Alex Hornibrook cemented the starting quarterback position by showing some quality tools over the course of his freshman season. The key to establishing himself as the long-term answer however was his ability to grow.
Week 1 showcased a lot of that talked about growth, but Week 2 felt a lot like the Hornibrook many grew to be frustrated with seeing in 2016. An 8-of-9 start for 89 yards and a touchdown by Hornibrook against Florida Atlantic led many to believe a complete rout was on for the Badgers.
Instead, the redshirt sophomore limped to the finish line and ended the day going just 16 of 28 for 201 yards, a touchdown and an interception in the 31-14 win.
Perhaps most glaring was Hornibrook’s reaction to his lone interception so far this season. He threw an awful one, failing to read the defense after scrambling from an edge rush to his throwing side and it resulted in locking on a receiver and missing the linebacker standing right in the path of his intended target.
Florida Atlantic picked it off and it seemed to rattle Hornibrook for the rest of the game.
Rather than bounce back, he shrunk and began missing receivers over the top, throwing behind them and underthrowing multiple deep balls. It felt like we were watching the Hornibrook that ended 2016 on shaky ground.
Hornibrook didn’t see the linebacker on the play and he initially didn’t see how rattled he looked to everyone else.
“Not really. It wasn’t like I read something wrong or did something wrong,” Hornibrook said after the game. “There was just a guy and I threw it right to him. It wasn’t a huge deal for me — it wasn’t something I had to fix, it was just a stupid throw.”
Complete even half of the missed-timed balls and Hornibrook and the Badgers offense could’ve had a banner day.
To be fair, not everything was on Hornibrook either. Some routes were miss-timed and Troy Fumagalli and Jazz Peavy — two of Wisconsin’s most reliable pass catchers — dropped a combined three passes that hit them right in the hands.
Chalk it up to a lack of confidence in balls being delivered on time or in a good position, there’s no excuse for missing some of the balls that Fumagalli and Peavy did last weekend.
BYU on the road will no doubt present a good opportunity for the Badgers passing offense. The Cougars have allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete over 64 percent of their passes for 631 yards in the three games they’ve already played. However, they have only allowed one passing touchdown on the season so far.
So, how does Hornibrook get back on track and grow? It appears it may be going back to the basics of his progressions.
Both head coach Paul Chryst and Hornibrook mentioned that in talks with the media this week.
“One way to get back into rhythm is to go back and trusting your progressions, trusting what you are seeing,” Chryst said. “Believe what you see and pull the trigger on it. Good stuff for him to go through.”
Chryst also believes some of it comes from a full month of seeing the Badgers defense across the field and getting in to bad habits because of it.
“When you play our defense, that second option is not a great option, and yet we’re not playing our defense anymore,” the head coach said. “But when you spend all that time in camp, I think there is some of that. You’ve got to play each play.”
The good news is Hornibrook has thrown for over 200 yards in each of the first two games and helped the Badgers offense more than hindered it.
But, there’s still worry that progression on the field isn’t happening fast enough to really open up what could be an explosive offense. Let’s see if Hornibrook takes a bad game and turns it around or if he lets it affect him in a bad way.
Week 3 is likely to tell us a lot about where Hornibrook’s career at Wisconsin is going to go.