The Wisconsin Badgers, led by their outstanding defense and redshirt freshman quarterback, defeated the Michigan State Spartans 30-6 on Saturday.
The victory was fueled by the defense, which stifled Michigan State’s running game, holding the Spartans to just 75 yards on the ground on 27 attempts.
In a telling stat, the last eight times that the Badgers have held an opponent to under 100 yards rushing, they have won. That was once again the case on Saturday, and it wasn’t just the defensive effort against the run that matter.
UW found itself at the right place at the right time over and over again, eventually leading to four turnovers created on the day.
It was the Wisconsin’s first road victory against Michigan State since 2002, and the first Badgers road win over a top 10 team by more than two scores since at least 1992. The win today also gives the Badgers their second top 10 win in the first four games of the season.
The early game play-calling by coach Paul Chryst was key in fueling the Badgers quick start. Chryst allowed his young quarterback to air the ball out on passing downs, thus allowing Hornibrook to gain confidence in himself early on.
Wide receiver Jazz Peavy and tight end Troy Fumagalli made key catches on third downs as the Badgers used a 16-play touchdown drive to take the lead on their second possession of the game.
Hornibrook did turn the ball over twice, but neither proved costly as the Badgers defense held when it needed to. A clear improvement over former starting QB Bart Houston, Hornibrook finished the game 16 for 26, with 195 yards and a touchdown pass. In his first career start for the Badgers, Hornibrook connected with Jazz Peavy and Troy Fumagalli four times each for a combined 138 yards.
With starting kicker Rafael Gaglianone sidelined with a back injury, the Badgers elected to go for it on two fourth and short situations in the first half, converting both. Michigan State attempted two fourth-down conversions and failed both times.
The biggest play of the game came in the third quarter, when Badgers safety D’Cota Dixon hit the ball out of L.J. Scott’s hands leading to a Leo Musso fumble return for a touchdown, extending the Badgers lead to 20-6.
The Badgers defense performed at a high level once again, holding Michigan State to just six points, 325 yards of offense, and forcing four turnovers (including three interceptions). Sojourn Shelton jumped a Tyler O’ Connor pass in the first half which led to a Badgers touchdown.
Fellow cornerback Derrick Tindal pulled down an interception of his own and inside linebacker TJ Edwards continued to tear through opposing offenses with four tackles and a huge interception of his own.
It appears that the Badgers have quickly found a formula that works for them, and if this is jut the beginning of that formula then opposing teams are in for some real trouble down the road.
Wisconsin will turn its attention quickly to another big matchup, traveling to take on a team dominating in much the same fashion as the Badgers — the Michigan State Wolverines.