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. 3, and this is your Wisconsin Wake-Up Call.
Need to be better
Quarterback Alex Hornibrook doesn’t deserve to have the lion’s share of the blame for Wisconsin’s 14-7 loss to Michigan on Saturday put at his feet. But the redshirt freshman has to own his part in the worst offensive performance by a Badgers offense in more than 15 years
From the sounds of it, he did.
Hornibrook: We couldn't get any drives going. When we did, there were opportunities we should of taken advantage of. I should have.
— Benjamin Worgull (@TheBadgerNation) October 2, 2016
While there were dropped passes, and he was under siege from a savage Michigan pass rush much of the day, the guy making his second career start looked everything like the first-year player he is.
The throws that he dropped seamlessly onto his receivers against Michigan State a week earlier didn’t find the mark nearly enough against a Michigan secondary that shadowed his receivers wherever they went. And because of it, Hornibrook had a passer rating of 54.8 — the second-lowest for a Wisconsin starter that finished a game since at least 2000 — and has now turned the ball over six times in 11 quarters of action.
— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) October 2, 2016
But this game spoke more to the growth still needed by the rest of the offense than anything about Hornibrook. The wide receivers have made strides since coach Paul Chryst and his staff arrived last year, but it was made very apparent how far they have to go after seeing them struggle against superior athletes in man coverage and not be able to make critical catches.
And when you combine that with a lack of a running game, and a Michigan front seven that had Wisconsin’s offensive line on skates for much of the afternoon, this is the type of result you can expect.
The question is whether the offense can figure things out and grow up in a hurry to avoid wasting a championship-type defense for a second year in a row.
Chryst has been called an offensive genius in the past, and he did remarkable things as Wisconsin’s offensive coordinator, especially in 2010 and 2011. But that was when the Badgers were stocked with NFL talent all over the field. He didn’t have that luxury last year, and he doesn’t this year, so it may have to be done with smoke and mirrors until they are able to recruit and develop that type of talent again.
Missed opportunity, but there will be more
As disappointing as the loss was for the team and fans, the season is far from lost. Wisconsin dropped just three spots in the AP Top 25 to No. 11, and the Badgers will have the opportunity to move right back up the rankings in the coming weeks, while the unstated goals of winning the Big Ten West and making it to the conference title game are still there as well.
There's a lot of good that'll come out of this.. we'll be back
— Dcota Dixon (@DcotaDixon1) October 2, 2016
Following a much-needed bye week, Wisconsin plays a home night game against No. 2 Ohio State team on Oct. 15. The last time the Buckeyes came to Madison for a game under the lights was in 2010. They did so as the No. 1 team in the country, but the Badgers knocked them off. The OSU showdown is followed by a trip to unranked, but still dangerous, Iowa before welcoming No. 12 Nebraska to town for another night game.
Before the season started, if someone would have said Wisconsin would be 4-1 heading into its off week, almost everyone would have taken it. That doesn’t ease the pain of losing a game that was there for the taking, but it’s the truth.
Corey Clement: “This game doesn’t define our season. Going 4-1 into the bye, I’ll take that.” #Badgers
— Evan Flood (@Evan_Flood) October 2, 2016
Chryst’s second team is having a good season to this point. His group can make it a great one over the next three games.
Oh, what could have been
A year after splitting time at wide receiver and safety for Wisconsin, Tanner McEvoy is now playing offense for the Seattle Seahawks. An undrafted free agent, McEvoy caught the first pass of his career in a win over the New York Jets yesterday, and it went for a touchdown.
— NFL (@NFL) October 2, 2016
McEvoy was more than a wide receiver and safety at Wisconsin, of course, also starting five games at quarterback in 2014, an ill-fated decision by then-coach Gary Andersen. The fact his catch and touchdown came from the arm of another former Wisconsin quarterback — Russell Wilson — wasn’t lost on anybody.
Russell Wilson connects with Tanner McEvoy for a touchdown. Both are former @BadgerFootball starting quarterbacks
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 2, 2016
Nor was his misuse at Wisconsin.
— Patrick (@psm236) October 2, 2016
McEvoy’s early success at wide receiver in the NFL makes one wonder what could have been if he hadn’t broken his wrist late in fall camp of 2013. He had already lost out on the starting quarterback battle and had been moved to wide receiver when he got hurt. If he stays there, and shows some of what he is now, does Andersen ever allow him to move back to quarterback? At 6-foot-5 and 225 pounds, he was among the best athletes to ever play at Wisconsin, and that size would have been near unstoppable if he was ever allowed to concentrate at one spot.
McEvoy turned into an excellent safety, and was an All-Big Ten player there for the Badgers in 2015, but could he have been more as a receiver? The answer is almost surely yes, but because of Andersen’s affinity for a mobile quarterback, we never got to see it play out.
The Tony Granato era got underway on Saturday night in dominating fashion, as the Wisconsin hockey team routed the University of Victoria 10-1 at the Kohl Center.
— Wisconsin Hockey (@BadgerMHockey) October 2, 2016
It was just an exhibition, but it was still exactly what the program needed. After winning just 12 games total in the last two years, Granato said his biggest challenge coming in was rebuilding the confidence of the players still around.
“The guys that are here are good players. When you have tough years and don’t win as many games as you’re expected to, your confidence goes. And when (we) got in the room, that’s the first thing we noticed,” Granato said last week.
“We saw a fragile bunch of guys that had their heads down, were not sure where the program was going and where their future was. That’s kind of been the process since the time we took over, was to build them back up. Put them on the ice with each other, let them know how good they are, let them know why they were recruited here, why they are Badgers.”
Seven different guys scored goals, led by captain Luke Kunin, who had a hat trick. It came before a crowd of 8,299, which was almost 2,000 more people than they had in last year’s season opener.
Good start to 2016-17. Take a look back at the exhibition win over Victoria. Games count for real next Friday. https://t.co/wVbcofxejV
— Wisconsin Hockey (@BadgerMHockey) October 2, 2016
It was just one game, and it came against inferior competition, but the contest marked the first on ice step towards getting the program back to where fans and players expect it to be.