Two night games at Camp Randall, two overtime games? [coughs] Sup ESPN, y’all should do this more often.
The first half of Saturday’s 23-17 Wisconsin win over Nebraska was dreadfully sloppy, with the Badgers leading 10-7 at halftime. The defense is still impossibly good, now on its fourth inside linebacker of the season, along with a backup nose tackle. Both quarterbacks saw reps in the first half, with Alex Hornibrook leading the touchdown drive and Bart Houston orchestrating the field goal drive.
In the second half, the Badgers opened up with a 13-play, 74-yard drive that ended in a play-action pass from Alex Hornibrook to Rob Wheelright for the redshirt senior’s first touchdown of the season, extending UW’s lead to two scores. However, that’s where the offense would stall and allow Nebraska to get back into it.
A pick apiece from Hornibrook and Houston gave Nebraska the ball back with 9:36 left in the fourth, but again the defense held. Nebraska would get down inside the Badgers’ 25, but was held to a field goal that tied the game with 3:43 remaining.
The Badgers were able to drive down the field in short order, thanks in part to a 41-yard rumble from Corey Clement, but the drive stalled at the 27, and Endicott missed the 45-yard field goal attempt while falling on the play. Nebraska gained a first down, but was forced to punt to Wisconsin, who elected to take the game into overtime.
Nebraska won the toss, and Wisconsin went right down and scored on four runs. Dare Ogunbowale scored the winning touchdown from 11 yards out on a sweep to the left. Endicott missed the ensuing extra point, but the Badger defense held on for the 23-17 victory.
Here are three takeaways from this game:
1. The quarterback position is far from decided.
Quarterback play left a lot to be desired in this one. Houston and Hornibrook had some real ugly throws. The last two drives of the game, Paul Chryst didn’t call a running play, and he’s lucky he didn’t need to.
Hornibrook shows flashes of brilliance, but it’s still the “growing pains” and freshman mistakes that are stalling drives. For a passer as accurate as he is, he’s putting the ball in trouble areas, and they’re being intercepted. Houston looks at this point like a very low-ceiling player; he makes the plays he’s supposed to, but his decision-making ability is still very raw. On his interception, he failed to read the cover-two deep zone behind the man coverage and forced a ball into Wheelright when he didn’t need to. Neither player is “taking the job” per se, which makes the decision moving forward that much more difficult.
2. Special teams continue to give the Badgers fits.
Andrew Endicott has performed admirably while replacing Rafael Gaglianone, but it’s still extremely apparent that he hasn’t been doing this very long. While missing a field goal from 45 yards out with less than two minutes remaining isn’t necessarily the ideal situation for your fifth-year senior kicker who a month ago was only a kickoff specialist, if he’s your guy, it’s tough when he doesn’t deliver. It appeared as though Endicott’s plant foot slipped, as he ended up on the ground after he kicked it. It nearly still went in, sailing over the left upright, but a miss is a miss and when it’s inside of two minutes, at home against a top-10 team in the nation, on primetime, under the lights, in your home stadium... you wish he’d make it.
Punting has remained a sore spot for the Badgers, as true freshman Anthony Lotti hasn’t really seized the job from P.J. Rosowski like was expected. While he hit a 49-yarder tonight, his average for the game was under 40 yards per punt. This has yet to bite the Badgers, but it’s something you’d like to see remedied before it does.
3. Man, are these players resilient. Leon Jacobs and Ryan Connelly in particular.
Ryan Connelly had his time in the spotlight during the LSU game, and he played well again tonight with 11 tackles, tied for the team lead with Leon Jacobs. He continues to execute filling in for players, Cichy especially, that were very highly thought of. A tackle for loss on a lead draw late in the fourth quarter was huge, and stalled the Nebraska drive. However, Connelly wasn’t even the most impressive backup inside linebacker.
Jacobs, maybe taken for granted by some fans, has had a heck of a ride. He was moved from linebacker to fullback during the spring due to depth at linebacker, and then moved back to linebacker when said depth was depleted rather quickly. Jacobs had 11 tackles against the Cornhuskers and was a major key in containing the rushing attack of Tommy Armstrong Jr., as well as most perimeter runs late in the second half. The ultra-athletic linebacker was as valuable against Nebraska as any Wisconsin defender in the victory—not bad for a guy who was a fullback two months ago.