MADISON—It shouldn’t be surprising that redshirt senior Joe Ferguson made a significant play in Friday’s win.
The former walk-on and current back-up safety played well during spring and fall camps, defending well against the run and looking like a ball hawk.
What may make his 99-yard interception return for a touchdown more impressive during Wisconsin’s 59-10 win against Utah—now the modern era school record—was that Ferguson was playing with a small cast on his lower left arm.
According to Ferguson after the game, it has been the third week with a cast on his broken thumb.
“It’s business as normal. When I broke it in camp, I said this wasn’t gonna stop me. Wasn’t going to stop my goals and my approach,” Ferguson, one of the two grandsons of Wisconsin athletic director, Barry Alvarez said. “Obviously, I can’t catch as well, I can’t wrap up as well, but Coach always says you got to find ways to win with what you have. I kind of just have taken that approach.
“It worked out today. He threw it right at my chest.”
With UW’s second-team defense in but Utah State driving inside the 10-yard line during the fourth quarter, Aggies quarterback Kent Myers shuffled to his left around the 13-yard line. Down 35 points, he then threw back over the middle.
“Well me and the corner were playing pretty much like a switch. I was going to take an inside guy. He was going to take the outside guy,” Ferguson said. “Tyler Johnson, the linebacker, got a really good reroute on him, kind of got him off of his route. The receiver kind of broke, and it was just muscle memory at that point. I broke pretty much right when he did. I was right with him for a couple of steps, and then the quarterback obviously threw behind him.”
Securing his first career interception in 45 games as a Badger, the exhausting journey to the opposing goal line was on. Ferguson took the ball and ran towards the north end zone with an army of Cardinal and White teammates blocking behind him, then around him.
One key block came from outside linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel, who sprinted down the field and flattened wide receiver Jaren Golston-Green before the Aggies’ 45-yard line. Ferguson admitted he was running slow and was wondering why no one tackled him yet.
“I was carrying him for about 15 yards because I thought he was about to fall,” inside linebacker Chris Orr said, staring in Ferguson’s direction after the win. “That electrified us as a team and helped us close out the game.”
Ferguson, seeing his teammates hover and surround him on the way for his first collegiate touchdown, likened the spectacle to the Flying V from the old Mighty Ducks movie series. That allowed him to break the record set by Billy Lowe against Purdue on Oct. 16, 1954.
“Everybody was blocking,” Ferguson said. “I think at least three people came up to me afterward and were like, ‘Without me that wouldn’t have happened.’ I was like, ‘You’re 100 percent right.’
“Everybody get the credit for that. I think it should be a team stat really.”
Fumagalli honors Cichy, delivers with career-high in receiving yards
On Friday night, one former walk-on and team captain honored another with a simple gesture.
Before Wisconsin’s 59-10 win over Utah State on Friday night, redshirt senior Troy Fumagalli was seen in the Wisconsin locker room, putting on his shoulder pads and jersey. Instead of wearing his normal No. 81, the tight end donned No. 48 on his jersey.
That was for fellow redshirt senior Jack Cichy, who tore his ACL during fall camp and was lost for the season.
“He’s the leader of the team,” Fumagalli said, who noted the two roomed together for four years. “He means a lot to us, so just anyway I can show respect to him.”
He responded by having another banner day in Cardinal and White. Reeling in five catches, he set a career-high for receiving yards (105) and caught the go-ahead 23-yard touchdown in the third quarter. He also caught his career-long reception of 44 yards in the fourth quarter.
Fumagalli’s first score of the 2017 season was part of a third quarter where Wisconsin gained 251 yards and tallied 28 points to cement their lead against Utah State.
On a 3rd-and-2, Wisconsin sent wide receiver Quintez Cephus in a jet sweep look, but Hornibrook rolled out to the left. The Aggies covered running back Bradrick Shaw, who was in the left flat near the first down marker. In the 13 personnel look, fellow tight end Zander Neuville was also wide open to move the chains, but Fumagalli had open space between defenders after coming across from the right side of the line.
From there, Hornibrook found his preseason All-American for the touchdown. For Fumagalli, there’s a pretty simple thought process when catching a ball in that situation.
“Honestly, I don’t think a bunch,” Fumagalli said “I just kind of expect the ball to be on me and play to the situation.”