It snowed Saturday, and everyone lost their goddamn mind.
Somewhere in the midst of the first snowfall of what is sure to be a long, arduous winter, a football game broke out.
The snow came in a brief interlude of flakes that flurried down on Camp Randall during the first quarter, making a perfunctory Big Ten match-up into a must-watch epic as punters flubbed, ball carriers botched and Illinois’ white jerseys suddenly became brilliant camouflage.
Then, it was gone. We were launched back into the real world, one where the yard markers were visible on the field and we didn’t see fumbles every three plays.
Hornibrook bounces back a bit
After one of the worst performances of his career in Ann Arbor, it was no doubt Wisconsin quarterback Alex Hornibrook was bound to play at least marginally better this week against the Illini.
The junior provided a strong enough showing to quell some of the critics still grouchy from last week’s disaster, but was still spotty at points.
He finished the game with a full stat sheet (3TD-2INT, 13-22, 188 yards), and looked confident throughout — throwing long even when the weather may have suggested he’d be better off doing otherwise.
Badger head coach Paul Chryst agreed that Hornibrook had a few miscues, but overall was enthusiastic on his direction.
“Had a couple that weren’t great,” Chryst said. “But I see what he was seeing. Obviously the picks, you want to look at a little bit closer and see. But I thought he made some really good plays.”
The relationship between Hornibrook and tight end Jake Ferguson continued to strengthen, as the two connected for 62 yards on three completions and a touchdown.
Saturday was the sixth time in his career Hornibrook threw three touchdowns in a game.
Badgers running game varied, elite
It’s one thing to have arguably the best running back in the nation in sophomore Jonathan Taylor.
But when you can show different looks with running back Taiwan Deal, and elite runner in his own regard, as well as consistent contributor Garrett Groshek and fullback Alec Ingold, the Badgers are going to have a nice time wearing down opposing defenses and eating up clock.
Saturday, despite Taylor’s 159 yards (his third best performance of the season), the star of the Badger’s running attack was truly Deal.
Deal’s 111 yards on 12 carries yielded a pair of touchdowns and his best game since a 2015 147 yarder against Hawaii.
Ingold also continued his ridiculous touchdown habit, with one in the passing game and one in the ground game, giving him his fourth and fifth of the year.
Making the most of their opportunity
With injuries plaguing the Badger secondary, the last thing you’d expect is a five turnover game from the inexperienced replacements.
Yet that’s exactly hat happened, as senior safety Evan Bondoc had a monster game during the first start of his career. He ended the contest with five tackles, a forced fumble and an interception.
Bondoc was obviously well-prepared for his first start, and impressed mightily in his debut.
“Bondie has worked a ton,” Chryst said. “You don’t just get ready for this opportunity last week or this week. It’s been stuff he’s been doing for his whole career here. Like I said, it was fun. Our players appreciate Bondie. When he does make plays, not just in helping us win, but for his sake, a lot of people are excited.”
Linebacker Ryan Connelly was also impressed by Bondoc’s game.
He praised the safety’s ability to be ready when the time came for him to step into the starting role Saturday.
“Evan’s been ready, he knows what he’s doing,” Connelly said. “He knows his stuff so when he’s out there it’s just about him stepping up and making plays and that’s what he did. It’s awesome to see”
The five forced turnovers from the Badgers is the most they’ve had since Northwestern in 2010, all of the turnovers occurred int he first half.
Next week the Badgers will go on the road to face Northwestern at Ryan Field.