MADISON — The Wisconsin football team held their first scrimmage of fall camp on Monday at Camp Randall Stadium. It lasted about 90 plays, with the final 20 or so belonging to the freshmen and other young players.
“Obviously we ran a lot of plays against each other. And when one side has success the other side isn’t,” head coach Paul Chryst said. “I think this is a huge week for us.
“I thought today was a good start, but (we) have a long way to go.”
Defense rules much of the day
The two-hour scrimmage went largely in favor of the first- and second-team defense. They forced a pair of turnovers, allowed just two touchdown drives and piled up four sacks.
Of the five drives the first-defense was on the field, four of them ended in three-and-outs. Among the standouts were juniors Chikwe Obasih, Alec James and T.J. Watt. The trio accounted for three of the four sacks and were constantly getting push into the offensive backfield.
Secondary coach Jim Leonhard said on Sunday he was looking for his guys to make more plays, and safety Joe Ferguson obliged, making a tiptoe grab near the sideline for an interception.
Hornibrook impresses with the first-team offense
It’s getting closer and closer to decision time for head coach Paul Chryst and the Badgers when it comes to choosing either redshirt freshman Alex Hornibrook or senior Bart Houston to be the starting quarterback. And if you were to judge the competition on just this day alone, Hornibrook was the better player. He moved the offense, and Chryst has said that when it comes down to it, that’s what matters.
In his two drives with the first-team offense against the second-team defense, the Pennsylvania product led a pair of scoring drives. The first went 98 yards in 16 plays, and was capped off by a 3-yard touchdown run courtesy of redshirt freshman Bradrick Shaw. Hornibrook was 5 of 6 for 65 yards on that possession, and was able to overcome a sack and a holding penalty to still get the team in the end zone.
Later, he put together a 57-yard drive in which he was 4 of 4 for 39 yards, including a pretty 18-yard touchdown to senior Rob Wheelwright, who had gotten a step on cornerback Titus Booker.
For the day, Hornibrook was 11 of 14 for 119 yards, the one touchdown and one interception.
“I think Alex did some good things,” Chryst said afterwards before mentioning some of the not so good things Hornibrook did, including taking a sack on first down.
As for Houston, he was just 6 of 14 for 72 yards. His best drive came against the second-team defense. He drove them 59 yards, including a 15-yard completion to junior George Rushing and a 12-yard toss to senior Reggie Love. But he missed a chance for a touchdown, one-hopping a pass to a wide-open Wheelwright by the goal line.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do on it,” Chryst said of the offense as a whole before singling out the two signal callers. “I thought both of them did some good stuff today.”
Wide receivers coach Ted Gilmore suggested on Sunday that he needs to sometimes remind Wheelwright that, “his skirt is showing,” in reference to him not being available to play due to injury. Wheelwright has been in and out of practice in camp, but he took part on Monday and looked good. He finished with three grabs for 50 yards and one touchdown and should have had another if not for a poor pass.
“We’re challenging Rob to take that next step,” Gilmore said. “We’re challenging Rob not to get comfortable.”
In and out
The offensive line has been in constant flux through the first week of camp. Some of that was planned as right tackle Jake Maxwell and left guard Dan Voltz were each coming off injuries and the team is being cautious. Other players – like right guard Beau Benzschawel and backup guard Jon Dietzen – have missed time due to injuries. But on Monday we got a glimpse of what the coaching staff hopes is the starting lineup against LSU – and it looked pretty good.
When Voltz, Benzschawel and Maxwell joined left tackle Ryan Ramczyk and center Michael Deiter along the line, the offense had success moving the ball. The activity with those five will continue to ramp up as Sept. 3 gets closer, as will the attempt to build depth behind them.
“We have been missing them,” Chryst said of the guys being in and out of the lineup. “Ideally you got a clear five and they play together a ton because there are so many nuances and intricacies. But I think we’re doing a good job of making it work.”
On the mend
Running back Corey Clement didn’t take part in the scrimmage, but the senior appears to be getting closer to returning after missing the last four practices with a hamstring injury. His rehab during the session included full speed sprints, followed by work on a stationary bike. Wisconsin is obviously being cautious with him after a 2015 that saw him forced to sit eight games with a sports hernia.
In his absence, most of the carries went to redshirt sophomore Taiwan Deal and redshirt freshman Bradrick Shaw. The pair had varying levels of success, though Shaw did score the lone rushing touchdown of the scrimmage.
Here’s the rest of the injury list:
WR Jazz Peavy (chest) – Wore a yellow no contact jersey
S Keelon Brookins (groin)
WR Quintez Cephus (leg)
OL Jon Dietzen (head)
LB T.J. Edwards (foot)
OL George Panos (shoulder)
OL Logan Schmidt (head)
LB Mason Stokke (head)
LB Nick Thomas (head)
Injured in the scrimmage
RB Taiwan Deal (arm)
Getting his kicks
A slimmed down Rafael Gaglianone still has plenty of leg. The Wisconsin junior, who lost about 30 pounds in the offseason, drilled all four of his field goal attempts during a special teams portion of practice, including a 50-yarder. In the scrimmage, he also hit from 28 yards.