WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst noted before the season that both redshirt senior Bart Houston and redshirt freshman Alex Hornibrook would need to be ready for the season when they were called upon.
Houston started the first three games, was benched after a rough start against Georgia State, and has since been used in relief of the starting Hornibrook since the Oct. 22 win at Iowa.
On Saturday, Houston came up huge in the second quarter -- completing 5 of 6 passes for 102 yards with a touchdown while leading four of No.6 Wisconsin’s six scoring drives in its 49-23 win over Purdue at Ross-Ade Stadium.
“Bart gives himself a chance,” Chryst said. “He’s a really good teammate and works during the week. We thought we had a chance to do some things that would get him going, and he did get us going.”
After Hornibrook struggled going into the wind, Houston came in during the second quarter on Wisconsin’s third offensive drive. Starting from the UW 13 with the wind at his back, the Badgers (9-2, 6-2 Big Ten) drove 87 yards in 13 plays. That included completing two third-down screen passes to senior running back Dare Ogunbowale, who gained 34 and 18 yards to set up first-and-goal from the Purdue 3. Two plays later, Alec Ingold took it in from one yard out to give Wisconsin a 7-3 advantage.
“They were huge,” Houston said of those key third-down conversions. “They were big, chunk plays. Coach Chryst, he saw the heat coming and beat them with the screens. Big, huge drive savers.”
Chryst stuck with Houston during their next offensive possession, driving 54 yards in eight plays that was capped off by a Bradrick Shaw seven-yard touchdown run to make it a 21-3 UW lead. Houston completed both passing attempts on that series for 32 yards and two first downs, but also showed off his mobility on some quarterback-designed runs that netted him 13 yards on two carries.
“I’m getting a couple flashbacks to the old triple-option days in high school,” Houston joked. “They’re effective; they worked. I should have scored on that one.”
Houston carried the ball four times for 14 yards and provided a brief, surprising dimension to the running game in addition to the stable of backs in Corey Clement, Ogunbowale and Shaw.
“Anytime that you can use the quarterback, he’s on the list of all of a sudden, instead of handing off to the tailback, you get one more blocker,” Chryst acknowledged. “I think that he did give us a little bit that way, and I think it was good for us. He did some good things, and I thought he did some good things in the pass game. It was a good change for us at the time.”
Immediately after T.J. Edwards’ interception later that quarter, Houston connected with Ingold for a 19-yard touchdown pass to extend the lead to 28-3. Playing the hot hand, he also stayed in for the next series and guided the offensive to yet another touchdown - all runs with Shaw finishing the drive with a 33-yard score.
“There’s definitely a rhythm -- a rhythm to myself and a rhythm to the offense,” Houston said of staying in the game for multiple series. “We just kept pounding the ball down the field. Heck, a couple of those drives were only runs. It’s all attributed to the offensive line, the tight ends and the backs running like no other. It felt good to get in rhythm.”
Ingold Continues to Produce
Wisconsin has been without redshirt junior fullback Austin Ramesh the past two games with a right shoulder injury. That’s allowed true sophomore fullback Alec Ingold more of a role in the offense, and against Purdue, his presence was shown with his two touchdown performance.
Early in the second quarter, Ingold capped off Wisconsin’s first scoring drive with his one-yard touchdown off of a fullback dive. After scoring six touchdowns last year, Ingold’s touchdown plunge was the first of the season, but he has had seven short-yardage carries the last three weeks that have moved the chains.
“I just got to make the most of my opportunities,” Ingold said. “When coach calls my number, it’s not going to be very often, but I have to make the most out of it or whatever it may be and execute.”
Later in the quarter, Ingold contributed to the Badgers’ scoring bonanza with the 19-yard touchdown reception from Houston to take advantage of yet another Purdue mistake.
“I think we were driving the ball very hard. It was a lot of run plays,” Ingold said. “I think even their game plan from last week, at the end of the game, we were running a lot of outside zones. So when I was going out there, you see a defender kind of dive to the ground because he thought I was coming to block him. So even going into last week, it kind of set up this play.”
It was the second time in his young career that Ingold has scored twice in a game, which coincidentally came against Purdue last season as a true freshman tailback. On top of his big day on Saturday, he also was the lead back on Corey Clement’s six-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter to cap Wisconsin’s scoring for the afternoon.
“He’s been giving us a lot,” head coach Paul Chryst said, “and I think he’s getting better.”
Uncharacteristic of how the season has gone, Wisconsin was whistled for a season-high eight penalties for a season-high-tying 67 yards. Wisconsin entered the weekend averaging just 2.8 flags per game that ranks No. 2 nationally behind only Navy (2.4).
“Defensively we were antsy and jumping off,” Chryst said. “We’ve got to clean that up. That and some of the things in special teams, those are all those hidden yards that matter a ton. That’s one area we’ve got to clean up and we can be better at. We know the types of games we’ve been in all year. The next one will be the same. We’ve got to do all we can to not give anything to the opponent.”
The penalties were costly, too. Wisconsin committed five false start penalties (three on defense, one on offense and one on special teams). UW committed two false starts on Purdue’s opening the drive, the first eliminating an incomplete pass on third-and-9 at the Wisconsin 38. The Boilermakers got a first down on their redo.
In the fourth quarter Billy Hirschfeld jumped offsides on a third-and-3 to give Purdue a first down at the Wisconsin 20. Purdue scored a touchdown four players later.
T.J. Watt was flagged twice for 20 yards, a false start and a roughing the passer penalty.
Extra Points: Wisconsin won its 11th-straight meeting with Purdue, extending the longest win streak by either team in the history of the series … Clement recorded his sixth 100-yard rushing game of the season (and fifth in the last six games) and became the 17th player in Badgers history to rush for 1,000 yards in a season … UW won for a seventh-consecutive time at Ross-Ade Stadium, extending a road win streak over the Boilermakers that dates back to 1999 … Wisconsin’s kickoff time for the regular season finale at Minnesota was announced at 2:30 p.m. CT. The game will be televised on the Big Ten Network.
Jake Kocorowski contributed to this report