Many questioned if it was wise for the Wisconsin Badgers to turn the keys of the offense over to a redshirt freshman quarterback given its crazy Big Ten schedule in 2016. Wisconsin chose to go with fifth-year senior Bart Houston to open the season, seemingly answering that question.
However, it appears that the Badgers are poised to throw redshirt freshman Alex Hornibrook to the Big Ten wolves. That’s because a report from Jeff Potrykus of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel names a pair of sources within the program telling him that Hornibrook is indeed the starter for the Big Ten opener at Michigan State.
It shouldn’t be a surprising move given the struggles of Houston and the execution of Hornibrook on Saturday in a 23-17 win over Georgia State. The latter went 8 of 12 for 122 yards with a touchdown and one interception, while the former was just 10 of 18 for 91 yards in two-and-a-half quarters of play.
Following the game, head coach Paul Chryst was not about to tip his hand as to what he may be thinking about his quarterback situation.
“Just got done with the game,” he said. “Like I said, Bart’s our starter right now. I’m proud of what Alex did and how he came in.
“So I’m not planning anything right now other than appreciating this win.”
It didn’t take long for the coaching staff to appreciate the win apparently, because the choice was made just over 24 hours later.
As for the decision, it should’ve been an easy one considering the play of the two quarterbacks.
Wisconsin mustered up just six points (including a missed field goal) with Houston leading the offense and seemed to stumble as soon as they had a chance to do something in the red zone. A lot of it had to do with mis-timed passes or a few drops on crucial plays.
Those issues seemed to go away for the most part, and outside of a dropped pass by George Rushing that resulted in a Georgia State interception, Hornibrook was on the money to his receivers and they were catching everything thrown their way.
Hornibrook’s first drive was a 69-yard touchdown drive, Wisconsin’s first of the game for a 13-3 lead with just 2:58 to play in the third quarter. Following Rushing’s drop resulting in an interception, Hornibrook led the Badgers on an eight-play, 59-yard touchdown drive that gave UW the final points needed for victory.
UW led 20-17 at that point and the points continued to come with Hornibrook behind center, with the Badgers tacking on a 41-yard Rafael Gaglianone field goal for a 23-17 lead with 3:36 to play in the game.
Couple these performances with the reports all camp long that Hornibrook was the leader and it is easy to see why this decision may have been a quick one for the coaching staff.
Wisconsin will now apparently go with the player they believe can win them games in Big Ten play, and that player just so happens to be a raw but inspiring redshirt freshman.
With Michigan State, Michigan and Ohio State’s defenses coming their way in the next three games, we’re all about to find out just how good this green QB can be for the Badgers.