MADISON - There were many offensive opportunities missed by Wisconsin in its 30-23 loss to No. 2 Ohio State, but two positives give hope that the Badgers are close to breaking out of what has been for the most part a season-long funk.
At a school that prides itself on running the football to open up the offense, the Badgers ran for 236 yards against a defense allowing a shade under 100 yards per game.
Part of that total was due to the success of the jet/fly sweeps - where a wide receiver or a running back sprints towards the opposite side of the line of scrimmage, receives the handoff from the quarterback and usually hits the edge with a full head of steam to gain significant yardage.
On Saturday, the offense benefited from that play call with Jazz Peavy doing the heavy lifting.
The Kenosha native again showed again he can be a significant contributor to the offense’s success in both the run and passing game, accumulating a career-best 146 all-purpose yards. He carried the ball six times for 70 yards - in different variations of the jet sweep - while also reeling in his third touchdown catch of the season in the loss.
In the first half in particular, the Badgers gave Peavy the opportunity to carry the ball five times. Catching Ohio State’s defense off guard, and with the help of pulling offensive linemen, he gained 67 yards through the first two quarters. That included rushes of 28, 12 and 15 yards, with his first five carries all going for first downs.
“That was just how the game was going,” Peavy said. “Coach let me know we were going to ride the hot horse, and we did that until they stopped it. Once they did, then we just switched it up and changed the game plan.”
Though they went away from him in the second half on the ground, which included Wisconsin gaining only 11 yards in a floundering third quarter, they found him in the passing game. On a third-and-9 from the UW 20 in the fourth quarter, quarterback Alex Hornibrook found Peavy for a 36-yard gain down to the OSU 44. The drive ended with an Austin Ramesh four-yard touchdown run that propelled Wisconsin back up to a three-point lead.
Peavy caught four passes for 76 yards, which included Wisconsin’s first touchdown of the game on a 24-yard reception on their second offensive drive. Entering this weekend’s contest at Iowa (5-2, 2-1 Big Ten), Peavy leads the team in both receiving yards (357) and touchdowns (three).
Hornibrook Breaks Down Last Play
Failing to make a play on fourth down to extend the game to a second overtime, Alex Hornibrook has understandably spent a lot of time analyzing what he could have done differently.
Facing a fourth-and-goal from the 4-yard line, Hornibrook saw the pocket start to collapse as he dropped back to pass, as Ohio State’s defense got quick penetration off the right side of the line. Hornibrook appeared set to throw, but pumped fake when he saw defender Jalyn Holmes disengage from right guard Beau Benzschawel and get into his passing lane. A nanosecond after bringing the ball back to his chest, Tywuan Lewis wrapped him up for the game-ending sack.
“When we’re that close to the goal line, things are going to happen quicker, whether it’s pressure or whether its coverages,” Hornibrook said. “Right when I get to the top of my drop, I’ve got to let it go. Not giving our team a great chance, but at least could have thrown the ball up to the end zone to give us a chance.”
Although things appeared to be well covered, Hornibrook said he could have found a throw from what he was reading. Head coach Paul Chryst agreed.
“A lot of those situations are if it’s not there, still give it a chance,” Chryst said. “It wasn’t one of those where he held on to it and then couldn’t find it, and therefore didn’t. It was on him faster than we would have liked. His point is still right, that you do have to give it a chance. Like a lot of these things, it’s easier said than done and a learning experience we can all learn from.”
Big Ten Award for Cichy, but …
Hornibrook was the only player bemoaning a decision.
Although he was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week following a career-high 15 tackles (11 solo, 3.5 for loss), Jack Cichy admitted he was out of control and made a mistake in a critical situation.
On a third-and-6 on the UW 8 early in the fourth quarter, Cichy timed the snap and came at Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett with a full head of steam. Too full in fact, as Cichy missed the tackle and his vacated side of the field allowed Barrett to run into the end zone to take a 20-16 lead.
“I came in too hot and too high,” Cichy said. “I kind of got away from my stuff there. I really wasn’t in control. A guy like that, he’s a great athlete, he’s a gamer, he’s going to make you pay for that. That’s what he did.”
It was an example of Cichy seeing a play he could make and just got too excited. Even so, the former walk-on leads the team with 50 total tackles and ranks second on the team with 7.0 TFLs on the year. He ranks eighth in the Big Ten this season, averaging 8.33 tackles per game.
An outside linebacker at this time a year ago, Cichy said the switch to inside linebacker late last season has helped him play a little faster and freer because he knows both positions.
“It ties the whole picture together. When you’re out there, it all comes together.”
Biegel’s Status Upgraded
After missing the last two games following surgery on his right foot, Vince Biegel has been upgraded to questionable for this weekend and a decision on his availability will be made based on how he handles the week.
“Vince loves playing the game,” Chryst said. “In all the right ways he cares about the team. That’s been the sting for him, but once you go into a procedure and you’re making progress, to me it’s less anxious and it’s more looking forward to when he can go again. He’s been taking good steps forward and we hope that continues.”
In addition to Biegel, OLB Zach Baun (left leg), S Keelon Brookins (left leg), RB Taiwan Deal (right leg), OL Jon Dietzen (right leg), NT Olive Sagapolu (right arm) and WR Rob Wheelwright (right leg) are all listed as questionable.
Cornerback Natrell Jamerson (left leg) is still listed as out. Chryst said the junior has not had a setback in his recovery. Jamerson was injured Sept.10 and the original time window for his return was 4-to-6 weeks.
Extra Points: Wisconsin’s game this weekend will kickoff at 11 a.m. and be televised on ESPN. UW has opened as three-point favorites … The Badgers have won 11 of their last 12 trophy games against Iowa, Minnesota and Nebraska dating back to last season, the lone loss coming at home to Iowa last year.