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Badgers beat Miami in Orange Bowl: The good, the bad and what it means for 2018

Wisconsin gets win No. 13 thanks to the arm of QB Alex Hornibrook, beats Miami 34-24 to win Orange Bowl.



Everyone came in to the Orange Bowl expecting the Miami Hurricanes and Wisconsin Badgers to get in to a defensive slugfest. Instead, everyone was treated to an offensive explosion, one that ended up favoring the Badgers in a 34-24 win.

It gave Wisconsin a record 13 wins on the year (13-1) and a fourth straight win in a bowl game.

Speaking of records, it was UW quarterback Alex Hornibrook setting records and making people forget about the Badgers run game. Hornibrook tied his career high with four touchdowns and most importantly didn’t throw a single interception.

Instead, it was Miami quarterback Malik Rosier Jr. who’s turnovers mattered most. Rosier threw three interceptions on the night. He was just 11 of 26 for 203 yards and just one touchdown.

However, you wouldn’t have seen it coming after the first quarter.

Miami put up 14 unanswered points in the first quarter, looking like it was going to run away with things.

Then Andrew Van Ginkel happened and all things Miami momentum went away. On the first play of the second quarter Van Ginkel picked off an attempted wide receiver screen and UW went on to score 21 unanswered points of its own.

Wisconsin quarterback Alex Hornibrook rebounded from a bad first quarter as well, hitting on 10 of 11 passes in the second quarter alone. That included three equally impressive touchdown passes to Danny Davis and A.J. Taylor.

Taylor’s may have been the most impressive, but it was the least controversial. That belonged to Danny Davis’ TD effort that started Wisconsin’s 21-unanswered point streak.

He caught a pass along the sideline while twisting around and appeared to be out of bounds before going over the pylon. However, the official ruled it a touchdown on the field and no angle was good enough to overturn it.

After that it was all Wisconsin in the second quarter. UW allowed virtually nothing the rest of the way en route to a second-straight New Year’s Six bowl game victory.

Miami appeared to snatch back momentum with some big defensive play and a timely throw from Mike Rosier Jr., catching a defense believing he was running the ball and making an easy pitch and catch for a 24-21 scoreline.

However, defense would matter in a major way from then on.

It resulted in the Badgers up 24-14 at the half and allowing just 10 more points while forcing two turnovers in the second half of action.

Lost in all the good things the pass game did was the fact that Jonathan Taylor got the single season freshman rushing record. He had 133 yards on 26 carries in the win, but it seemed like a quiet night compared to what his quarterback was doing throwing the football.

It didn’t matter much to Taylor though, as the win was what mattered most and a record-setting season for individuals and the team was capped off in a perfect way.

The Good

After starting the game just 3 of 9 passing in the first quarter, Wisconsin quarterback Alex Hornibrook went off in the second stanza and ended the half completing 13 of 20 passes for 139 yards and three touchdowns.

In fact, Wisconsin’s usually front and center run game took a backseat to an impressive passing attack in the second quarter. Hornibrook hit Davis for a pair of touchdowns and had a second highlight reel touchdown throw to A.J. Taylor as well.

That was certainly a highlight of the half, but also the game. Hornibrook finished the night 23 of 34 for 258 yards and those 4 touchdowns. It was a night that helped him shut down some critics and make you wonder if he can build on it going forward.

Oh, and we’ll give a secondary mention to Wisconsin’s touchdown celebration of ripping a chain off. #SnatchThatChain

That was all in the second quarter, and as we know Hornibrook was far from done. It was easily his best performance of his career, coming at exactly the point they needed it.

The Bad

Wisconsin’s defense giving up 24 points? I guess that would be bad considering the lofty standards they have set for themselves this season. The Badgers came in allowing just 13.2 points per game and gave up 20 or more points just twice prior to this contest.

So, from the Badgers history in 2017, this wasn’t their best defensive day.

Even then, it is hard to be too mad at UW’s defensive performance, because they allowed just 10 points after having their backs against the wall in the first quarter and forced three interceptions out of Miami’s quarterback.

This was a great game, a great win and a statement made to the rest of the college football world. So, we’ll be not too mad about 24 points given up.

What it Means for 2018

If there’s one area that showed up in a slightly unexpected way for the Badgers, it was the wide receiver group. Whether it was Danny Davis, Kendric Pryor or sophomore A.J. Taylor, the trio was on fire for Wisconsin.

All three made huge catches, important ones and the easy ones too(minus that brutal third down drop by Pryor in the third quarter). It added up to the three young receivers combining for 15 receptions for 191 yards and all 4 touchdown receptions.

No position group has shown more promise over the final five weeks of the season than UW’s wide receivers have and they put it all together for their best game in the final game of the season.

Oh, and that was done all without the Badgers No. 1 wide receiver for most of the season — Quintez Cephus.

Now, if only they had a consistent quarterback to go with it…kind of like what happened on Saturday night against the Hurricanes. If they do, suddenly this is a Badgers offense that is equally as dangerous as its defense.

There’s a lot of reason to believe the Badgers of 2018 are going to be a handful for opposing defenses to try and handle and Saturday night proved that against a quality Miami secondary. This young Badgers wide receivers group certainly grew up before our eyes in this one.

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Badgers football

Best, Worst case scenarios for Badgers RB’s in 2020



Believe it or not, we’re just over 2 months away from the start of the Wisconsin Badgers 2020 season. It may not feel like it outside or in your mind, but it’s time to hunker down and look at the team as it stands prior to fall camp.

Of course we’ll have the full position break downs and all the information you’ve come to expect from a preview in general.

But, we’re starting things off a bit different this season. Yes, we’re going to look in to the best and worst case scenarios that could happen to each position in 2020.

We start with the marquee position at UW — running back.

Best Case Scenario

Jonathan Taylor to the left, Taylor to the right…Taylor up the middle too.

Is there any other better thought in the minds of Badgers fans or the coaching staff for that matter? The dude has smashed nearly every Badgers and national record you can think of for just two years of college.

The best case scenario for UW success this season is more of the same from Taylor, especially in terms of his explosiveness. If Wisconsin doesn’t have to rely on him as much as they did last season, that would be great. But, they’ll still need him to hit those big runs and touchdowns.

He ran for 10 or more yards on 61 carries last season and ripped off 16 runs of 20-plus yards as well. More of that, even with fewer carries would be the best case scenario.

Worst Case Scenario

An injury that ends Jonathan Taylor’s season.

It’s a frightening thought for the Badgers season, let alone the running back position. Simply put, there’s no scenario in which Taylor has an extended amount of time away from the team and the Badgers have a winning season.

Unlike season’s past, the Badgers don’t have proven depth at this position. Is Nakia Watson ready to take on 300 carries? His production at the collegiate level isn’t a given.

Counting on Garrett Groshek as the featured back? That’s all sorts of a bad idea. Maybe incoming freshman Julius Davis surprises in the fall or converted wide receiver Isaac Guerendo could also surprise?

That’s a whole lot of maybes and what-ifs for anything resembling success happens in the face of an injury to Taylor. Hell, do you think this offense is ready to become reliant on the pass game? I certainly don’t.

So, let’s all hope nothing crazy happens to Taylor this season.

Most Likely to Happen

Taylor rushes for 1,700 yards or more and 20 touchdowns on the season. It would likely end up with him as a major candidate for the Heisman Trophy come December. If that’s the case, it’s likely that the Badgers are also playing for a Big Ten championship once again as the West division champions.

I also believe it’s likely that we see Nakia Watson develop as the heir apparent to Taylor, thus the lower yardage numbers projected. It would be nice not to put 300 carries on Taylor’s body in what is likely his final season in Madison and Watson’s emergence as the second back would be a huge help there.

Overall, expect the Badgers run game to be more of the same, but perhaps more balanced than it was last season. That’s not a bad thing in my book.

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Badgers football

A look at Badgers 2021 football recruiting: Defense



Earlier this week we began our in-depth look at the 2021 Wisconsin Badgers football recruiting class. After all, UW just got its second commitment in the class on Sunday.

We started looking at the offensive side of the ball, where both commitments have come from.

Today we are taking a look at the Badgers defensive efforts on the 2021 recruiting trail.

Where do things stand and what names do you and I need to pay attention to? Let’s take a look at the defensive side of the Badgers on the recruiting trail.

State of the 2021 Class

Commits: 2 (both on offense)
Likely Scholarships Left: 14-16

A look at the scholarship chart heading in to 2021 suggests that the Badgers aren’t going to have a massive class, like we talked about earlier this week.

But, on the defensive side of things it appears this class is likely to be spread out pretty evenly. Wisconsin loses a pair of defensive ends, four total linebackers and four defensive backs at the very least heading in to the 2021 season.

So, don’t be surprised to see the bulk of the effort on the recruiting trail focused on the back end of the defense.

Defensive End

Will the names Isaiahh Loudermilk and Garrett Rand live up to lofty recruiting expectations? We have two years to find out, but if they do they will leave a big hole in the Badgers defense upon their departure following the 2020 season.

That makes recruiting at defensive end pretty important for the 2021 class, because we haven’t seen much depth develop over the past few years either.

So, it shouldn’t surprise that UW has been hot on the 2021 defensive line recruiting circuit. To date they have offered six different prospects at defensive end and three defensive tackles as well.

Most of those offers have gone to highly rated players at both positions, but just how likely are the Badgers to hook one of the big fish? Let’s get in to that.

Name to Watch: JC Latham

Wisconsin was home to one of the best players in the country in the 2021 class in Latham. However, after this past season he moved to IMG Academy in Florida and that means his recruitment is going even more national than before.

He’s got offers from almost every blue blood program, with Clemson and Ohio State holding out so far but likely to offer at some point in his junior year.

Can the Badgers keep up with the Jonses in this recruitment? If they could land the current No. 8 strong-side defensive end it would be a game changer in the class, but he’s also the lynchpin of where this defensive line class will head.

I wouldn’t put my money on the Badgers winning out over all others, which means they have to put their eggs in other baskets. One name that I’d put in this position if it weren’t for Latham is actually someone the Badgers have yet to offer, but just hosted on campus in Chandler, Ariz. native Anthony Franklin.

Defensive Tackle

If you don’t aim to the highest of heights you’ll never achieve them, right? That seems to be Wisconsin’s strategy so far at defensive tackle, as they’ve offered three players at the position so far and all three of them are inside the top 5 of the 247Sports composite rankings.

Does it bode well for the Badgers? So far not a single one of them is listed as “warm” on UW, if that tells you anything.

Name to Watch: Rocco Spindler

Spindler is not only a highly-rated recruit, he is from a state that Wisconsin has begun to have a lot of success in — Michigan. Getting in early with one of the Midwest’s best recruits in the 2021 class doesn’t hurt and neither will UW’s current track record with players out of the state of Michigan.

Will any of it matter? That’s a question that few seem to be able to answer. I wouldn’t bet on Spindler choosing the Badgers, but I would bet that his recruitment will be a good indication of where offers could go in this class.

Outside Linebacker

Don’t expect this class to be heavy on outside pass-rushers per say. Only two offers have gone out to date and both are in the state of Georgia, where UW had the beginnings of a foot hold under Gary Andersen and haven’t been able to sustain a lot of that momentum under this coaching staff.

Name to Watch: None

UW has offered both Chaz Chambliss and Barrett Carter, but neither have really been receptive to the efforts on the recruiting trail to date. Chambliss could be a heavy Clemson lean, given he’s visited the school multiple times and recently for the Dabo Swinney Camp as well.

If the Badgers are going to land a 2021 outside linebacker, that person has not been offered to date.

Inside Linebacker

Recently, the Badgers biggest track record of success on defense has come at inside linebacker. So much so that a player who would start almost anywhere is finally becoming a starter again as a Senior (Chris Orr).

So, keeping up that tradition is important and vital to success on the field of course. To that end, UW has offered four targets and few of them are huge names in the 2021 class on a national level. The good news there is that Wisconsin actually has a chance with a few of those names.

Name to Watch: Bryan Sanborn

If that name sounds familiar, you would be right. Bryan is the younger brother of Wisconsin’s potential starting inside linebacker Jack Sanborn. Having that family connection won’t be the end-all, be-all of his recruitment given he is the No. 9 ranked inside linebacker in the class. But, the good news is that the Sanborn family really loves what the Badgers have to offer as a whole program.

This recruitment is going to be huge to prove the Badgers can stick in with some of the biggest names in the country and win. They’ve proven that with other players, but continuing to do so is going to be important. Wisconsin has more than a 60-40 chance to win his commitment and the younger Sanborn could be a player that helps elevate UW with other targets on the recruiting trail.


Umm…so far things have been really quiet on this front and that’s likely because the Badgers are going to be really experienced at this position on the field in 2021.

Just how quiet are things to date? There literally isn’t a single offer out to a cornerback in 2021. That’s a sign that the Badgers aren’t prioritizing this position and are going to be selective with offers.

In the end, expect one or two cornerbacks at most in this class.


Safety is the exact opposite of cornerback, as UW currently would only have three scholarship players on the roster (with the 2020 cycle yet to land a safety commitment). That means we should expect some pressure to get quality in this class.

As such, you shouldn’t be surprised to find out there have been seven offers out at Safety in the 2021 class. There are some high-end offers out there and some under the radar ones as well.

But, the Badgers could stay home and get a big named recruit as well.

Name to Watch: Hunter Wohler

It isn’t often that one of the country’s best defensive backs sits in the Badgers back yard according to the rankings. But, Wohler is the No. 7 ranked player in the nation at his position and the No. 1 recruit in Wisconsin.

Simply put, this is a must-win recruitment for the Badgers. Letting the No. 1 player slip out of the state and at a skill position nonetheless would be a massive disappointment.

The good news is that UW seems to be the early leader in his recruitment and according to his own words earlier this week, will look to commit after his junior season at the earliest.

Michigan State and Ohio State could be Wisconsin’s biggest competition here so it will be interesting to see how things shake out.

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Badgers football

Badgers land 4-star LB Nick Herbig



This past weekend saw a number of the Wisconsin Badgers biggest 2020 targets on campus for official visits. How did it go?

Well, it took 4-star linebacker Nick Herbig just one day following his return to Honolulu, Hawaii to make his commitment official.

UW apparently hit it out of the park, something Badger247 noted in their announcement of his commitment.

“Honestly, I had high expectations for the visit and I was surprised,” Herbig told 247sports’ Blair Angulo. “It was really special. The culture up there is amazing and what really stood out to me, aside from the great staff, is that all the players love each other. They aren’t in it for themselves. It’s about the program and the team, and you can get that vibe just walking around the campus.”

This was a hotly contested recruitment, with UCLA, Washington, Stanford, USC, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Nebraska, and more in the mix. In the end, it seemed like a Wisconsin, UCLA and Washington battle and the Badgers won out.

He comes to the Badgers as the No. 17 ranked outside linebacker (No. 7 in 247Sports only rankings) and the No. 187 ranked player in the 247Sports composite rankings.

Wisconsin now has nine players committed to the 2020 class and is ranked No. 25 in the country at this time. Herbig becomes the third 4-star player in the class and the second-highest rated player amongst those committed to the Badgers.

As for what kind of player the Badgers are getting? Well, it’s hard not to get excited about his film and his measurables. He looks like a college player physically, coming in at 6-2 and 215 pounds with room to add more muscle, which reports indicate he is doing throughout the spring.

The film shows a player with some advanced moves off the edge and one that doesn’t purely rely on his athletic advantages. He may have a bit of work in the run game, but that could be more because of what he’s asked to do in high school than anything else.

Wisconsin has a college-ready player in the fold, one who may not need much time to be an impact player or potential starter.

It is interesting that he says T.J. Watt is his model at outside linebacker, because that’s the best player comparison I can see out there. He plays longer and hits harder than it would appear he is capable of and the motor never stops going.

There’s little doubt this is a major win for the Badgers, who continue to show their ability to evaluate talent early out West is worth the effort after landing Spencer Lytle and Titus Toler in this past class.

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Badgers football

A Look at Badgers 2021 football recruiting: Offense



With the first national signing day just six months from now for the 2020 class there is no time like now to start getting involved with the Badgers 2021 class as well.

So, as we begin the long haul of the offseason it’s a perfect time to understand the class and where the Badgers stand on commitments, offers and names to watch.

Looking at the potential scholarship chart, one could expect a smaller class for the Badgers. But, there is a long way to go between now and December of 2021.

So, with that in mind, let us look at the offensive recruiting being done in the class.

State of the 2021 Class

Commits: 2
Likely Scholarships Left: 14

Yes, the Badgers have gotten their first two commit in the 2021 class and there’s a name you’ll know and a surprise one in the mix so far.

The name you’ll know is JP Benzschawel, the third of the Benzschawel brothers to commit to the Badgers program. Right now, he is listed as a 3-star offensive tackle and the No. 37 ranked tackle in the country.

That’s not a bad way to start off the class.

Just this past weekend, the Badgers got pledge No. 2 from in-state as Verona running back Jackson Acker was offered and gave his verbal pledge in just a few hours following Sunday’s camp in Madison.

But, clearly there is a lot of work to do in a 15 to 17-man class. So, let’s take a look at the early offers out and the names that you should be watching for in the coming months.


Wisconsin and everyone else was hoping to nab 5-star Illinois product J.J. McCarthy, but that didn’t happen. Instead, he verbally committed to Michigan earlier this week.

Beyond that, the Badgers have clearly made the position a priority on the recruiting trail. UW has five other offers out to quarterbacks already, including four to players inside the top 200 players in the country.

Name to Watch: Ty Thompson

Wisconsin made an offer to the Gilbert (Mesquite), Arizona quarterback earlier this spring and is one of just three Power 5 offers to the 4-star quarterback. Others to offer to date are Arizona and Iowa State, but Arizona State and Colorado have been looking hard at him this spring as well.

Look for more offers to come his way, but Thompson is a player that could fit the Badgers program well. He’s a big kid — at 6-4 and 200 lbs. — and has the arm strength needed in the Madison weather.

Running Back

Offers are out fast much like they are at quarterback for the 2021 running back group. To date, Wisconsin has 5 offers out to players at this position outside of Acker’s commitment, including 4 to the RB position and one “all-purpose” back according to 247Sports.

With Jonathan Taylor likely off to the NFL after the 2019 season and the Badgers slow to the gate so far in 2020’s class, finding a big name or elite athlete to play running back seems to be a priority. That’s especially true since what is on the roster behind Taylor this year is a real unknown.

UW thinks they found that in Acker, who became a “plan A” offer immediately upon seeing him at camp. Will the Badgers take a second back in such a small class? It’s possible and I wouldn’t be surprised to see UW look for a speed back to pair with Acker.

Name to Watch: Mar’Keise Irving

Right now, it appears the most likely name to land in a Badgers uniform is the 3-star running back out of the Chicagoland area. Wisconsin was Irving’s first Power 5 offer, but since then he’s added schools like Nebraska, Minnesota, Duke, Louisville and Iowa State to his list of offers.

Does Irving end up in a Badgers uniform? Obviously it is really early in the 2021 recruiting process but it wouldn’t surprise me given the unlikely nature of other already offered players landing in the Cardinal and White.

Wisconsin doesn’t often put out so-called “un-committable” offers, so let’s keep Irving in mind for the potential spot in this class. That said, don’t be surprised if Acker is the only name at running back when all is said and done in December of 2020.

Wide Receiver

This will be the intriguing part of the offensive side of the ball in the 2021 class. Wisconsin is likely in need of at least 2 or 3 wide receivers depending on the paths that Emmett Perry, Cade Green and Aron Cruickshank take — all three are expected to be seniors in 2021. Evening out the classes may be a smart move here as well.

So far, the Badgers have lined up 5 offers at the position to date. They include some big time talent in the 2021 class and some big time recruiting hotbeds like Florida, Maryland, North Carolina and Ohio. Hitting on a bigger name may be difficult but the Badgers are good at laying some groundwork and picking up talent others wouldn’t expect them thanks to wide receivers coach Ted Gilmore.

Let’s remember that UW landed 4-star prospect Danny Davis out of Ohio State’s back yard just a few short years ago as well. Overall, this could be an important group to get right given what will be lost heading in to 2022 and what is lost before they even get to campus in 2021.

Name to Watch: Micah Crowell

Wisconsin running backs coach John Settle was in his element back in North Carolina and put in an offer a few months ago to Crowell. If Kernersville or East Forsyth rings a bell to you, that’s because it is the same town and high school that current Badgers cornerback Madison Crone is from.

Does that mean the Badgers have a big advantage? Far from it, but it does mean that the coaching staff is well-known and they’ve proven to take talent and refine it well with Cone.

Right now there isn’t much movement on the recruiting trail and of the 5 offers and three 4-star offers out there this is the one that I expect to set the trend for this position group in 2021.

Tight End

Technically Jake Ferguson will be senior in 2021, but I fully expect that he won’t be here much longer than the 2019 or 2020 season given his play in his redshirt freshman season.

If that is the case, it would leave just a pair of tight ends currently on the roster and UW needing to get at least one more in the mix for the 2019 class.

It also means the Badgers would like to get at least one if not two in this class as well.

So, it should come as no surprise that three offers are already out at this position in 2021. UW is in the mix for the No. 1 rated Cane Berrong and the No. 3 ranked Moliki Matavao. In addition there is Louis Hansen in the mix too.

Let’s just say I don’t see this as a very settled group as of right now.

Name to Watch: Louis Hansen

The Badgers are a program notorious for getting more from less and while its a dream to hit on one of the top recruits in the country, Hansen may fit the Badgers mold a bit more.

Right now, he’s unranked by 247Sports, but the Massachusetts native is very intriguing to watch as he fills out a good 6-4 frame. Look for UW to be a serious contender, but also for the Badgers to put out at least 2-3 more offers over the summer months.

Offensive Line

It feels like the old, plug-and-play days at are back along the offensive line. Such is what happens when you don’t try to screw with a formula that has worked for over 20 years.

As for the 2021 class, the Badgers could be in the mix for 4-5 offensive lineman depending on the futures of players like Kayden Lyles and Tyler Beach. If either are to leave early, this could be a 6-7 person class.

So, having that first piece in the mix in Benzschawel isn’t a bad thing at all.

UW has 10 offers out at offensive tackle and another two to players classified as guards by 247Sports. Clearly this is a position of need, if for no other than sure need for bodies.

Name to Watch: Nolan Rucci

The last name is familiar if you pay attention to recruiting, as he is the younger brother of 2019 signee Hayden Rucci. Wisconsin should have an advantage in terms of knowing the family and Nolan knowing the coaching staff.

Does that mean this is a lock? Far from it, because Nolan is one of the top 50 players in the class overall and the No. 7 ranked offensive tackle in the country too. He could have his pick of the litter of college football programs.

Still, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Badgers win this recruitment in the end. It just won’t be as easy as some other legacy recruitments to date. If the Badgers land him, this class could be turning in to something really special.

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