Bart Houston signed by the Steelers

Bart Houston is a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The former Wisconsin quarterback tweeted Tuesday afternoon that he had signed with the AFC North power. It comes after Houston was a tryout candidate with the Oakland Raiders at their rookie orientation camp earlier this month.

Houston started just five games at Wisconsin, finishing with 1,540 yards passing, nine touchdowns and five interceptions. But he was playing the best football of his career at the end of 2016, including completing 91.7 percent of his passes for 159 yards in the BadgersCotton Bowl victory against Western Michigan.

Houston’s addition to the Steelers gives Wisconsin seven players off its 2016 team that are now on NFL rosters.

Lingering concerns from a head injury kept Alex Hornibrook out of the Big Ten title game

MADISON — Wisconsin quarterback Alex Hornibrook was unavailable to play in the Big Ten title game on Dec. 3 despite practicing the entire week leading up to the Badgers matchup with Penn State.

That was the word from the redshirt freshman yesterday when he spoke with reporters for the first time since before the regular-season finale against Minnesota on Nov. 26. Hornibrook, who started the final nine games of the season, was knocked out of the battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe in the first half with a head injury.

“I was feeling good during the (Penn State) week in practicing,” Hornibrook said as the Badgers started preparing for their Cotton Bowl matchup with Western Michigan. “I think I wasn’t quite exactly how I usually was. Before the game, I was talking with coach (Chryst), and we decided that I wasn’t going to play.

“Coming off a concussion injury like that, the symptoms were kind of going away, but I was still a little slowed down and didn’t feel like myself.”

In his place, senior Bart Houston completed 16 of 21 passes for 174 yards in a game that saw the Badgers blow a 28-7 lead, and lose 38-31. Though quarterback wasn’t the overriding issue, that didn’t make it any easier for Hornibrook to stand on the sideline unable to contribute.

“That was terrible to have to watch and not help your guys out,” Hornibrook said. “But it was a smart decision for me.”

Hornibrook returned to practice earlier this week when the Badgers held their developmental sessions with young players and said he’s 100-percent.

Offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph told reporters that he could see Wisconsin using both Hornibrook and Houston like they did for the final five games of the season, though he wouldn’t disclose who would get the start against the Broncos on Jan. 2 in the bowl game.

B1G title game preview: No. 6 Wisconsin vs No. 7 Penn State


The teams: The No. 6 Wisconsin Badgers (10-2, 7-2) vs the No. 7 Penn State Nittany Lions (10-2 8-1)

The time: 7:17 p.m. CDT, Saturday

The place: Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, Ind.

The TV coverage: Fox with Gus Johnson and Joel Klatt in the booth, and Shannon Spake on the sideline.

The last time: In the 2013 season finale, Penn State freshman Christian Hackenberg threw for 339 yards and four touchdowns, as the Nittany Lions ruined Wisconsin’s Senior Day 31-24.

The series: Wisconsin 9-8

The line: Wisconsin -2.5

The Badgers injury report:


QB Alex Hornibrook (head)

DL Conor Sheehy (arm)


OL Jake Maxwell (shoulder)


1) Playing for a title and potentially more

Wisconsin and Penn State will play for a Big Ten title on Saturday night, but much more is potentially at stake for both teams. As it stands, the Badgers are at No. 6 in the College Football Playoff rankings, with the Nittany Lions just one spot behind them. Though the chances are low that either gets selected by the playoff committee, an impressive performance in Indianapolis could just sway some people.

2) Erasing bad memories

The number of impact players that remain from Wisconsin’s 2014 team are few and far between, but the ones that are still around remember with terror their last trip to Lucas Oil Stadium. Favored by 4.5 points against Ohio State and its third-string quarterback Cardale Jones, the Badgers got steamrolled 59-0 in that year’s Big Ten title game. Many players, including cornerback Sojourn Shelton, called it their lowest moment on a football field. Saturday night presents an opportunity to change how they’ll remember trips to Indianapolis.

3) Stopping the big play

No team in the Big Ten has accounted for more big plays on offense than Penn State. They lead the league in plays of 30 or more yards, 40 or more yards and 50 or more yards. The Badgers are well aware of the explosiveness, and have done a good job this year of limiting plays like that, giving up just eight plays of 40 or more yards — 10th fewest in the country.

What makes the Nittany Lions unique, though, is that quarterback Trace McSorely will throw into coverage to give his guys an opportunity to make a play on the ball. It’ll be paramount for the Badgers to win their share of those 50-50 balls, and perhaps even add to their nation-leading 21 interceptions.

4) Slowing Saquon

Slow Saquon Barkley and slow Penn State’s offense, right? Not exactly, but putting the clamps on the Big Ten offensive player of the year is among the higher priorities for the Wisconsin defense.

Barkley, who is dealing with a foot injury suffered last week against Michigan State, has had some monster games this year and also some real duds, including against the Spartans before he left. But he’s also the Nittany Lions best player and the Badgers need to make him a non-factor. To do that, they’ll need to be better against the read-option than they were last week. Minnesota gashed them early thanks to a lack of contain by the outside linebackers.

5) Two-quarterback system

Alex Hornibrook practiced all week after leaving the Minnesota game with a head injury, and is listed as questionable for the game. But even if he’s cleared to play, should he be under center to to start the game? Backup Bart Houston has been really good of late, leading touchdown drives on 10 of his 17 full possessions the last three games.

It seems unlikely that if Hornibrook is cleared to play that coach Paul Chryst will change anything, sticking with the redshirt freshman as his starter and Houston coming in on the third or fourth series, but it is something to watch.


Wisconsin will play in its fourth Big Ten title game since its inception in 2011. Michigan, Ohio State, Nebraska and Penn State have a total of four appearances combined.

Over his last three games, quarterback Bart Houston has a passer rating of 195.7. Stretched out over an entire season, that rating would be the best in the country.

Wisconsin leads in the nation in interceptions with 21, which is more than the 18 they had the last two seasons combined.

The 2016 senior class has won 40 games during their time in Madison. One more win would make them the winningest class in Wisconsin history.


Zach Heilprin’s prediction: Wisconsin 24, Penn State 21 (8-4 on the season)
Ebo’s prediction: Wisconsin 27, Penn State 17 (9-3 on the season)
Jake Zimmermann’s prediction: Wisconsin 28 , Penn State 17 (10-2 on the season)
Joe Miller’s prediction: Wisconsin 31 , Penn State 14 (9-3 on the season)
Eric Rogers’ prediction: Wisconsin 23, Penn State 14 (10-2 on the season)


Preview: No. 7 Wisconsin at Purdue


The teams: The No. 7 Wisconsin Badgers Akron Zips (8-2, 5-2) vs the Purdue Boilermakers (3-7, 1-6)

The time: 11 a.m. CDT, Saturday

The place: Rose-Ade Stadium, West Lafayette, Ind.

The TV coverage: ABC with Mike Patrick and Ed Cunningham on the call, with Dr. Jerry Punch on the sideline.

The last time: Wisconsin quarterback Joel Stave threw for 322 yards, and running back Alec Ingold scored a pair of short touchdowns, as the Badgers beat Purdue 24-7 at Camp Randall Stadium last year.

The series: Wisconsin 46-29-8

The line: Wisconsin -28

The Badgers injury report:


FB Austin Ramesh (shoulder)


OLB Zack Baun (leg)

OL Jake Maxwell (shoulder)

NT Olive Sagapolu (arm)


1) Keeping your foot on the pedal

Top teams continue to lose, the latest being No. 5 Louisville Thursday night at Houston. And while that’s good for Wisconsin’s chances of making the College Football Playoff, it’s also a reminder that any team can lose on any day, and the Badgers can’t think that just by showing up on Saturday they’ll come away with a victory. It’s going to be a fight.

“It’s not one of those things where we can lay back and think things are all finished out and good to go,” wide receiver Jazz Peavy said. “We got to make sure we keep winning games and keep preparing (to win them).”

2) Running game comes alive

Through five games, the Wisconsin running game was average at best, putting up just 160 yards per game. But in the five games since, the old dominant ground attack that the Badgers have been known for has come to life.

Following a 363-yard performance against Illinois last week, Wisconsin is now up to 198 yards per game. And a lot of credit has to go to an offensive line that has found some continuity, playing the same five guys in the last three games.

“It doesn’t just happen where you can run the football,” coach Paul Chryst said. “It’s a group that’s working. The ability to play with the same group has been helpful. They’re doing some good stuff, but we’ve still got work to do.”

Wisconsin will have the opportunity for another big day on the ground on Saturday, as Purdue comes in ranked 122nd in the nation in rushing defense, allowing an average of 248 yards per game.

3) Passing defense will be challenged

Purdue doesn’t do a lot of things well, but one area they have had success at times is in the passing game. The Boilermakers are averaging 309 yards per game through the air, tops in the Big Ten, and sophomore quarterback David Blough is first in passing yards, and second in the conference with 21 touchdowns.

But the Badgers pass defense has been among the better surprises this season. How the three new starters — cornerback Derrick Tindal, along with safeties Leo Musso and D’Cota Dixon — would fill-in was a big question. 10 games into the season and the answer is pretty darn well. Wisconsin is allowing 191 yards through the air — ranked 19th in the country — while also making quarterbacks pay for poor throws, picking off 14 passes, the third-best mark in the Big Ten.

4) Getting healthy

Wisconsin’s starting outside linebackers — Vince Biegel and T.J. Watt — have both battled injuries this season. A cracked bone in his right foot kept Biegel out of the Michigan and Ohio State games, while Watt has played through a myriad of ailments, including a shoulder injury that left him in agonizing pain at times. But both are starting to feel like themselves again, and that could mean trouble for opposing offenses.

“We can always be the guys to make a difference or make a play,” Watt said this week. “We can impact the run or the pass so much and in so many different ways. Whether it’s rushing the passer, knocking down passes or dropping in coverage.

“I think as we continue to get healthier, more and more comfortable and gaining more and more confidence, you may see (those big plays from us).”

5) Two quarterbacks again

For a fifth straight game, it’s expected the Badgers will use both of their quarterbacks — Alex Hornibrook and Bart Houston. Though it can’t be called a overwhelming success, Wisconsin has won all four games where they’ve implemented the time share and Chryst intends to stick with it.

They know they don’t have to carry the whole load,” Chryst said of one of the positives of the arrangement. “They know they’re going to be contributors. I like to think it helps.”

Wisconsin is averaging 151 yards passing in this four-game stretch, with four touchdowns and two interceptions. And Chryst believes that both quarterbacks are getting used to it, and says communication has been the key.

“We’re really transparent with them as far as the plan and what’s going on so there isn’t a lot of guessing what’s going to happen,” Chryst said. “They don’t need to worry about that.”


Wisconsin has won the last 10 games in the series by an average of 23.2 points per game

The Badgers have given up just nine points in the first quarter of games this year, and are the only team in the country that hasn’t allowed a touchdown

Led by defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox, the Badgers are allowing just 12.7 points per game, the third-best mark in the country and the fewest by a Wisconsin defense since 2006.


Zach Heilprin’s prediction: Wisconsin 45, Purdue 3 (6-4 on the season)
Ebo’s prediction: Wisconsin 38, Purdue 7 (7-3 on the season)
Jake Zimmermann’s prediction: Wisconsin 38, Purdue 3 (8-2 on the season)
Joe Miller’s prediction: Wisconsin 45, Purdue 13 (7-3 on the season)
Eric Rogers’ prediction: Wisconsin 38, Purdue 3 (8-2 on the season)


Preview: No. 8 Wisconsin at Northwestern


The teams: The No. 8 Wisconsin Badgers (6-2, 3-2) vs the Northwestern Wildcats (4-4, 3-2)

The time: 11 a.m. CDT, Saturday

The place: Ryan Field, Evanston, Ill.

The TV coverage: ABC with Bob Wischusen and Brock Huard in the booth and Allison Williams on the sideline.

The last time: Wisconsin had three touchdowns taken off the board on replay reviews and lost 13-7 in Madison last year.

The series: Wisconsin 57-35-5

The line: Wisconsin -7

The Badgers injury report:


ILB Griffin Grady (shoulder)

CB Natrell Jamerson (leg)


RT Jacob Maxwell (shoulder)

FB Austin Ramesh (shoulder)

NT Olive Sagapolu (arm)


1) Gauntlet not done

Before the season, everyone talked about the gauntlet that Wisconsin would face to open Big Ten play, a stretch of five games that ended up being against four teams ranked in the top 10 of the AP Top 25. Most thought if they could get through that, it would be clear sailing the rest of the way. But that hasn’t turned out to be the case. Not with Northwestern playing its best football of the season as they welcome the Badgers to town. And UW’s players know it.

“I think it is easy to buy into what people might be saying on the outside as far as getting through the gauntlet and this being the easy part of the schedule,” cornerback Sojourn Shelton said. “No part of playing in college football games are easy. We see it week-in and week-out of top-ranked teams playing a team they should beat and somehow, someway that team loses.”

2) Two-quarterback system

For a third week in a row, the Badgers are expected to play both of their quarterbacks — starter Alex Hornibrook and backup Bart Houston. How the playing time will break down for either guy is unclear, even for them.

“Never do,” Houston said when asked if he knew how many snaps he’d get. “Could be zero, could be all of them, could be half of them. I don’t know. We’ll find out on game day.”

What is clear, though, is both need to do a better job of holding onto the ball. Each had fourth quarter interceptions against Nebraska that could have cost Wisconsin the game. And for the season, the Badgers are -1 in turnover margin thanks in part to the 10 interceptions thrown by Hornibrook (7) and Houston (3).

3) Slowing Austin Carr

The Northwestern passing game has come alive in recent weeks, with quarterback Clayton Thorson finding a rhythm, throwing 10 touchdowns and just 2 interceptions in the month of October, a stretch where the Wildcats won three of the four games they played. And the sophomore signal caller has been locked in on his standout receiver Austin Carr.

A former walk-on, Carr is averaging 109 yards receiving per game, including a season-high 158 against Ohio State last week. Wisconsin figures to key on the California native, and don’t be surprised to see junior Derrick Tindal mirror him wherever he goes.

4) Justin Jackson — Badgers killer

Northwestern running back Justin Jackson has dominated Wisconsin in his first two college seasons. In 2014, he ran for a season-high 162 yards in a 20-14 upset by the Wildcats. Then last year, in a 13-7 win for Northwestern, Jackson rumbled for 139 yards and a touchdown.

Only one running back, LSU’s Leonard Fournette, has topped the 100-yard mark this year against the Badgers, and over the last three years it’s happened just eight times, with Jackson owning two of those. In games where the opposing team has a back over the century mark, Wisconsin is just 2-6.

Far from flashy, Jackson is hard-nosed runner who becomes more difficult to stop as his carries pile up. Wisconsin can’t allow him to get going early.

5) Mystery of Ryan Field

Far from the toughest environment to play in, Ryan Field has still been a house of horrors for Wisconsin. The Badgers haven’t won at the smallest stadium in the Big Ten since 1999, losing their four games by an average of less than a touchdown.

“I was five years old. I’m about to turn 22 on Christmas. That’s a long time ago,” cornerback Sojourn Shelton said of the gap between wins for the Badgers. “It just makes this game so much sweeter. Our goal is to go in there and get a “W”. When Saturday rolls around we’ll be amped up and trying to break that.”


  • Wisconsin has won at every other Big Ten stadium at least once since last getting a victory at Northwestern.
  • Freshman running back Bradrick Shaw has carried the ball four times in the last three games. All four of those runs have resulted in first downs (3) or touchdowns (1).
  • Over the last two seasons, Wisconsin quarterbacks have thrown just as many touchdowns (23) as they have interceptions.
  • Wisconsin running back Corey Clement is averaging 99.9 yards per game this season, and is on pace to rush for 1,198 yards, which would be his first 1,000-yard season in college.


Zach Heilprin’s prediction: Wisconsin 21, Northwestern 20 (4-4 on the season)
Ebo’s prediction: Wisconsin 21, Northwestern 14 (5-3 on the season)
Jake Zimmermann’s prediction: Wisconsin 21, Northwestern 17 (6-2 on the season)
Joe Miller’s prediction: Wisconsin 24, Northwestern 16 (5-3 on the season)
Eric Rogers’ prediction: Wisconsin 16, Northwestern 14 (6-2 on the season)


Hornibrook still the starter, Shelton responds to those saying he got beat and an injury update

MADISON | Despite not being under center during Wisconsin’s final three drives of regulation, or its only possession in overtime, Alex Hornibrook remains the Badgers starting quarterback with Bart Houston as the backup.

Asked Monday whether the redshirt freshman would get the nod this week against Northwestern, coach Paul Chryst said, “Yup,” and didn’t expound on his answer.

Two weeks ago, the job appeared to be Hornibrook’s and his alone. He started all five of Wisconsin’s Big Ten games, but against Iowa on Oct. 22 Chryst decided to give Houston two series and followed that up with the senior getting six of the Badgers’ 14 series against Nebraska, including the final four of the game.

“No, there’s never a plan,” Houston said after the game on whether he knew how much he’d be playing going in. “It’s kind of how our coaching staff goes. No plan. It’s just whatever happens, happens.”

The two quarterbacks combined to throw for just 114 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions on the night, and for the season, the duo has thrown more interceptions (10) than touchdowns (9).

Shelton wasn’t beat

In the wake of Saturday night’s game, many said that safety D’Cota Dixon bailed cornerback Sojourn Shelton out on the final play of the game by knocking the ball away from Nebraska wide receiver Stanley Morgan Jr. And while part of that is true — he did keep Morgan from catching it — the idea that Shelton was burned on the play is inaccurate.
Shelton tweet







Nebraska faced a fourth-and-8 at the Wisconsin 25-yard line, knowing they needed a first down or a touchdown to keep the game going. On Monday, Shelton described what his responsibilities were on the play.

“We were in 2-man,” Shelton said of the call, which has corners undercutting routes and more aggressive because they know they have safety help behind them. “In my mind, I’m thinking they’re trying to get to the (first down) sticks and get another set of downs. (Morgan) ran a double move, and I bit on it knowing D’Cota was over the top (to help).”

Dixon was right where Shelton expected him to be, and he took care of his end of things. Shelton said for those that still don’t understand what his responsibilities were on the play, the internet is a great resource.

“If anybody doesn’t know what 2-man is, Google does explain what 2-man coverage is,” Shelton said with a laugh.

Injury update

Only one player has already been ruled out for Wisconsin’s game at Northwestern with that being nose tackle Olive Sagapolu, who has missed the last two contests with an arm injury suffered against Ohio State.

“No specific timetable,” Chryst said when the sophomore might return. “We knew when he first got (hurt) it was going to be a little bit of time. We’ll just see how it goes.”

Rest of the injury report:


ILB Griffin Grady (shoulder)
CB Natrell Jamerson (leg)
OL Jake Maxwell (shoulder)
FB Austin Ramesh (shoulder)
OLB T.J. Watt (shoulder)

Wisconsin 23, Nebraska 17 (OT): 2-minute drill

Game Balls

Offense: Dare Ogunbowale

Saturday night belonged to the senior running back. He carried the ball just 11 times but ran for a season-high 120 yards, the fourth time he’s topped the century mark in his career, with half of them coming against Nebraska.

Showing patience and some elite quickness, Ogunbowale sliced through the Huskers defense time after time, doing most of his damage on draws, exploiting an aggressive front seven. On his final carry of the night, he followed left tackle Ryan Ramczyk and center Michael Deiter around the edge of the Nebraska defense for an 11-yard touchdown that proved to be the winning score.

Defense: Ryan Connelly, Leon Jacobs

Tasked with trying to replace Jack Cichy, the heart and soul of the defense, the two inside linebackers flew all over the field, finishing with a combined 22 tackles, two tackles for loss and a couple pass break-ups. They weren’t without their flaws — outside linebacker Vince Biegel says they had some communication issues — but put in a difficult situation they played at a very high level.

Special Teams: Corey Clement

It what wasn’t a banner night for the special teams, Clement’s 24-yard punt return in the first quarter stands out. The senior was able to shake off some would-be tacklers and set the offense up with great field position at their own 49-yard line. Two plays later the Badgers were in the end zone to take an early 7-0 lead.

Tweets of the Night

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Video of the Night

Quote of the Day

“There was a sense of calm and confidence that (we) had coming out there.

“We were not going to let another close one — (an) overtime night game — slip by our fingers again.”

Linebacker Vince Biegel on the defense’s mentality as they took the field in overtime with a 6-point lead

In Case You Missed It

— Wisconsin’s Rafael Gaglianone joined Nebraska kicker Drew Brown and the rest of the Huskers specialists for their pregame ritual of carrying the late Sam Foltz’s jersey to the sideline. Foltz, a punter at Nebraska, was killed, along with former Michigan State punter Mike Sadler, in a car accident in Wisconsin back in July.

— Redshirt freshman David Edwards, a converted tight end, made his first career start at right tackle in place of the injured Jake Maxwell.

— Cornerback Natrell Jamerson missed his sixth straight game as a result of a leg injury. However, the junior did take part in warm-ups and could be close to returning.

— Former Wisconsin defensive lineman Tim Krumrie was honored during the game for his enshrinement into the College Football Hall of Fame. Krumrie led Wisconsin in tackles in all four years he played, and was named All-Big Ten three times.

— Wisconsin used two different quarterbacks for a second straight week. Redshirt freshman Alex Hornibrook got the start, but senior Bart Houston played significant reps and was in the game on the Badgers score in overtime. The two combined to 14 of 23 for 114 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.

— Junior fullback Austin Ramesh sustained an arm injury in the second half and didn’t return.

Inside the Numbers

6 — That’s the number of freshmen the Badgers had on the field for Bradrick Shaw’s 21-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. Along with four redshirt freshmen — Shaw, Hornibrook, Edwards and guard Jon Dietzen — a pair of true freshmen — A.J. Taylor and Quintez Cephus — were in the game as well.

37.2% — That’s Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong’s completion percentage in his three games against Wisconsin after managing to hit on just 12 of 31 throws on Saturday night.

3-2 — That’s Wisconsin Big Ten record, leaving them one game behind Nebraska in the West Division. If the Badgers win out, and the Huskers lose any of their final four games, Wisconsin will play for a Big Ten Championship in Indianapolis for the fourth time in six years.

10 — That’s the number of pass break-ups the Wisconsin defense had, including one that led to an interception.

What’s Next?

Wisconsin (6-2, 3-2) will travel down I-90/39 next Saturday to take on Northwestern (4-4, 3-2). The Badgers haven’t won in Evanston since 1999.

Badgers on Hornibrook: “He’ll start this week”

MADISON, Wis. — While there’s been no press release, it appears Alex Hornibrook will be the starting quarterback against Michigan State after Matt Lepay, Mike Lucas, and Chris Hall discussed the matchup via Facebook.

All three are University of Wisconsin Athletics employees, and Hall began the video by saying “there will be a change after we saw what happened last week in the third quarter…He’s going to start this week.”

Hall was referring to the quarterback swap after halftime in the 23-17 win over Georgia State in which Hornibrook replaced Bart Houston and went 8-of-12 for 122 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. Hornibrook’s poise helped lead a comeback touchdown drive in the fourth quarter and ultimately the win.

The video confirmed what Hornibrook seemed to leak to the media after Tuesday’s practice in regards to reports he’d be the starter. Hornibrook also revealed he’d taken more first-team reps in practice than normal.

During Monday’s weekly press conference, head coach Paul Chryst dodged a question about Houston’s status, responding with the notion that both quarterbacks will be ready to play and both would be needed against Michigan State. That will be an 11 a.m. CT kickoff from East Lansing, Mich.

Badgers’ Hornibrook on starting: ‘That’s what I’ve heard.’

MADISON | In what could be a called a freshman moment, Wisconsin quarterback Alex Hornibrook apparently let it slip on Monday that he will make his first career start against Michigan State.

A day after his coach, Paul Chryst, said he’d let their work this week decide whether the redshirt freshman or Bart Houston would get the call on Saturday, Hornibrook surprisingly answered in the affirmative when asked whether he’d be under center to open the game.

“That’s what I’ve heard, yep.” Hornibrook said with a smile.

When a reporter asked him if that’s what the coaches had told him, he excused himself and had a brief meeting with two Wisconsin communications officials. When he returned and was asked again if he’d be starting, the Pennsylvania native had changed his answer back to the company line.

“Coach is getting us both ready to go,” Hornibrook said. “If I’m the guy, I’m ready to go. If Bart’s the guy, I’m ready for that, too.”

Hornibrook replaced Houston in the third quarter of last Saturday’s game against Georgia State, leading Wisconsin to a comeback win in which he threw for 122 yards and a touchdown.

Badgers’ Chryst says practice will decide the starting quarterback against Michigan State

MADISON | Paul Chryst didn’t tip his hand on who his quarterback will be this Saturday against Michigan State.

Despite a report from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel indicating that redshirt freshman Alex Hornibrook would be under center against the Spartans, the Wisconsin coach said he’ll let the week decide who the starter will be.

“Both have to be ready to play, I’m sure. I’m positive of that,” Chryst said Monday. “I told them there are going to be games where they’re both going to play. You do it in hockey. You have two goalies. You can have a best pitcher in baseball, and he doesn’t always finish the game. We need both of them to grow.”

Houston started the first three games of the year, completing 62 percent of his passes for 527 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. But the offense struggled to put the ball in the end zone last Saturday against Georgia State, and Hornibrook replaced him in the third quarter, with Chryst looking for a spark. He got it.

Hornibrook led three scoring drives in five chances, with the other two ending in a dropped pass resulting in an interception and then a kneel down to end the game. He finished 8 of 12 for 122 yards and a touchdown in a 23-17 win over the Panthers.

If Chryst does go with Hornibrook, he’ll be the first freshman Wisconsin quarterback since Brooks Bollinger in 1999 to make his first career start on the road against a ranked opponent. In that game, Bollinger and the Badgers fell behind Ohio State 17-0 before ripping off 42 straight points to win going away.