The Wisconsin Badgers went into Saturday’s game against Georgia State as 34 1/2 point favorites. The outcome was much different from what was anticipated.
Wisconsin’s defense was stellar as usual in the first half, but the Badgers managed a 6-0 lead at the break.
The Badgers came out of the locker room and increased that lead to 13-0, after Paul Chryst pulled quarterback Bart Houston for redshirt freshman Alex Hornibrook.
It was at that point that the Panthers scored a pair of touchdowns and jumped out in front 17-13 early in the fourth quarter.
Georgia State used a quick passing game and didn’t allow the Badger pass rushers to make an impact.
The Badgers were able to regain the lead when Hornibrook tossed a short touchdown pass. They would add a Rafael Gaglianone field goal and then get a big defensive stop to hang on for the win.
Hornibrook finished 8 of 12 for 122 yards and a touchdown with an interception. The pick was a ball that should have been caught, going right through the hands of wide receiver George Rushing and into the hands of a Georgia State defender.
Hornibrook injected some energy into the Wisconsin offense when he was called on and coach Paul Chryst said he showed good poise.
Chryst said after the game that Bart Houston is still his starter right now. But the coaching staff will likely give that some further consideration throughout the week, as the Badgers get ready to open Big Ten play at Michigan State (11 a.m. Saturday).
Hornibrook’s touchdown pass went to tight end Kyle Penniston, who had two drops on back-to-back plays in the second quarter when Houston was still in the game. Houston finished 10 of 18 for 91 yards on six offensive possessions.
The Badgers were able to get the ball deep into Georgia State territory early on. On the first four possessions, the Badgers reached the Georgia State 23, 10, 1 and 38 yard lines. They came away with 41 and 28-yard field goals.
The Badgers lost a pair of key players to injury during the game. Wisconsin decided not to suit up tailback Corey Clement before the game. That meant Taiwan Deal would get more opportunities. But Deal went down early with an ankle injury and tight end Troy Fumagalli left late in the first quarter with a leg injury.
Dare Ogunbowale carried the ball 20 times for 65 yards and a touchdown. Bradrick Shaw rushed 16 times for 62 yards. As a team, Wisconsin finished with 187 yards on 49 carries.
With the start of the first Big Ten game, the talk will be about the quarterback position. Coach Paul Chryst will try to deflect the questions. But there’s no denying what Alex Hornibrook did for the Badgers on Saturday. His performance brought energy to a team that was sorely lacking in that department. Hornibrook wasn’t the only player to step up, but his effort likely prevented the Badgers (3-0) from an upset heading into Big Ten play.
This will be Hornibrook’s team sooner or later. Based on Saturday’s performance, the sooner the better!