MADISON – Mum is the word around the University of Wisconsin on a variety of topics prior to its Big Ten opener at No.8 Michigan State Saturday. Apparently redshirt freshman quarterback Alex Hornibrook wasn’t entirely aware of that.
When asked point blank if he was starting on Saturday against the Spartans, Hornibrook delivered a matter-of-fact answer.
“That’s what I heard, yep,” he said.
When asked if that’s what the coaches told him, Hornibrook – apparently realizing the can of worms he opened – excused himself to speak to two members of Wisconsin athletic communications staff. When he returned, his answer meshed with head coach Paul Chryst’s company line.
“Coach is getting us both ready to go,” Hornibrook said. “If I'm the guy, I'm ready to go. If Bart's the guy, I'm ready for that, too.”
Hornibrook could have been referring to Sunday’s report that he would make his first career start, but the comments made by both him and fifth-year senior Bart Houston (video above) suggest that’s not the case.
Both quarterbacks said they continue to split reps with the offense, although Hornibrook added that he feels he got “a little more” reps Tuesday.
Hornibrook replaced Houston in the third quarter Saturday and ignited the offense in Wisconsin’s 23-17 victory over Georgia State, going 8-for-12 for 122 yards and a touchdown. In two games this season he’s completed 13 of 17 passes for 183 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
“I knew I wasn’t going to be the guy that took the first snap, but I was just ready to go in,” Hornibrook said. “I was taking every play mentally like I was in. When I got the chance to go in, I was ready to go.”
The only game Hornibrook hasn’t appeared in was the season opening win over No.5 LSU, a victory he said gives his team confidence heading into Saturday’s environment.
“I think we would had the confidence if we hadn’t played or beaten LSU,” Hornibrook said, “but I guess just that we did shows us we can play with and beat elite teams.”
Running Back Health Unknown
Wisconsin running back coach John Settle was taken aback when asked about the three players listed as questionable on Monday’s injury report. He thought there would be a lot more.
Needless to say, it’s less than an ideal situation for UW’s running back room heading into what’s expected to be a physical challenge against the Spartans.
“It gives guys an opportunity to prepare themselves to play, that are able to play,” Settle said.
Corey Clement (leg), Taiwan Deal (leg) and Bradrick Shaw (shoulder) were not made available to the media, leaving their availability still up in the air. Settle said that Clement and senior Dare Ogunbowale partially practiced and that Deal ran around “a little bit,” but the Badgers needed true freshman Sam Brodner to take reps to get through practice.
“We’re banged up, it goes without saying, but we’ll find a way to get through it,” said Settle, who wouldn’t go into percentages about who will or won’t play or say who looked he healthiest. “The guys that are nicked did a good job going to get treatments throughout the day. They’re doing good in the classroom, so everybody is keeping up with the installs. We have quite a few days left before Saturday and guys are doing all they can do to get ready to play.”
Settle says he has tends to plan for a lot of scenarios, saying sophomore fullback Alec Ingold could be used at tailback (he ran for 131 yards and six touchdowns as UW’s short-yardage back last year) or junior fullback Leon Jacobs if something really went wrong from an injury standpoint.
“We have guys who have played tailback,” Settle said. “When game time rolls around, we’ll line someone up seven yards deep and be ready to play.”
Fumagalli Getting Ready
Joining Deal on the sidelines during the first quarter of Saturday’s win, tight end Troy Fumagalli says his health is improving over the last three days and is hopeful to be ready by the weekend.
“I’ve made a lot of progress from when it happened to now,” said Fumagalli, who was not listed on UW’s Monday injury report. “Just working with the training staff, getting better and that’s got to continue so I can be full go.”
Fumagalli said the injury happened when he landed on his right hip after making a catch, saying it didn’t feel right when he tried to move after the fact.
“I was trying to get back out there, but I was struggling,” he said.
Although it took some time for him to get comfortable, redshirt freshman Kyle Penniston shook off a couple early drops to finish with three catches for 35 yards, including the game-winning touchdown in the fourth quarter.
“He embraces it,” Fumagalli said of Penniston. “He goes out there and attacks it … he had a couple drops and responded very nice. He came back and made a couple plays that really helped us win the game.”null