Upon further review: Wisconsin at Michigan State
Based off last week’s games, not many people gave No. 11 Wisconsin much of a chance to win at No. 8 Michigan State. Coupled with a few key injuries, the Badgers really seemed like a longshot.
But that’s why they play the games. You can sum up Wisconsin’s performance in just two words: total domination.
Quarterback Alex Hornibrook was solid in his first collegiate start and Wisconsin’s defense shut down Michigan State as the Badgers romped — yes, romped — 30-6 in East Lansing, Mich.
A recap of Saturday’s game:
— Corey Clement was listed as questionable but played with a heavily taped left ankle. He gained just 54 yards — 22 on one play — on 23 carries. He did show some nice burst on a 5-yard touchdown run and seemingly had no problem getting airborne as he jumped over players near the goal line on another play, but overall it didn’t seem like Clement was playing at 100 percent.
— Hornibrook made several nice throws and finished 16 of 26 for 195 yards and a touchdown in his initial start. He also threw an interception, but it was on the last play of the first half, so no harm, no foul there. Hornibrook’s one big mistake came on Wisconsin’s first possession. On 2nd-and-10, Hornibrook was operating out of the shotgun and took a very short drop — it looked like one step. On a short drop, you can’t just stand there and hold the ball. Likely it was supposed to be a quick pass but his intended receiver was covered. You need to go to Plan B at that point. Instead, Hornibrook stayed where he was and held the ball low. He made it much too easy for Michigan State to knock the ball out of his hands (which it did).
— Brett Connors got the start as Micah Kapoi, who has been battling injuries, was unable to start. Connors played center while Michael Deiter moved to Kapoi’s spot at guard. Connors got off to a rough start. He blocked the wrong guy on a draw play and left the middle open — and thus blowing up the play — and then the player he was blocking got around him on Hornibrook’s fumble.
— On its first scoring drive, Wisconsin twice went for it on 4th-and-1 and both times fullback Alec Ingold got the ball and the first down.
— Wisconsin’s first touchdown was similar to the Badgers’ final TD against Georgia State. Hornibrook faked a handoff and then threw to a tight end — in this case Eric Steffes — who issued a fake block and went into the end zone. Only in this case, Steffes was covered throughout, but did a nice box out on his defender to make the catch (his first career touchdown to boot).
— Wisconsin’s linebacker group has to be up there with the best in the country. T.J. Watt had 2.5 sacks, 3.5 tackles for loss and two quarterback hurries. Vince Biegel had two quarterback hurries, although it seemed like more than that. T.J. Edwards helped force an interception by Sojourn Shelton as he forced quarterback Tyler O’Connor to throw quickly as he came in untouched up the middle, then later dove in front of a Spartans receiver to corral an interception in the red zone. Jack Cichy had six tackles and even backup Leon Jacobs, who was just moved back to linebacker a couple of weeks ago, had five tackles.
— The Badgers’ defense never let up. Up 30-6 in the fourth quarter, Wisconsin had three sacks on Michigan State’s opening drive of the quarter, including two in three plays at the end of the drive which put the Spartans into a 4th-and-33. Watt had two of the sacks and also a hurry, which nearly led to an interception but Jacobs dropped it.
— Speaking of not letting up, Michigan State tried to score at the end of the game but Wisconsin would have none of it. Despite using subs earlier in the final drive, starting cornerback Derrick Tindal was in on the last play — a 2nd-and-goal from the 9 — and defended on the incompletion.
— Looking for something to be concerned about? Wisconsin ran 21 times on first down for 78 yards (3.2 avg) and completed just 1 of 4 passes. Also, Wisconsin was 1 for 6 on 3rd-and-shorts (but 4 of 7 on 3rd-and-longs). Also, the less we talk about that 2-minute drill at the end of the first half, the better.
— Wisconsin has two wins in the same season over Associated Press top-10 teams for the first time since 1962. There will be a couple of chances for an unprecedented third.
— The win was the Badgers’ first over a top-10 team on the road since UW beat then-No. 5 Purdue on Oct. 16, 2004.
— Hornibrook was 9 of 13 for 136 yards on third downs. On plays of 3rd-and-10 or longer, he was 6 of 6 for 100 yards.
— Clement had two rushing touchdowns, giving him 26 in his career. That ties him with Brooks Bollinger and Rufus Ferguson for 10th place on UW’s all-time rushing TDs list.
— Michigan State opened the game with an LJ Scott 19-yard run. The Spartans gained just 56 yards on the ground the rest of the game.
— Leo Musso had Wisconsin’s first fumble return for a touchdown since Beau Allen at Arizona State on Sept. 14, 2013. It was the first TD with an actual return (Allen fell on a loose ball in the end zone) since Louis Nzegwu in the 2012 Rose Bowl vs. Oregon.
— Before the fourth quarter, Michigan State had nine possessions. Of those, in seven the Spartans had just 18 or fewer yards.
— Andrew Endicott, filling in for an injured Rafael Gaglianone, missed an extra point but later made a 41-yard field goal — his first field-goal attempt ever in a regular-season game (college or high school).
— Besides Gaglianone, offensive lineman Jon Dietzen and running back Bradrick Shaw did not make the trip. Taiwan Deal, who like Clement was listed as questionable, did not receive a carry although he is listed in the participation chart as having played.
Wisconsin got a lot of flak last week after almost losing to Georgia State and lost ground in the top-25 poll despite winning. That got turned around 180 degrees with this win. Beating a top-10 team on the road — and soundly — sounds the alarm that, hey, maybe these Badgers are "for real" (whatever that means). The respect Wisconsin was getting on social media during the game and afterwards was evident. Yes, the Badgers have a tough couple of games upcoming. But this win will make many feel like the result of them (i.e. a loss) is no longer a given.
This might be cheating here, but we’re not going with a player. Instead, Justin Wilcox is our "player of the game" (if it makes you feel better, you can just consider this the entire defense). Wisconsin absolutely held down Michigan State’s offense. The Spartans ran for just 2.7 yards per carry. The Badgers came up with four turnovers, three by interceptions. After three quarters Michigan State had just 172 yards of total offense. Averaged out for a full game that would be 229 yards, but the Spartans threw the ball around a bit in garbage time in the fourth quarter (yet still didn’t score). One of the big questions coming into the season would how life would be after Dave Aranda. Wilcox has quelled those concerns, especially after this unbelievably stellar effort. Kudos to Wilcox and the defense.
You’re probably expecting me to say Alex Hornibrook. Instead, I’m looking at one of the players who was on the receiving end of his passes. Jazz Peavy had just four receptions, but each was a key catch. Three of Peavy’s four receptions came on 3rd-and-long plays, with Peavy somehow finding a way to get open each time — as in, there wasn’t a defender even close to him to try and knock the ball away — for first downs. His first catch came on a 3rd-and-10 in the first quarter and got Wisconsin across midfield on an eventual touchdown drive. His second catch came on a 3rd-and-12 for 23 yards from the Michigan State 30. Three plays later, Clement scored. His final reception was for 31 yards on a 3rd-and-8 which set up Endicott’s field goal. Yes, Hornibrook had to actually throw the ball, but it was an impressive effort from Peavy to get open despite passes expected on all those plays, and each of the third-down catches set up scores.
Wisconsin was controlling the game, but led just 13-6 early in the third quarter and was coming off a three-and-out and a short punt which gave Michigan State the ball at midfield. Spartans running back LJ Scott rushed for seven yards on first down then got a carry on second and had the first down . . . But D’Cota Dixon knocked the ball out of Scott’s hands, the ball bouncing forward, where Badgers safety Leo Musso scooped it up and ran 66 yards — complete with a nice spin move — for a touchdown to put UW up 20-6. The air was let out of the balloon for Michigan State and for all intents and purposes this game was over.
23 — number of carries for Corey Clement. After missing last week’s game and having his ankle heavily taped, it wouldn’t have been a surprise for Wisconsin to have limited Clement in some fashion. Nope. Despite having difficulty all day trying to find room to run, Clement well outpaced Dare Ogunbowale (who had nine) in carries even though Ogunbowale outgained him, 55-54. It didn’t seem like Clement was 100 percent. No matter. There’s no doubt who is Wisconsin’s bellcow.
"I think we make a statement every game. Besides coming off of last week at Georgia State, I think this is the game that we kind of woke people up a little more. We’re contenders every time we come out here on this field. We want respect, but sometimes we’re not going to get it. And that’s going to be the fuel to our fire." — running back Corey Clement
"You’ve got to have respect for a guy whose first start is against a Michigan State defense. He’s going to come out the next game and do even better. I think he’s just getting his feet wet." — Clement on Hornibrook
"I thought he was poised. I thought I had a couple interceptions, and he put the ball where I couldn’t get to it. I know a couple of our other guys said the same thing." — Michigan State safety Demetrious Cox on Hornibrook.
Wisconsin will get another chance to beat a top-10 team as it travels to Michigan (4-0). The Wolverines have scored 45 or more points in each of their games this season and have scored 40+ in five straight.
Dave Heller is the author of the upcoming book Ken Williams: A Slugger in Ruth’s Shadow as well as Facing Ted Williams Players from the Golden Age of Baseball Recall the Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived and As Good As It Got: The 1944 St. Louis Browns
- Alec Ingold
- Alex Hornibrook
- Andrew Endicott
- Bradrick Shaw
- Brett Connors
- Corey Clement
- D'Cota Dixon
- Dare Ogunbowale
- Derrick Tindal
- Eric Steffes
- FOX Sports Wisconsin
- Jack Cichy
- Jazz Peavy
- Jon Dietzen
- Leo Musso
- Leon Jacobs
- Micah Kapoi
- Michael Deiter
- Michigan State Spartans
- Rafael Gaglianone
- Sojourn Shelton
- T.J. Edwards
- T.J. Watt
- Taiwan Deal
- Vince Biegel
- Wisconsin Badgers