opener at USF but has been grateful for ever opportunity.
“Quintez has been huge. He’s an unbelievable teammate and brings energy. He cares about this team and his teammates as much as any guy and there is something that’s infectious about that,” Chryst said. “He loves playing the game and appreciates the opportunity to play the game.”
Quintez sent the message to the group of receivers: “don’t take anything for granted. You never know. Just go out there and play every play like it’s your last. Just go out there and give everything you can,” junior wide receiver Kendric Pryor said was the message Quintez sent.
Cephus has made the most of a second opportunity and now leads a revamped Wisconsin passing attack that is on their way to the Big Ten championship against Ohio State. Cephus missed the 2017 Big Ten title with the game due to injury and will surely be looking to lead an upset bid with the Buckeyes defense locked in on stopping Jonathan Taylor.