The Wisconsin Badgers’ quarterback controversy was officially put to rest on Wednesday night.
Redshirt freshman Alex Hornibrook will make his first collegiate start against the No. 8 Michigan State Spartans on Saturday in East Lansing, replacing redshirt senior Bart Houston. The announcement was made through Facebook Live during the team’s "Badger Breakdown" show that features UWBadgers.com's Chris Hall and the radio voices of Wisconsin football, Matt Lepay and Mike Lucas.
"I just think he’s ready to play," Lucas said. "We’ve seen him enough to know what his strengths are, and he puts a lot of work into preparation. He’s diligent in how he prepares for practices, for games—that’s one of his strengths. We’ve seen his ability to throw open receivers.
"He has a great feel and touch with the deep ball. We saw that last spring with some of the tosses he was able to complete. He’s very poised to stay in the pocket—he’s going to see a different type of pressure against the Spartans, of course—but he’s shown that he’s a little bit unflappable, which is a really an asset in this league."
This confirms the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s report from late Sunday night, which stated the southpaw was set to start the conference opener after leading Wisconsin's offense to 17 points in the 23-17 win over Georgia State last Saturday. Hornibrook completed eight of 12 passes for 122 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
Houston, who completed 10 of 18 passes for 91 yards against the Panthers last, was still the No. 1 quarterback on UW’s depth chart released on Monday, but Hornibrook appeared to let the cat out of the bag in speaking with the media the next day.
When asked on Tuesday if he was starting, he replied, "That’s what I’ve heard, yup."
When pressed if that’s what the coaching staff had told him, he went away from the media scrum and spoke with members of the Wisconsin athletic communications staff. Upon returning, he changed course, saying, "Coach is getting us both ready to go, and if I’m the guy, I’m ready to go. If Bart’s the guy, I’m ready for that, too."
Houston has completed 62 percent of his passes this year, and it wasn’t completely his fault the offense was stagnant through 2.5 quarters last week.
Though Hornibrook is starting, both quarterbacks have been splitting reps with the first and second-team offenses this week and early on this season.
"I think the value is that there’s two quarterbacks, and you’re a play away every game from the other guy being your guy from then on," offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph said on Tuesday. "So it is one where we got to get both guys ready every week, and I think it’s helped us. I think it’s helped both of those guys continue to develop, so we’re not going to change it."