Badgers roll on the road
Hornibrook sets completion rate record in 40-6 victory
PROVO, Utah – Fresh off a sometimes-ragged performance in Week 2 and venturing away from home for the first time this season, Paul Chryst’s players talked all week about putting together a complete game and reaffirming the belief they will be a force in the Big Ten and beyond in 2017.
Consider UW’s 40-6 victory Saturday afternoon over BYU an emphatic statement about the potential of this team.
“I was proud of the way our guys approached this whole trip,” UW coach Paul Chryst said. “Certainly have a ton of respect for the program here at BYU and the coaching staff.
“Coming in we knew that we had to play our best game and I thought in many ways that we did.”
BYU (1-3) entered the game struggling on offense and had to go with a first-time starter at quarterback in redshirt sophomore Beau Hoge, subbing for injured starter Tanner Mangum.
So it wasn’t surprising that UW’s defense, other than an early drive and a blown coverage late in the first half, frustrated the Cougars and silenced a crowd of 61,143.
Hoge threw an interception on his second attempt and the Cougars, who came in averaging 231.7 yards and 11.0 points per game, were held to 192 total yards. They managed 64 yards on their second possession, which resulted in a field goal and were held to 108 yards on their final seven possessions.
“They are a great team,” BYU coach Kalani Sitake said. “You can see why they are ranked. I thought we were overwhelmed.
“We couldn’t get anything going. Defensively, we could have provided some plays but that wasn’t happening today.”
What impressed most about UW’s performance was the manner in which the offense controlled the ball (40 minutes 9 seconds) and capitalized once it reached the red zone (five TDs on seven trips).
Quarterback Alex Hornibrook, who struggled after a hot start against Florida Atlantic, completed 18 of 19 passes for 256 yards and four touchdowns to lead UW.
The last UW quarterback to throw four touchdown passes in a game? Russell Wilson, against Minnesota in 2011.
Hornibrook’s completion rate of 94.7% broke the program mark of 94.4%, set in 1993 by Darrell Bevell (17 of 18) against Northwestern.
Hornibrook was at his best on third down, as he hit 8 of 8 attempts for 114 yards and three touchdowns. He directed three touchdown drives in the first half when UW had the ball four times and built a 24-6 lead.
“I thought today Alex was really sharp and he was seeing things clean,” Chryst said.
Tailback Jonathan Taylor started for the second consecutive week and continued his impressive freshman campaign by rushing 18 times for 128 yards and two touchdowns. UW finished with 255 passing yards and 235 rushing yards. Five tailbacks and two fullbacks got carries.
BYU entered the day allowing 166.0 rushing yards per game but only 3.9 per carry.
“They were good on film,” left guard Micah Kapoi said of the Cougars’ defense. “They came out like we thought they would. They were tough inside, tough linebackers.
“Our goal this week was to be the tougher team, be the team that was going to impose our will. I think we took steps in doing that.”
Linebacker T.J. Edwards set the tone for the day on BYU’s first possession with an interception that gave UW the ball at the Cougars’ 35. The pass was the first for Hoge, who finished 11 of 20 for 111 yards.
UW settled for a field goal and BYU then drove 61 yards for a tying field goal, but the Badgers owned the line of scrimmage and had featured more playmakers, particularly on offense, the rest of the way.
“When you go on the road you look for someone to ignite you. I thought T.J.’s pick was really big.”
The Badgers (3-0), No. 12 in the Amway coaches poll and No. 10 in The Associated Press poll, get a week off before opening Big Ten play on Sept. 30 against visiting Northwestern.
UW put together its most complete opening half through the first three weeks in building a 24-6 halftime lead.
Hornibrook completed 10 of 11 passes for 149 yards and two touchdowns, both to wide receiver Quintez Cephus (557-2 TDs), Hornibrook in the opening half completed 4 of 4 passes on third down for 49 yards. Three throws resulted in first downs, including a 9-yard touchdown pass to Cephus.
UW’s defense allowed 79 rushing yards on 13 attempts on BYU’s first two possessions which ended with UW holding a 7-3 lead.
UW allowed just one first down and 28 yards on the next two series and the offense capitalized to expand the lead to 24-3.
“We weren’t quite sure what we were going to see,” Chryst said. “They did do some things early in the running game.”
A late breakdown — a 50-yard pass play from Hoge to Micah Simon to the UW 25 — led to BYU’s second field goal.
Hornibrook found wide receiver A.J. Taylor for an 18-yard score in the third quarter — on third and 8 — to help UW push the lead to 31-6.
His final score was a 19-yarder to tight end Troy Fumagalli — on third and 18 — with seven minutes remaining.
With Hornibrook getting excellent protection and finding receivers all day and with the defense controlling the game for all but a few plays, UW fashioned its best overall performance of 2017.
After a bye week, a run to what the players hope will be a Big Ten title begins in earnest.
“I think it was a flash,” safety D’Cota Dixon said, referring to the team’s potential. “I think today it was a pretty good job of the defense putting it together. We didn’t have any miscommunication errors. I felt like it was pretty solid.
“But even then, I feel like there is so much more we can do.”
Sophomore quarterback Alex Hornibrook gets rid of a pass before absorbing a hit from a BYU player during the second half of Wisconsin’s victory on Saturday in Provo, Utah. Hornibrook finished the day 18 of 19 for 256 yards and four touchdowns against the Cougars.
Wisconsin running back Garrett Groshek tries to fend off BYU linebacker Matt Hadley during a run in the second half on Saturday. Groshek, a freshman, carried nine times for 43 yards.