We hope you’ll start your day with us here at the Landof10.com as we work to prepare you for everything that you need to know — Monday through Friday — around the world of Wisconsin sports. Whether it’s football, basketball, hockey or just a wild story we hope you’ll find interesting, we’re here to share it all with you.
Today is Monday, Oct. 24, and this is your Wisconsin Wake-Up Call.
Using both quarterbacks
Whether you like it or not, expect to see coach Paul Chryst use both Alex Hornibrook and Bart Houston at quarterback moving forward.
Wisconsin dusted off Houston on Saturday in a 17-9 win at Iowa, with the senior seeing his first action since Sept. 17 when he was replaced by Hornibrook against Georgia State. The senior led a touchdown drive his first time out and picked up a first down on his second possession before the drive stalled.
Sounds like #Badgers will use two quarterbacks going forward. Paul Chryst made it clear he does not care what you think about it.
— Evan Flood (@Evan_Flood) October 22, 2016
Afterward, Chryst was asked about using two quarterbacks and the potential for it to create more problems than it’s worth.
“I think (you in the media) all see it the same way, so we probably won’t have to talk about it,” Chryst said.
“I think we have to get over that as a group. What you’re saying is right. You’re going to open a can of worms, but the biggest thing we have to do is make sure that position, those two guys, are doing all they can for this team.”
Chryst’s switch from Houston, who started the first three games, to Hornibrook when the Badgers were unbeaten was a bold but smart decision. The redshirt freshman was playing better than Houston and deserved the opportunity. The move to include Houston again is not as bold, but also seems like the smart choice.
Hornibrook and Houston are different, and we saw that in the way the game was called with Houston leading the huddle. Chryst was more willing to call rollouts and get his quarterback on the move, while Houston also showed an ability, when the pocket broke down, to put his head down and run. His throw to Troy Fumagalli for a touchdown was a ball that Hornibrook, because of his developing arm strength, probably can’t make.
Because of Hornibrook’s maturity, playing both can work. Some young quarterbacks would get down on themselves and constantly look over their shoulder, waiting to get the hook. That’s not Hornibrook. And though Chryst will be, much to his chagrin, peppered with questions about the when, where and why moving forward, it’s what he feels will best help the Badgers win games, starting with Nebraska this Saturday.
Wisconsin escaped Iowa City with a victory but not without taking more shots in the injury department, including losing starting CB Derrick Tindal and standout LB Jack Cichy.
— Jeff Potrykus (@jaypo1961) October 22, 2016
Cichy’s injury, which was to his shoulder, seems like the more severe of the two, with Tindal’s leg injury not hampering him from carrying the Heartland Trophy after the game.
Both guys are vital, though, to Wisconsin’s defense. Cichy has been an MVP on that side of the ball. Along with OLB T.J. Watt, he’s been in the opponent’s backfield constantly, and the Badgers lose something when he’s out and backup Ryan Connelly comes in.
Same goes for Tindal when he exits. Already without No. 3 cornerback Natrell Jamerson, it forces sophomore Lubern Figaro into full-time duty and little-used freshman Titus Booker comes in as the nickel back.
The whole “next man in” mantra is nice and all, but every week from here on out is an elimination game for Wisconsin, and it needs its best players on the field. Cichy and Tindal fit that description.
Looking for respect
Just like Wisconsin went searching for it in its matchups against Michigan and Ohio State earlier this season, Nebraska will come into Camp Randall Stadium this Saturday looking for respect.
The Huskers, who are unbeaten and ranked No. 7 in the AP Top 25, are 7.5 point underdogs against the two-loss and No. 11 Badgers, the first time Nebraska hasn’t been favored this season. It’s a sign that many question how legitimate a 7-0 group is when it has beaten teams that are a combined 20-30 on the year. Sure, Nebraska has passed every test it has been given, but how will it handle the graduate level courses the next two weeks in trips to Madison and Columbus?
— Nebraska On BTN (@NebraskaOnBTN) October 23, 2016
The Huskers have been here before. Back in 2011, in its first conference game as a member of the Big Ten, the Huskers played Wisconsin as the No. 8 team in the country. The Badgers, led by Russell Wilson, handed out a 48-17 whipping.
A year later, in the Big Ten title game, Wisconsin shattered No. 12 Nebraska’s Rose Bowl hopes with a 70-31 thrashing. A couple years later, and with first place in the Big Ten West on the line, Wisconsin, led by Melvin Gordon’s 408 yards rushing, rolled over then-No. 11 Nebraska 59-24.
The Badgers, perhaps more so than any other team, were responsible for former coach Bo Pelini being fired after that season despite a 67-27 record and four division titles in seven years.
So now here comes Mike Riley, in his second year, looking to prove that his Huskers belong among the elite. This game will determine whether Nebraska is on the right path to restoring its former glory, or if it’s a fraud propped up by a schedule that’s turned out to be really soft.
One way or the other, we’ll know a lot more about Nebraska come late Saturday night.
Koenig shows his stuff
Bronson Koenig wasn’t impressed with his performance on Sunday in the annual Red-White scrimmage, but he was about the only one to express that sentiment. For everyone else who watched the senior point guard score 14 points in the first half and consistently break down his defender, it was evidence of the work he put in during the summer to remake his game.
Improved explosiveness turned #Badgers PG Bronson Koenig into a new player. Or an old one. Playing like did in HS. Very aggressive w/ ball.
— Tom Oates (@TomOatesWSJ) October 23, 2016
Known for his 3-point shooting, Koenig showed that off with back-to-back bombs from beyond NBA distance, but followed it up with a new aspect, crossing over Wisconsin’s best on-ball defender in guard Zak Showalter and delivering a no-look pass to Alex Illikainen for a layup.
— Evan Flood (@Evan_Flood) October 24, 2016
“He’s definitely quicker, leaner, faster with the ball,” Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said. “Some of the decision-making that we have talked about will get better as we go through and get more accustomed to who’s on the floor together. Physically though, I think the whole team has taken a step in the right direction. Now we just have to put the pieces together.”
The rave reviews from teammates about Koenig’s transformation were on the mark. It’s not so much that he changed anything specifically, it’s just that he’s able to do things that in the past he wasn’t physically able to. It makes for an intriguing final year for Koenig and a Badgers squad with high expectations.
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- Iowa’s defense was good but needed to be great to beat Wisconsin
- Calm halftime locker room helps Nebraska overcome Purdue in the second half
- Matchup with Wisconsin will show Nebraska’s true colors
- USC coach: Penn State should have been flagged on game-winning blocked field goal