Alex Hornibrook, much-maligned after a mediocre passing performance last week, decided he was going to give playing quarterback another shot Saturday against BYU. And Wisconsin can be glad he did, as Hornibrook threw for 256 yards and four touchdowns – and, oh, by the way, completed 18 of 19 throws to set the program’s all-time completion record, at 94.7 percent – in the Badgers’ 40-6 rout of the Cougars in Provo, Utah.
On the back, or left arm, of Hornibrook, Wisconsin improved to 3-0 with the convincing victory. The sophomore signal caller missed on only one pass all day, hitting on 10 of 11 attempts in the first half, en route to a 24-6 halftime lead, and converting all eight throws in the second half. Hornibrook put up career highs in passing yards, touchdowns and completions. He was sacked just once, as the Badgers’ typically stalwart offensive line protected him and plowed huge holes for running back Jonathan Taylor, who rushed for 128 yards and a score.
It’s easy to forget, given Wisconsin’s overall offensive dominance – the team has scored at least 30 points in each of its first three games – that just last week there were renewed complaints about Hornibrook and calls for his replacement at quarterback. In a 31-14 win over Florida Atlantic, he completed 16 of 28 passes for 201 yards with a touchdown and an interception against an unimpressive opposing defense.
Considered a game manager rather than a gunslinger, Hornibrook’s job – as is that of most quarterbacks at run-heavy Wisconsin – is often oversimplified to a degree that undercuts his throwing talent: just hand the ball off and don’t toss interceptions.
But Hornibrook’s poise and playmaking were on full display Saturday against poor BYU. He found receivers in tight windows up the seam, split defenders in the end zone, was patient in the pocket and decisive when he found a target; his touchdown passes were darts, especially the last one to tight end Troy Fumagalli, a 19-yard strike on third-and-18 that secured him the completion record.
🔘 256 passing yards
🔘 4 touchdown passes
🔘 School record for completion %
Have a day, Alex Hornibrook#OnWisconsin || #Badgers pic.twitter.com/UquYKgvlfW — Wisconsin Football (@BadgerFootball) September 16, 2017
The program mark for completion percentage in a game was previously held by Darrell Bevell (set against Northwestern on Nov. 9, 1993). Hornibrook’s name is now in the Badgers’ books, and, perhaps like recent former quarterback Joel Stave – another player whose throwing ability was denigrated during his time at Wisconsin, despite ultimately setting numerous school passing records – he’s gained some confidence and earned some credibility.
Wisconsin has a bye next weekend, then returns to Madison to host Northwestern in its first Big Ten Conference game.
Born in Milwaukee but a product of Shorewood High School (go ‘Hounds!) and Northwestern University (go ‘Cats!), Jimmy never knew the schoolboy bliss of cheering for a winning football, basketball or baseball team. So he ditched being a fan in order to cover sports professionally - occasionally objectively, always passionately. He's lived in Chicago, New York and Dallas, but now resides again in his beloved Brew City and is an ardent attacker of the notorious Milwaukee Inferiority Complex.
After interning at print publications like Birds and Blooms (official motto: "America's #1 backyard birding and gardening magazine!"), Sports Illustrated (unofficial motto: "Subscribe and save up to 90% off the cover price!") and The Dallas Morning News (a newspaper!), Jimmy worked for web outlets like CBSSports.com, where he was a Packers beat reporter, and FOX Sports Wisconsin, where he managed digital content. He's a proponent and frequent user of em dashes, parenthetical asides, descriptive appositives and, really, anything that makes his sentences longer and more needlessly complex.
Jimmy appreciates references to late '90s Brewers and Bucks players and is the curator of the unofficial John Jaha Hall of Fame. He also enjoys running, biking and soccer, but isn't too annoying about them. He writes about sports - both mainstream and unconventional - and non-sports, including history, music, food, art and even golf (just kidding!), and welcomes reader suggestions for off-the-beaten-path story ideas.