It appeared Bart Houston had been discarded, cast away for the younger, more exciting option with an eye toward the future.
University of Wisconsin football head coach Paul Chryst has different plans though. Houston entered the game with 14:51 left in the second quarter, replacing redshirt freshman Alex Hornibrook, who had unseated Houston against Georgia State on Sept. 17 and took over the starting role the next week at Michigan State. Houston had not taken an in-game snap in more than a month.
Houston capped his first of two drives, in which he was a perfect 3-for-3 for 38 yards, highlighted a 17-yard touchdown pass to redshirt junior tight end Troy Fumagalli, who extended the ball over the goal line before his knee hit the ground for the game’s first points.
The play call was a run-pass option, Houston said after the game, and depends on the free safety’s movements. He saw the safety drift left with him, so he fired right to Fumagalli for the score.
“Coach Chryst is always telling us a quarterback always has to be ready,” Houston said. “It’s not just us, it’s the position.
“It’s not a one-man show. It’s whatever one guy can do for the team when his number is called.”
It turned out those points from Houston’s series alone nearly outscored the Hawkeyes’ entire offensive effort, as No. 10 Wisconsin (5-2, 1-2 Big Ten) beat Iowa (4-3, 1-2) 17-9 at Kinnick Stadium in front of a sellout crowd of 70,585 to bring The Heartland Trophy back to its case in Camp Randall Stadium. The road team has now won the last six games in the rivalry.
“Just to get a big win like that and fill the trophy case, it’s pretty special,” redshirt junior outside linebacker T.J. Watt, who finished with five tackles and a sack, said.
Houston’s insertion is part of the plan for both quarterbacks to always be ready, Chryst said.
“I think it’s good for us, and maybe not put all the onus on one guy,” Chryst said. “There aren’t many guys that are playing every snap on that unit.”
Hornibrook (11-for-19, 197 yards) commanded most of the game under center for the Badgers. A big play from him to freshman wideout Quintez Cephus for 57 yards on a post route set up senior running back Corey Clement’s sixth touchdown of the season and gave Wisconsin a little breathing room at 14-6 about halfway through the third quarter.
Hornibrook said the quarterback system is unorthodox but doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things.
“It’s a little weird, I guess, but it definitely worked out for us,” he said. “Both of us, we want to win. We want to win badly.”
Clement finished with 134 rushing yards on a career-high 35 carries, but his biggest carry came with just under four minutes remaining in the game, when on 3rd-and-1 it appeared he’d be stopped in the backfield for a loss. But Clement stiff-armed a defender, caught the edge and reached the Iowa 42-yard line for a 34-yard pickup that essentially ended the game.
“I just refused to go down on that play,” Clement said. “I try to do that every play, but that was one of those plays you gotta put the dagger in.”
Clement had an opportunity to extend the Badgers lead before the half. Instead, he fumbled the ball into the end zone and the Hawkeyes recovered, forcing a touchback and costing Wisconsin an 11-point lead in the process. Clement found himself knocking on the door because Iowa continued to get in its own way. All-American cornerback Desmond King tried to knock the ball loose from redshirt freshman tight end Kyle Penniston on an in-route from Hornibroook, but whiffed on the tackle. Penniston took the ball all the way to the 5-yard line for a gain of 54.
The place kickers struggled on both sides. Wisconsin’s Andrew Endicott missed two field goals (32,52) and Iowa kicker Keith Duncan missed a 38-yard attempt with 5:25 remaining that would have made the game 14-9. However, Endicott’s 36-yarder with 1:24 remaining served as the metaphorical dagger for Iowa, even though a field goal following a long kickoff return made it 17-9 allowed Iowa to attempt an onside kick.
The onside kick went out of bounds, and the Badgers deployed the victory formation to leave Iowa with a victory. They have now won 12 of their last 13 rivalry games with a trophy on the line.
Chryst noted how Endicott and Clement bounced back after miscues in the first half to help finish off the game for their team.
“We talk about that at halftime,” Chryst said. “What happened in the first half can’t affect and doesn’t matter how you approach the second half.”
The defense, as is almost always the case with this team, dominated once again. Iowa only managed 253 total yards and running backs Akrum Wadley and LeShun Daniels each averaged more than 80 yards per game on the ground. The duo managed a combined 79 yards on Saturday.
Jack Cichy led the Badgers in tackles (10), while linebackers Garret Dooley and T.J. Edwards each recorded seven stops. Wisconsin held Iowa to just 2-for-13 on third down.
Iowa’s first points came following a bad punt from Wisconsin’s P.J. Rosowski, setting up the Hawkeyes with great field position. Their drive went for just 20 yards on six plays, but a false start penalty, a fortuitous spot and Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz calling timeout on a play that would have been a touchdown bailed out the Badger defense. Iowa converted a field goal to make it 7-3 with 3:49 remaining in the first half.
Following Clement’s fumble at the goal line, the Iowa offense got rolling as the first half wound down, taking advantage of Wisconsin’s prevent defense, and converted another field goal to make it 7-6.