Badgers’ confidence in quarterback Alex Hornibrook only growing after performance at Iowa
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The University of Wisconsin football team couldn’t have faced a much more high-pressure situation than it did in its 28-17 victory at Iowa on Saturday night.
The Badgers trailed with less than six minutes remaining when they took over on their own 12-yard line. They faced a raucous Kinnick Stadium crowd in a primetime atmosphere. They knew a loss would not only cripple their chances at a third straight Big Ten West title, but eliminate any hope of re-entering the College Football Playoff picture.
UW viewed its ensuing possession as it would any other.
Quarterback Alex Hornibrook calmly completed all five of his passes on the Badgers’ 10-play, 88-yard touchdown drive, finished off with a 17-yard dart in the end zone to A.J. Taylor with 57 seconds remaining.
“I don’t think there was anything too special,” Hornibrook said. “We all had trust in each other and we all believed that we could do it. We knew we just had to get some plays going, and that’s what we did.”
The fact that UW could carry on as normal under those circumstances could partially be a credit to Hornibrook.
His teammates see his cool, even-keeled demeanor as an asset that can permeate throughout the rest of the offense. If the Badgers’ quarterback isn’t panicking, neither are those around him.
“Like I keep telling everybody, he’s got such great poise,” Taylor said. “When things are tough and all that, he keeps a calm head and just plays football, and he keeps all of us just playing football. ... It doesn’t affect him at all. I think that kind of drives us.”
Like many quarterbacks, Hornibrook’s often the most criticized player on his team - as he was following UW’s 24-21 loss to BYU last week in which the junior threw a bad interception that allowed the Cougars to take a third-quarter lead.
He bounced back in a major way Saturday, completing 17-of-22 passes for 205 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions.
Hornibrook lofted a deep pass to Alec Ingold for 33 yards on the first play of the second quarter and found tight end Jake Ferguson from 6 yards out on the next play for the game’s first score. He also threw a nicely-placed, back-shoulder throw to Danny Davis on third-and-goal from the 12 that put the Badgers ahead 14-10 with 5:12 left in the third quarter.
“I thought Alex was really good all night,” UW coach Paul Chryst said. “I just thought he was seeing things. He had a good edge about him. I thought he was understanding the game and seeing things, and I thought he was on. We needed him to be.”
While UW’s offense failed to meet expectations through four games, Hornibrook’s completed 66.7 percent of his passes for 800 yards with six touchdowns and two interceptions. He’s on pace to improve from last season in percentage and yardage while turning the ball over significantly less often.
Hornibrook also completed 6-of-8 passes over his final two drives against BYU with the Badgers trailing by 3, including his 16-yard scramble that moved UW into field-goal range in the closing minutes.
Last week didn’t work out in the end, but Hornibrook’s only gaining more trust with teammates as the Badgers navigate a unexpectedly trying first month of the season.
“I always have confidence in (Hornibrook) - a guy that works so hard, does everything right,” UW inside linebacker T.J. Edwards said. “I know when those big moments happen, he’s going to be there.”