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 Friday, Sept. 23, and this is your Wisconsin Wake-Up Call.
No one knows but him
There isn’t a single former Wisconsin quarterback that knows what Alex Hornibrook is going through this week more than Brooks Bollinger. The signal caller with the second-most wins in school history, Bollinger traveled the same path Hornibrook is taking.
Bollinger was fifth-year senior Scott Kavanagh’s backup to start the 1999 season before invigorating the Wisconsin offense in the Big Ten opener against Michigan. The Badgers lost that game, but then-coach Barry Alvarez, citing the spark Bollinger gave them, handed the offense to the redshirt freshman as the Badgers went on the road to face No. 12 Ohio State.
Any of this sounding familiar? Change the year, change the coach and change the opponent, but it’s almost the exact same scenario Hornibrook faces this week against No. 8 Michigan State after taking over for fifth-year senior Bart Houston.
— Wisconsin On BTN (@WisconsinOnBTN) September 22, 2016
“I know Alex,” said Bollinger, who recruited Hornibrook while serving as the quarterback coach at Pittsburgh. “I think he’s a sharp kid. He’s definitely in a different spot than I was at that age, just from an understanding of the offense and a maturity standpoint.”
Now to be fair, the supporting cast around Bollinger was more experienced and accomplished. Behind Bollinger was running back Ron Dayne, who would set the NCAA record for career rushing yards later in that 1999 season. He also had a future NFL second-round pick in wide receiver Chris Chambers.
“My job was basically to hand it off and then run around and make some plays,” Bollinger said. “I think it’s different. There’s no question to me.”
Few environments are tougher than what Bollinger faced that day at Ohio Stadium, but Spartan Stadium will have similar challenges for Hornibrook, not to mention one of the better defenses in the nation. But Bollinger is confident he’ll be just fine.
“On the road, in a hostile environment, against a good team. It’s hard,” he said. “But I know Paul (Chryst). He’ll tighten the game plan to fit Alex.”
In Bollinger’s first game, Wisconsin fell behind, 17-0, before scoring 42 straight points to win easily. No one is expecting that same thing to happen on Saturday in East Lansing, Mich., but Hornibrook is prepared for this opportunity.
There’s a reason that he de-committed from Pittsburgh and followed Chryst and his coaching staff to Madison last January. And there’s a reason Chryst wanted him so badly: for games like this, and the ones they’ll play in the following weeks against Michigan and Ohio State.
The moment won’t be too big for Hornibrook, just like it wasn’t too big for Bollinger.
New kicker, big problem?
In a bit of a surprise, Wisconsin said Thursday that junior kicker Rafael Gaglianone won’t play this week due to a back injury. It’s a significant loss for the Badgers, who have relied on the Brazilian for four game-winning kicks during the past three years, including against LSU in this season’s opener.
Without him, Wisconsin will turn to senior Andrew Endicott, a kicker who has played in 33 games during his career but who has never attempted a field goal or an extra point. A former walk-on, Endicott was mainly brought in to be the kickoff specialist, a role that he no longer plays. In fact, he only attempted two field goals as a senior in high school back in 2012.
“Got complete confidence in him,” coach Paul Chryst said Thursday. “We wouldn’t put a guy out there if we didn’t have confidence in him.”
That may be so, but Chryst really doesn’t have a choice. It’s either Endicott or going with redshirt freshman Zach Hintze, who has yet to step on the field as a collegian.
So on Saturday, in a hostile environment, the Badgers may have to ask Endicott to make a game-winning kick that could keep Wisconsin in the race for a potential berth in the College Football Playoff.
No pressure, kid.
Someone had to do it
It had to be done, so ESPN.com’s Jesse Temple did it.
The retelling of the 2011 Michigan State-Wisconsin game that ended on a ‘Hail Mary’ pass from quarterback Kirk Cousins to wide receiver Keith Nichol. It was a difficult article to read for Badgers’ fans, which they communicated, humorously, to Temple on his Twitter feed.
— Adam Hoge (@AdamHoge) September 22, 2016
@jessetemple I'm sure it's a great read, but I'm going to take a hard pass on this one.
— Zach Rastall (@zrastall17) September 22, 2016
— Griffin (@Griffinfuchs) September 22, 2016
The game itself was a classic, with Wisconsin jumping out to an early lead, Michigan State fighting back and taking a commanding lead to the fourth quarter before quarterback Russell Wilson brought the Badgers back once again. That it ended on a once-in-a-lifetime play was probably appropriate.
But what makes the game so difficult for Wisconsin folks to get past is what it meant for the rest of the year. They legitimately had a national title contender in Madison that season, with nine starters on offense that would eventually get drafted into the NFL. But the Badgers ended up losing their next game – in similar fashion – to Ohio State, before getting a measure of revenge against Michigan State in the first Big Ten title game.
An argument can be made that the 2011 team was the most talented in school history, though the 2010 group, along with the Rose Bowl winners in 1999 and 2000, might have something to say about that. Former coach Bret Bielema has maintained that if his team hadn’t lost cornerback Devin Smith to a broken leg early in the 2011 season, that Wisconsin would have been playing in the BCS Championship.
When you think about the play on an even bigger level, it very well could have changed the landscape of Wisconsin football. If that ‘Hail Mary’ gets knocked down, and the Badgers win in overtime, do they fall flat against a scandal-riddled Ohio State team the next week? Doubtful. And if Wisconsin wins those two games, it would have been playing in the title game. If that had happened, would Bielema have left for Arkansas a year later? Probably not.
It’s remarkable how a bounce here or there changes the fortunes and futures of so many.
Bert the Dragon
Former Wisconsin basketball star Frank Kaminsky is a different kind of cat. The consensus National Player of the Year in 2015, Kaminsky attempts to bring humor and laughter to almost any situation he’s in, be it a press conference or on the court. So it should come as no surprise that the Big Ten Network reached out to Kaminsky to appear on ‘Sports Lite with Mike Hall,’ a new show that debuted last week. The first topic: Game of Thrones.
For those unfamiliar with the HBO drama, dragons are a major part of the show. Though they are already named, Kaminsky was asked what he would name his dragons, if he had any.
— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) September 22, 2016