GREEN BAY – Paul Chryst knows enough about Lambeau Field to understand the significance of one of the N.F.L. historic landmarks, even if he has only seen three Green Bay Packers games there in his lifetime.
But seeing the 13 world championship banners hanging from the rafters of the Don Hutson Center, not to mention seeing his players enjoy a tour of the stadium and the team’s hall of fame, Chryst couldn’t help but acknowledge the surroundings.
“Any time I’m recruiting and I drive into Green Bay, you think of all (that greatness),” Chryst said. “Great teams that were made up of great players and great coaches. It’s great for a football fan.”
Wisconsin maximized its two days by spending Friday night in a Green Bay hotel – the same hotel they’ll stay in before playing LSU Sept. 3 - and practiced a little more than two hours inside the Packers’ practice facility, which included a scrimmage that included 76 reps, unofficially, and six series each for fifth-year senior quarterback Bart Houston and redshirt freshman Alex Hornibrook.
“I thought guys competed and see a lot of things we’ve got to clean up,” Chryst said. “I pointed that out, and we’ve got to build and grow.”
Houston and Hornibrook each had positive moments they can hang their hat on. Houston went 8-for-10 for 93 yards in the scrimmage. While he didn’t throw a touchdown pass and was sacked once, Houston had no turnovers and led an impressive 14-play, 98-yard touchdown drive against a combo of players from the first- and second-team defense.
Eleven of the plays were on the ground, including Taiwan Deal’s 3-yard scoring run, but Houston went 3-for-3 on the drive with completions to Reggie Love (15), Jazz Peavy (8) and Eric Steffes (17).
Hornibrook didn’t lead any prolonged scoring drives, was sacked twice and lost a fumble on a center-quarterback exchange, but he finished 6-for-11 for 68 yards and three touchdowns. Two of the scores came on consecutive red-zone series, hitting Krenwick Sanders for five and Love for 16.
After both quarterbacks went a combined 0-for-12 in the red zone Thursday, the Badgers came away with two touchdowns and a field goal on their four live red-zone reps.
“You try to break it down in all the different areas that are important to the quarterback,” Chryst said. “If it’s the run game, getting us in or out of the play, the mental component, the attention to the details and the throwing game. Do you move the team and are you making good decisions?
“I think with both Alex and Bart, there’s so far to go that they’ve got to go, just focus on improvement. They’re getting a ton of reps, and that’s really good. You get those reps and you learn from those mistakes, you learn what you did well … They’ve got to play and they’ve got to grow.”
With senior tailbacks Corey Clement and Dare Ogunbowale and receiver Rob Wheelwright held out of the scrimmage, UW’s youth got a lot of work.
At tailback, Deal ran for 103 yards on 21 carries and the score, redshirt freshman Bradrick Shaw had 10 carries for 38, senior Leon Jacobs had 8 carries for 31 and fullback Alec Ingold had three carries for nine.
After playing primarily at linebacker during his UW tenure, and missing most of last season with a toe injury, Jacobs is getting plenty of work to become accustomed to his new position.
“I’ve appreciated him not just jumping in but jumping all in,” Chryst said of Jacobs. “The amount of time he’s spent with Coach Settle, you can understand the playbook but there are so many reactionary things playing the game. I appreciate what he’s done and he can add value to this team.”
Needing to find consistent receiver help outside of Wheelwright and, potentially, Peavy, Wisconsin saw Love – who was curiously wearing his fourth different jersey number in four practices – have a team-high four catches for 50 yards and a touchdown and Sanders catch a 5 and 21-yard touchdown.
UW also saw redshirt freshman tight end Kyle Penniston catch three consecutive passes on one drive, including a catch-and-run on an out route for 30 yards.
“Last year didn’t play a lot of football, so this is an important spring for him,” Chryst said of Penniston. “He was able to be here last spring, so he’s got an idea what spring ball is.”
Unofficial scrimmage stats
Passing: Houston 8-for-10, 93 yards, 0 TDs, 0 picks, one sack; Hornibrook 6-for-11 68 yards, 3 TDs, 0 picks, two sacks
Rushing: Deal 21 for 103 yards and a touchdown, Shaw 10 for 38, Jacobs 8 for 31, Ingold 3 for 9
Receiving: Love 4 for 50 and a touchdowns, Penniston 3 for 40, George Rushing 3 for 20, Sanders 2 for 26 and two touchdowns, Eric Steffes 1 for 17, Peavy 1 for 8.
Defense: Conor Sheehy 2 TFLS, Ryan Connelly 1 sack , Dallas Jeanty 1 sasck
Wisconsin worked 16 periods before scrimmaging, including 7-on-7 work and team drills. In 7-on-7, Houston went 3-for-5 while Hornibrook went 2-for-5, including an interception by cornerback Sojourn Shelton on a combination flat pass and poor route and a near interception by Jack Cichy. Hornibrook went 2-for-5 and Houston 2-for-3 in two sets of team drills.
Working 7-on-7 in the red zone, Houston went 4-for-7 with three touchdowns passes. He missed a fourth when Sanders dropped a back-shoulder throw but also threw an interception right into the hands of sophomore inside linebacker T.J. Edwards.
Hornibrook finished 3-for-8 that included three straight touchdown passes, including two to Peavy. Peavy had three catches for the drill.
The defense, particularly redshirt freshman cornerback Titus Booker, had some bright moments. Booker put himself in perfect inside position to gain leverage against Sanders to break up a pass in the end zone. Later in the scrimmage, Booker was active in the secondary with the twos, including being in on a handful of pass breakups.
“If we can build on the things we’re starting to do well and correct so many different areas, it’ll be a good spring,” Chryst said. “This is a good day, a good trip.”
Dare Ogunbowale on if Saturday’s experience increases the excitement for the Sept.3 opener against LSU
“Coach Chryst, his big thing was that he wanted us to come up here and get the whole spectacle of Lambeau Field out of the way. Then when we come back up here in September it’s just a game and it’s time to go play LSU. I wouldn’t say it increases the excitement, but it definitely lets us know the magnitude of the stage we’re playing on.”
Extra Points: Junior linebacker Garrett Dooley missed practice with a left hamstring injury … Junior kicker Rafael Gaglianone went 3-for-4 on his field goal attempts early in practice, hitting from 20, 29 and 51 and missing wide right from 41. He also made a 42-yard attempt during the scrimmage. Senior Andrew Endicott was good from 20 and no good from 35 … Packers president Mark Murphy addressed the team prior to the start of practice … UW resumes practicing Tuesday morning.