Redshirt freshman pressing senior QB for Wisconsin
As Michigan State prepares to open Big Ten play Saturday against Wisconsin, the Badgers come to Spartan Stadium with plenty of questions on offense.
No. 11 Wisconsin (3-0) has a big VICTORY over LSU, but following last week’s closer-than-expected triumph over Georgia State, it appears the Badgers have a bit of quarterback controversy brewing.
Fifth-year senior Bart Houston started the first three games, but against Georgia State, it was redshirt freshman Alex Hornibrook who came on in relief in the second half to spark a Wisconsin rally that ended in a 23-17 victory.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Hornibrook would start against No. 8 Michigan State (2-0), but on Monday, coach Paul Chryst was making no such declaration.
“Both have to be ready to play,” Chryst said at his weekly news conference. “I’m positive of that. Both have to go. I told them there are going to be games where they’re both going to play.
“We need both of them to keep growing and go for us. I’ll let the week determine all this stuff, with who’s going to play running back, who’s going to play left guard, who’s going to play quarterback, who’s going to play receiver, who’s going to be the nickel corner.”
Hornibrook replaced Houston on the second series of the third quarter against Georgia State with Wisconsin ahead 6-3. Hornibrook engineered scoring drives on three of his first four possessions and finished 8-for-12 for 122 yards and a touchdown. He is 13-for-17 for 183 yards with two touchdowns and an interception this season.
Houston was 10-for-18 for 91 yards before he was pulled after leading the Badgers to two field goals. Overall, he is 44-for-71 for 527 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.
“I was able to talk with both Alex and Bart,” Chryst said. “What I told them is very consistent with what I’ve told them all along and have been telling everyone. This week, we’ve got to prepare, and they both have to do a great job of preparation.
“I said this when we named Bart the starter — you earn the right to start. Alex earned the right to play. I told both kids that. I wanted to play them both. We will need them both. For us to be as good as we can, I still believe that.”
The Badgers will be attempting to end a four-game skid at Spartan Stadium. Their last trip in 2011 ended when Keith Nichol caught a Hail Mary from Kirk Cousins on the final play. In 2010, the teams squared off in the Big Ten opener, with the Spartans winning 34-24.
Chryst was the offensive coordinator those days and remembers some of the battles with Michigan State fondly, especially when the Badgers beat the Spartans, 42-39, in the 2011 Big Ten championship game.
“I always felt going into those game, ‘Here’s a really good football team with good players and well coached,’ ” Chryst said. “It was a good football team and you knew it and the kids knew it. It was fun to play those games because you knew you had to be on and you knew you’d be challenged. I think we knew each other well.
“I think what it was mostly, or as much was those games meant something.”
Wisconsin at Michigan State
Kickoff: Noon, Saturday, Spartan Stadium, East Lansing
Line: Michigan State by 5
Records: No. 11 Wisconsin 3-0 (0-0 Big Ten), No. 8 Michigan State 2-0 (0-0)
Series: Michigan State leads 30-22 (Michigan State 16-13 OT, Oct. 27, 2012)
It’s a bear: Wisconsin then goes on to play at No. 4 Michigan (Oct. 1), takes a break before hosting No. 2 Ohio State (Oct. 15), is at Iowa (Oct. 22), and hosts No. 20 Nebraska (Oct. 29).