GREEN BAY – Bart Houston was already getting a chance to live a dream.
Named after hall of fame quarterback Bart Starr and making his first career start in the stadium where his namesake’s No.15 sits immortalized in the north end zone, Houston’s afternoon was already going to be memorable. The outcome was even better.
While one errant throw kept points off the board and another one LSU’s first points on the board, the redshirt senior delivered a lot of positive notes, including leading the team to the eventual game winning field goal in Wisconsin’s 16-14 upset win over No. 5 LSU.
“I thought he was himself,” head coach Paul Chryst said. “I thought that he competed. I thought he made some plays. Obviously a couple plays that we’ve got to learn from and you’d like not to go, but I thought he kept his poise in it and did some good things.”
There were plenty of positives from the quarterback’s play. Houston led Wisconsin to four scoring drives and completed 19-of-31 passes (61.2 percent) for 202 yards against an LSU defense led by UW’s former coordinator Dave Aranda.
Houston utilized the tight ends often - a development vitally important to a Chryst pro-style offense. He connected with redshirt junior Troy Fumagalli seven times for 100 yards, including a 27-yard reception that sparked Wisconsin’s first touchdown early in the third quarter and a 20-yard pass on the drive that set up the winning field goal.
He also showed the ability to escape the pocket when plays broke down, a touch of flash and maneuverability that wasn’t always present in past seasons.
“Bart played great; we played how we wanted him to do, and we know what we were going to get out of Bart,” senior wide receiver Rob Wheelwright said. “He did good. He was enthusiastic, he was calm and he made plays, regardless of any of the bad, or the bad from the receivers, or anything that went bad. That just comes with us playing the game, going through adversity but being able to strike back -- and that’s what Bart did.”
There were some timely errors on his part, specifically the two interceptions that led to either LSU points or negated any chance of Wisconsin earning them.
In the second quarter, Wisconsin was driving in the red zone at the Tigers’ five-yard line. After a false start penalty bumped UW back to the 10, Houston threw into triple coverage to the right side of the field that senior free safety Rickey Jefferson snagged, halting a possible field goal attempt by junior kicker Rafael Gaglianone.
“It’s just ‘wash the last play off,’ no matter how good or bad it was,” Houston said. “It’s in the past. The only one that matters is the next one.”
The most egregious error came in the third quarter and deep in Wisconsin’s own their territory. Houston targeted Wheelwright on a pass to the left side, but cornerback Tre’Davious White stepped in front of the pass. The 6-foot, 197-pound senior changed direction and found his way into the end zone for a 21-yard pick-six to make it 13-7.
Wheelwright said it was a miscommunication and a “gray area,” and admitted it was a learning experience while touting the great play by the first-team All-SEC.
Despite the ups and downs, Houston kept the same attitude throughout, which ultimately led to their fourth-quarter drive that culminated in Gaglianone’s 47-yard game winning field goal. On the series Houston was a perfect 3-for-3, including two that went for first downs.
It was critical poise, something UW wouldn’t have won without.
“(Battling back is) a good experience, like always,” Houston said, “but hopefully it never happens again.”null