Everyone came in to the Orange Bowl expecting the Miami Hurricanes and Wisconsin Badgers to get in to a defensive slugfest. Instead, everyone was treated to an offensive explosion, one that ended up favoring the Badgers in a 34-24 win.
It gave Wisconsin a record 13 wins on the year (13-1) and a fourth straight win in a bowl game.
Speaking of records, it was UW quarterback Alex Hornibrook setting records and making people forget about the Badgers run game. Hornibrook tied his career high with four touchdowns and most importantly didn’t throw a single interception.
Instead, it was Miami quarterback Malik Rosier Jr. who’s turnovers mattered most. Rosier threw three interceptions on the night. He was just 11 of 26 for 203 yards and just one touchdown.
However, you wouldn’t have seen it coming after the first quarter.
Miami put up 14 unanswered points in the first quarter, looking like it was going to run away with things.
Then Andrew Van Ginkel happened and all things Miami momentum went away. On the first play of the second quarter Van Ginkel picked off an attempted wide receiver screen and UW went on to score 21 unanswered points of its own.
Wisconsin quarterback Alex Hornibrook rebounded from a bad first quarter as well, hitting on 10 of 11 passes in the second quarter alone. That included three equally impressive touchdown passes to Danny Davis and A.J. Taylor.
— Brad McDaniel (@DFF_BMack) December 31, 2017
Taylor’s may have been the most impressive, but it was the least controversial. That belonged to Danny Davis’ TD effort that started Wisconsin’s 21-unanswered point streak.
He caught a pass along the sideline while twisting around and appeared to be out of bounds before going over the pylon. However, the official ruled it a touchdown on the field and no angle was good enough to overturn it.
After that it was all Wisconsin in the second quarter. UW allowed virtually nothing the rest of the way en route to a second-straight New Year’s Six bowl game victory.
Miami appeared to snatch back momentum with some big defensive play and a timely throw from Mike Rosier Jr., catching a defense believing he was running the ball and making an easy pitch and catch for a 24-21 scoreline.
However, defense would matter in a major way from then on.
It resulted in the Badgers up 24-14 at the half and allowing just 10 more points while forcing two turnovers in the second half of action.
Lost in all the good things the pass game did was the fact that Jonathan Taylor got the single season freshman rushing record. He had 133 yards on 26 carries in the win, but it seemed like a quiet night compared to what his quarterback was doing throwing the football.
It didn’t matter much to Taylor though, as the win was what mattered most and a record-setting season for individuals and the team was capped off in a perfect way.
After starting the game just 3 of 9 passing in the first quarter, Wisconsin quarterback Alex Hornibrook went off in the second stanza and ended the half completing 13 of 20 passes for 139 yards and three touchdowns.
In fact, Wisconsin’s usually front and center run game took a backseat to an impressive passing attack in the second quarter. Hornibrook hit Davis for a pair of touchdowns and had a second highlight reel touchdown throw to A.J. Taylor as well.
That was certainly a highlight of the half, but also the game. Hornibrook finished the night 23 of 34 for 258 yards and those 4 touchdowns. It was a night that helped him shut down some critics and make you wonder if he can build on it going forward.
Oh, and we’ll give a secondary mention to Wisconsin’s touchdown celebration of ripping a chain off. #SnatchThatChain
Wisconsin with the turnover chain snatch TD celebration pic.twitter.com/T3524epE6d
— gifdsports (@gifdsports) December 31, 2017
That was all in the second quarter, and as we know Hornibrook was far from done. It was easily his best performance of his career, coming at exactly the point they needed it.
Wisconsin’s defense giving up 24 points? I guess that would be bad considering the lofty standards they have set for themselves this season. The Badgers came in allowing just 13.2 points per game and gave up 20 or more points just twice prior to this contest.
So, from the Badgers history in 2017, this wasn’t their best defensive day.
Even then, it is hard to be too mad at UW’s defensive performance, because they allowed just 10 points after having their backs against the wall in the first quarter and forced three interceptions out of Miami’s quarterback.
This was a great game, a great win and a statement made to the rest of the college football world. So, we’ll be not too mad about 24 points given up.
What it Means for 2018
If there’s one area that showed up in a slightly unexpected way for the Badgers, it was the wide receiver group. Whether it was Danny Davis, Kendric Pryor or sophomore A.J. Taylor, the trio was on fire for Wisconsin.
All three made huge catches, important ones and the easy ones too(minus that brutal third down drop by Pryor in the third quarter). It added up to the three young receivers combining for 15 receptions for 191 yards and all 4 touchdown receptions.
No position group has shown more promise over the final five weeks of the season than UW’s wide receivers have and they put it all together for their best game in the final game of the season.
Oh, and that was done all without the Badgers No. 1 wide receiver for most of the season — Quintez Cephus.
Now, if only they had a consistent quarterback to go with it…kind of like what happened on Saturday night against the Hurricanes. If they do, suddenly this is a Badgers offense that is equally as dangerous as its defense.
There’s a lot of reason to believe the Badgers of 2018 are going to be a handful for opposing defenses to try and handle and Saturday night proved that against a quality Miami secondary. This young Badgers wide receivers group certainly grew up before our eyes in this one.
Best, worst case scenarios for Badgers ILB’s in 2019
We hope you enjoyed the Independence Day holiday, but it is time to get back to some business and that means continuing our series looking in to every position group for the 2019 Wisconsin Badgers.
Since we went outside the last time around, today we will focus on a position that has long been a strength of the Badgers program — inside linebacker.
What could happen with this group in 2019? Let’s find out.
Best Case Scenario
Yes, the Badgers face life without an All-American and a steady veteran thanks to the graduations of T.J. Edwards and Ryan Connelly. But, the good news is that this group was one of the deepest and most productive overall last season.
Veteran Chris Orr will get one starting spot and former 4-star recruit Jack Sanborn will step in to the other starting role. So, the best case scenario for this group is that Orr, who started as a freshman, gets back to that kind of form, and we see quality play from a combination of younger players like Sanborn and freshman Leo Chenal.
No one had a bigger breakout this spring than Chenal did. He came in as an early enrollee, but well under the radar. By the end of spring ball, it looked very much like he won’t be redshirting and will be challenging for a lot of snaps in the fall.
It would be great to see that happen, because Orr has just one year left in the Cardinal and White.
Worst Case Scenario
What would really hurt this group is if Orr or Sanborn were to go down with an injury here. Yes, Chenal looked good in spring ball like I mentioned before and yes Mike Maskalunas has shown flashes of ability, but are they really ready to be thrust in to the majority of snaps at inside linebacker together?
Experience is an issue for this group and I could see an injury exposing that lack of experience in a big way. Even if the Badgers wanted to go with an older player, the only other option would be Seth Currens and he just converted from safety in the spring himself.
Other than that it would be Hunter Johnson or two walk-ons that were here in the spring.
The Badgers only inside linebacker recruit in the 2019 class was Chenal too, so there will be no more help coming in to fall camp.
Most Likely to Happen
The good news is that I don’t see the worst case scenario actually happening, at least not in a major way. Orr’s medical history suggests he could be prone to missing a game or two with a nagging injury, but don’t expect anything crazy to happen.
I also believe we will see the emergence of Sanborn and Chenal as the future of this position for the Badgers. In fact, Sanborn has looked so good in spring and in his limited playing time last season, that I suspect he could be a darkhorse for All-Big Ten honors at season’s end.
Look for this group to be a downhill, hard-hitting and more athletic group than we saw last season and that could make a major difference for those playing behind them.
Defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard and his staff have a lot to figure out, but they should feel safe with the talent that is available to them at inside linebacker.
Best, worst case scenarios for Badgers OLB’s in 2019
This time next month, the pads may be popping and the 2019 Wisconsin Badgers fall practices will be under way. It’s so close we all can almost taste it.
But, as we look forward to the 2019 season we’re going to try something a bit different. Gone are the usual ways of looking position groups and giving you a fall preview that last’s a week.
Well, that’s because this season is vital to the Paul Chryst era. There’s a changing of the guard going on. After a disappointing 2018 season that saw UW drop Paul Bunyan’s Axe for the first time in 15 years and not win the Big Ten West, the question is if that’s a sign of decline or a blip on the radar.
In order to best answer that question, we’re actually going to start with a look at what needs to happen, what the Badgers need to avoid and what is really likely at every position.
Up today is a look at the outside linebacker position.
Best Case Scenario:
Last year, the outside linebackers contributed just 8 total sacks to a team total of 19. That’s a lot of contribution to the effort, but the effort was far below expectations set by previous groups. Additionally, the graduation of Andrew Van Ginkel means just 2.5 sacks return from the outside linebacker position in 2019.
Those sacks belong to Zack Baun, who got his feet wet as a starter last season and is looking for big things to happen in 2019. The good news is that Baun was one of Wisconsin’s best run-stoppers on the edge.
Ideally, Baun not only is a leader of this defensive group in 2019, but becomes much more disruptive behind the line of scrimmage too.
Wisconsin has a lot of potential that could start opposite of him. Former Alabama transfer Christian Bell, former 4-star recruit Noah Burks and former inside linebacker Griffin Grady all had their moments of shine in spring ball.
In a best case scenario, the Badgers have more than one of that group step up as contributors to an overall group of outside linebackers that don’t have a lot of in-game experience or depth.
Getting this group to contribute double-digit sacks as a whole would be a great step forward.
Worst Case Scenario:
Noah Burks or Christian Bell don’t live up to their enormous potential. It’s as plain and simple as that.
Wisconsin needs them to become pass-rushing specialists in a big way if this defense is going to be as aggressive as it is designed to be. Often times last season, the inability of the front seven to get pressure really hung an inexperienced secondary out to dry.
If UW experiences more of that, it could really be trouble in 2019. The Badgers need this defense to step up its game, and having both of the expected top contenders in replacing Van Ginkel flame out would be a disaster all the way around.
Most Likely to Happen:
Given all the unknowns surrounding the outside linebacker position, this is a difficult position to predict. However, I will say this — Zack Baun will end up as an All-Big Ten performer.
I believe he just scratched the surface of his potential last year, especially since he was just coming off an awful injury history prior to it. If he stays healthy in 2019, I predict he becomes a surprise player to many outside observers in the Big Ten.
That said, I also believe we will see Christian Bell and Noah Burks become a handful for opposing offensive coordinators to deal with. Both have been patient with the talent that was in front of them, but they are bursting with potential when they have seen the field.
So, to answer the question most want to know…I believe this all signals a position group ready to be a major force once again after that down year in 2018.
Best, Worst case scenarios for Badgers Wide Receivers in 2019
The heat of summer is upon us and the recruiting trail has been even hotter for the Wisconsin Badgers. However, that heat also indicates that the long offseason nightmare is about to be over.
With that in mind, we’re taking a summer-long look at each position group heading in to the 2019 season.
Today, we flip back to the offensive side of the ball and look at a second skill position — wide receiver.
After what was supposed to be a breakout year for the group in 2018, what will this group have in store for 2019? Let’s look at the best and worst case scenarios at play.
Best Case Scenario
If the Badgers want to get going in the pass game, the wide receiver group needs to step up the deep game in a big way. While A.J. Taylor, Danny Davis and Kendric Pryor have proven to be reliable assets, 2018 felt much like they all barely scratched the surface of their potential.
The trio combined for 95 receptions (which was 53 percent of all receptions as a team), 1,212 yards and 11 of 19 touchdown receptions on the year.
For this season, the best case scenario actually involves the quarterback position almost more-so than anything this group can do. The receivers could benefit from a consistently good passer at quarterback and a more open playbook as well.
Whether it is Jack Coan or wonderkid recruit, Graham Mertz, the consistency and trust to open up the playbook needs to be there.
Additionally, an increased role for speedster Aaron Cruickshank would be the best case scenario.
Worst Case Scenario
Danny Davis emerged as the most targeted receiver last season, catching 40 passes to lead all wide receivers on the team. He will enter his junior season with an increase in expectations and no off-field distractions like he had to deal with last season thanks to his stupid decision-making.
That aside, Davis is the most well-rounded receiver in this group and the one that could wind up be the deep threat that has been missing for awhile now. So, any injury to Davis would be bad news.
In fact, any sustained injuries to the likes of Davis, Pryor and Taylor would not be good. UW is very inexperienced behind this trio, and inexperience at QB and WR may not be a fun combination.
Dare I say, it would lead to UW not being back on top of the West division mountain?
Most Likely to Happen
I fully believe that the coaching staff will go in to the season knowing which quarterback they’ll go with and stick with. Confidence is key to helping this wide receiver group and I expect the Badgers offense to be much more balanced in 2019 than it was over the past two seasons.
Look for Davis, Pryor and Taylor to all increase their overall numbers and likely go over the 15 touchdown mark as a group. More importantly, I expect much more play-action and much more from the deep passing game too. That should be music to a talented, but under used group’s ears.
Don’t be surprised to see one of the Badgers wide receivers make a run at All-Big Ten honors as a result of that shift back to balance.
Hill is Badgers QB in 2021 class
With all the flurry of activity around the 2020 class, apparently someone wanted to bring the 2021 class some attention on Tuesday as well.
Following back-to-back linebacker commitments in the 2020 class, Wisconsin picked up a verbal commitment from 2021 quarterback Deacon Hill.
The 3-star player out of Santa Barbara, Calif. went with his gut despite the potential to earn offers from the likes of USC, Oregon and Oregon State — all much closer to home.
Instead, Hill chose the Badgers over official offers from Kansas State and Nevada to date.
The 6-3, 225-pound quarterback was first offered by Wisconsin quarterback coach Jon Budmayr in May. It was the first overall offer Hill received in the 2021 class.
Wisconsin was able to get out in front of the 2021 quarterback class after a pair of big targets in 2020 passed on offers from the Badgers. Once that happened, the focus turned to the next class and it paid off in building a quick and solid relationship with Hill.
It may not be a big home run get like Graham Mertz was, but then again the Badgers were hip to Mertz before most of the country was and that paid off as he developed.
Hill is much more physically imposing than most quarterbacks entering their junior season would be, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have mobility either.
Nevada’s more spread-orientated offense and Kansas State’s quarterbacks are certainly going to be mobile ones in the new offense that is being installed.
As for Hill, the 247Sports composite rankings have him as the No. 30 ranked pro-style quarterback in the 2021 class. But, given the small amount of attention paid to that class so far we’ll see where that ends up should Hill hit the QB camp circuit in the coming months and year.
UW will only be taking one quarterback in this class, so they certainly trusted their early evaluation of the tool set that Hill possesses and could posses by the time he is finished at Wisconsin.
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