The No. 6 Wisconsin Badgers proved on Saturday night that they could not only hang with an athletic opponent but find a way to win, defeating the No. 10 Miami Hurricanes 34–24 at “The U’s” own home stadium.
Out-gaining Miami in total yards 400–377, Wisconsin (13–1) also held Mark Richt’s team to only 2-of-10 on third-down conversions while taking control of the turnover battle (three takeaways to only one given up).
The UW passing game came alive from a turnover-free quarterback and its young, bright wide receivers, the potential of a reserve outside linebacker flourished, and a fullback did it all in South Florida.
Here are four things we learned from Wisconsin’s win, because B5Q just cannot stop at three today:
Alex Hornibrook showed he could shine on the big stage
The redshirt sophomore quarterback was named the game’s most outstanding player after completing 23 of 34 passes for 258 yards and four touchdowns—with zero interceptions.
The four scores through the air are a school bowl record, according to UW, with no other Wisconsin signal caller recording more than two touchdown passes in a bowl game.
On third downs, he completed seven of 11 passes for 85 yards, with five of those completions going for four first downs and one 20-yard touchdown to Davis on a spectacular grab.
Yes, there was that one third-quarter pass that could have been intercepted, perhaps Hornibrook’s worst throw of the night, but he made the right throws and placed them where his receivers could make plays, and they showed up big on Saturday night. He also spread the ball around to seven players.
Hornibrook finished the season with 25 touchdown passes, second-most in a single season in UW history behind the one and only Russell Wilson. If he can rein in the interceptions and “oopsy” plays, the 2018 offense could be something even more special.
Wisconsin’s wide receiving corp has only scratched the surface of its potential
True freshman Danny Davis snagged three of Hornibrook’s four touchdown passes, true sophomore A.J. Taylor caught a game-high eight passes for 105 yards and a score, and Kendric Pryor caught two passes for 30 yards (he would have had another reception if not for the holding call on David Edwards).
Their performance caught the eye of Miami Dolphins wide receiver Jarvis Landry.
Wisconsin Got A Special Group Of WRs Over There..— Jarvis Juice Landry (@God_Son80) December 31, 2017
They made contested catches and stepped up not only during this Orange Bowl win, but also throughout the season. True sophomore Quintez Cephus has been sidelined since suffering an injury at Indiana, with two seniors in Jazz Peavy and George Rushing having no impact on the offense.
Position coach Ted Gilmore deserves a lot of credit with this unit as well, and it bears watching what his band of athletic, blossoming receivers can bring for years to come.
Andrew Van Ginkel showed what he could do against opposing offenses, perhaps a glimpse for what 2018 can bring?
Van Ginkel will have one more season in Madison, and the past two games in particular have showcased what the redshirt junior could do in generating turnovers.
Against Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game, he engineered a pick-six while also forcing a fumble that led to points for Wisconsin. Against Miami in the Orange Bowl, with UW’s defense reeling after allowing 14 points and 148 yards in the first quarter alone, the outside linebacker intercepted a Malik Rosier pass on the first play of the second quarter, sparking the team to 21 unanswered points.
For the game, he registered three tackles, one tackle for loss and one sack, along with a pass break-up. On the season, Van Ginkel registered 10 tackles for loss (fourth on the team) and 6.5 sacks (tied for second with Alec James).
With the position group losing not just redshirt seniors Garret Dooley and Leon Jacobs, but also outside linebackers coach Tim Tibesar, Van Ginkel has the ability and opportunity like those before him (T.J. Watt, Dooley, and Jacobs) to take the next step in not just becoming a starter but becoming even more of a difference-maker.
Austin Ramesh is a special fullback
Like Derek Watt before him and potentially Alec Ingold next year, Ramesh showed on Saturday night and throughout the season how he can help the Wisconsin offense. We highlighted his efforts earlier this month: he runs (dives), he (pancake) blocks, and he can catch the ball out of the backfield.
This year, he helped open up holes for Jonathan Taylor and the Wisconsin backs, caught six passes for 76 yards, and carried the ball 17 times for 89 yards with two touchdowns.
Against Miami, Ramesh gained three first downs on the ground on three third-down opportunities with the #FullbackDive (I’m still flabbergasted Miami did not know that was coming on three separate occasions. Do you study film?). He also caught three passes for 27 yards, including an 18-yard catch-and-run that featured this hurdle over a Miami defender.
You want more of this athletic feat? Here’s the hurdle set to Chariots of Fire.
Ingold can provide similar abilities, especially rushing and receiving the ball, that will be needed for 2018, but Ramesh was—in my opinion—an underrated and vital component of Wisconsin’s success.