Reserve DB leaves the Badgers

MADISON — Reserve defensive back Titus Booker is no longer a member of the Wisconsin football team.

The cornerback was removed from the roster between the Nebraska and Purdue games. When asked Thursday morning about Booker, a UW communications official said he had left the program. It’s unclear if he intends to stay at Wisconsin or transfer somewhere else to play football.

A 3-star recruit from Round Lake Beach, Ill., Booker was a big recruiting win for the Badgers. They fended off late interest from a number of schools, including Michigan, which wanted him to play offense. He chose Wisconsin, though, and had former defensive backs coach Daronte Jones excited about his potential, even saying in February 2016 that Booker had a chance to be better than former All-Big Ten cornerback Darius Hillary.

Unfortunately for Booker, that never materialized. Injuries kept him off the field for long stretches of time, including this past spring, and several younger players moved ahead of him on the depth chart.

Booker finished his Wisconsin career with six tackles in 15 games.

Aaron Rodgers set to appear on ‘Conan’ Thursday night

For the first time since fracturing his right collarbone on Oct. 15, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers will talk about the injury — sort of.

The 2-time MVP is set to appear on Conan O’Brien’s late-night show Thursday for a segment called “Clueless Gamer,” in which O’Brien and Rodgers play the new “Assassins Creed” video game. Perhaps more important for fans of the Packers is that Rodgers also talks about the injury and the surgery he underwent to fix it.

The show airs at 10 p.m. CT on TBS.

Here’s a quick preview clip of the appearance:

The Packers placed Rodgers on injured reserve last week, meaning he won’t play for at least another seven weeks, though ESPN reported the team is hopeful that he can start throwing in five. When asked about Rodgers’ timeline on Monday, coach Mike McCarthy said nothing had changed, and it remains possible that the quarterback’s season is done.

Following the 26-17 loss to the New Orleans Saints last Sunday, Green Bay fell to 2-6-1 in games Rodgers didn’t start due to injury.

Green Bay is on its bye this week. The team will return to action Nov. 6 against the Detroit Lions.

Packers bring back WR Max McCaffrey, cut OL Don Barclay

Max McCaffrey is back with the Green Bay Packers.

The wide receiver was signed to the practice squad on Tuesday after being released by Jacksonville over the weekend. The 23-year-old caught one pass in five games with the Jaguars.

McCaffrey was first signed to the Packers practice squad late in the 2016 regular season and he then spent the entire 2017 offseason with the club before being cut at the end of training camp. During the preseason, he had eight catches for 85 yards.

While McCaffrey is joining the team, veteran offensive lineman Don Barclay is leaving. Placed on injured reserve prior to the start of the regular season with a leg injury, the Packers announced Tuesday he had been released. Barclay had played in 70 games for Green Bay since being signed as an undrafted free agent in 2012.

The Packers are on their bye week. They’ll return Nov. 6 against the Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field.

New Orleans 26, Packers 17: 2-minute drill

GREEN BAY — For the first time since 2013, the Green Bay Packers experienced life without Aaron Rodgers at quarterback, and it’s just as rough as everyone remembered. With the future Hall of Fame signal caller recovering from collarbone surgery, Brett Hundley made his first career start, running for one touchdown but largely struggling in a 26-17 loss to the New Orleans Saints on Sunday at Lambeau Field.

Play of the Game

With the Saints leading 19-17 midway through the fourth quarter, Trevor Davis, instead taking the ball at the 25-yard line on a touchback, returned a kickoff from five yards deep in the end zone. He brought it all the way back to the 40-yard line, but only got there because one of his guys held on the return. After the penalty, the Packers started at their own 10. Three plays later, Green Bay was punting, and by the time the Packers got the ball back, they were down two scores.

Game Balls

Offense: Aaron Jones

The rookie was fantastic, running for a career-high 131 yards, including 64 yards on the opening drive that he finished off with a 46-yard touchdown run up the middle. It’s clear Jones is the most explosive of Green Bay’s running backs and has the confidence of the offensive line in front of him.

“He’s hungry. I enjoy seeing him run the ball,” left tackle David Bakhtiari said. “He’s got an extra gear [and] he can take the top off on a run, which is nice. I enjoy getting him touches. We’re going to keep doing our best anytime we call on thirty-three.”

Jones now has a pair of 100-yard games in his first three starts.

Defense: Blake Martinez

The Packers defense wasn’t great by any stretch, but Martinez was a busy man. He recorded a career-high 15 tackles, including 12 solo stops.

Special Teams: Justin Vogel

The Green Bay punter was put to work on Sunday, and he delivered by averaging 47.6 yards on his five kicks, with a net of 46.2. The dangerous Ted Ginn was held to just one return for seven yards.

In their own words

WR Randall Cobb when asked about trying to get on the same page as Hundley:

“It’s going to be important for us to continue to build confidence in him to throw it to us in different situations. There were opportunities today. Jordy (Nelson) and Davante (Adams) got on top [of guys] all day. There were a few inside as well with myself. We just have to continue to build that chemistry with Brett.”

Hundley when asked about trying to keep the team afloat while Rodgers is out:

“All I can say is don’t write us off. I think that’s the biggest thing. We’ve got to get better and we will get better. But we’re not out. Just because of this game and we’re 4-3 now. We still have everything in front of us. We’ve got our division games in front of us. We can still win the division, make the playoffs. Down the road, if Aaron is healthy and comes back and we’re still rolling, he’ll be available. But we’ve just got to win games and keep this season rolling.”

Coach Mike McCarthy on the struggles in the passing game that produced just 79 yards:

“It was a challenge I didn’t meet today. He didn’t get comfortable in the pocket and that’s my responsibility. Did a poor job coaching.

“Our passing game, we can sit here and pick it apart all you want. Let’s just blame it on the head coach today, OK?

In Case You Missed It

— ESPN’s Adam Shefter reported Sunday morning that the Packers feel Rodgers will be able to start throwing in six weeks, meaning a late-season return is possible. Because he’s on injured reserve, the earliest he could play is Week 15 at Carolina.

— One of Green Bay’s captains was guard Jahri Evans, who played his entire career with the Saints before this season.

— The Packers honored the 1967 NFL Championship team and many of the players were on hand. That included quarterback Bart Starr, who has overcome serious health issues in recent years.

— Former Wisconsin offensive lineman Ryan Ramczyk started at right tackle for the Saints. He was the team’s first-round pick in April’s NFL draft.

Inside the Numbers

— Jones’ 46-yard touchdown was the longest score on a running play for the Packers since 2015.

— Green Bay dropped to 2-6-1 in games that Rodgers has missed due to injury since he took over as the starter in 2008.

— Drew Brees threw for 331 yards on Sunday. He’s now thrown for at least 300 yards in each of the seven games he’s faced the Packers in his career.

What’s Next

Green Bay (4-3) has its bye next week. The Packers will return to action Monday, Nov. 6 against Detroit at Lambeau Field.

Preview: (5) Wisconsin vs Maryland

THE BASICS

The teams: The No. 5 Wisconsin Badgers (6-0, 3-0) vs the Maryland Terrapins (3-3, 1-2)

The time: 11 a.m. CDT, Saturday

The place: Camp Randall Stadium, Madison, Wis.

The TV coverage: FOX with Joe Davis and Brady Quinn in the booth, and Bruce Feldman on the sideline.

The last time: Natrell Jamerson returned a kickoff for a touchdown and Dare Ogunbowale scored twice as the Badgers beat Maryland 31-24 in 2015.

The series: Wisconsin leads 2-0

The line: Wisconsin -24

The Badgers injury report:

QUESTIONABLE

WR Danny Davis (leg)
K P.J. Rosowski (leg)

OUT

Game:

TE Luke Benzschawel (leg)
RB Taiwan Deal (leg)
RB Chris James (leg)
S Patrick Johnson (arm)
DE Isaiahh Loudermilk (leg)
DE Chikwe Obasih (knee)
WR Jazz Peavy (leg)
WR George Rushing (leg)

Season:

LB Jack Cichy (knee)
LB Zack Baun (foot)
RB Sam Brodner (knee)
LB Mason Stokke (leg)

THE BREAKDOWN: FIVE THINGS TO WATCH

1) Get it going

Wisconsin has the running game and defense to challenge for a Big Ten title and a berth in the College Football Playoff. Now, the Badgers need the passing game to join in the fun.

The early-season success that quarterback Alex Hornibrook was having has been hit-or-miss in Big Ten play. After throwing eight touchdowns and just one interception in the non-conference, he’s got just three scores and five turnovers in three conference games. Some of it may have to do with a banged up group of pass catchers, but Hornibrook wouldn’t use those as excuses so neither will we. Simply, they need to be better.

2) Stop with the mistakes

The Badgers were sloppy in the 17-9 win over Purdue last week, but they’ve been that way more this year than really at any point in 2016. The three turnovers, including a goal line fumble, are avoidable, as were the eight penalties Wisconsin was called for. Add in the blocked punt, and you can see why the game was so close.

The penalties are really bothersome, especially the ones that come before the snap. A year ago, Wisconsin was second in the country in fewest penalties with 3.4 per game. This year? They rank 64th at 6.2 per game. The Badgers need to be more disciplined.

3) Quintez Cephus is rolling

While the Wisconsin passing game has largely struggled in Big Ten play, one guy that has flourished is wide receiver Quintez Cephus. He leads the Badgers in catches (23), yards (401) and touchdowns (5). His scoring prowess has him on pace to catch more touchdowns in a single season than anyone not named Lee Evans in Wisconsin history. He’s been the big play guy that the offense needed on the outside and he’s just going to keep getting better. More focused on basketball in high school, Cephus now has his full attention on football and is just scratching the surface of what he can become.

4) More Jonathan Taylor please

The freshman running back came up 14 yards short of hitting 1,000 in six games, but he’s a good bet to continue to roll on Saturday as Maryland’s 83rd ranked rushing defense comes to town. Taylor is ranked third in the country in rushing at 164.3 yards per game, which is 54 yards more than the next closest freshman, Ohio State’s J.K. Dobbins.

It would not be a surprise to see Taylor top the 200-yard mark for a fourth time in his young career against the Terrapins.

5) More opportunities

Wisconsin is banged up in a number of areas, namely wide receiver and the defensive line.

The Badgers will be without seniors Jazz Peavy and George Rushing, and probably freshman Danny Davis, on the outside. While it’s far from ideal, it will give others an opportunity to step up. That includes redshirt freshman Kendric Pryor, whose first career catch came on an important third down last week. Coach Paul Chryst believes Pryor is ready for more and is excited to see him perform.

Along the defensive line, senior Chikwe Obasih remains out, while sophomore Isaiahh Loudermilk will also miss the game. It likely means more time for junior Billy Hirschfeld and sophomore Garrett Rand behind starters Alec James and Conor Sheehy.

NUMBERS TO CONSIDER

Taylor has as many runs of 60 or more yards this season (3) as Wisconsin had in the previous 27 games before he arrived.

With a win Wisconsin can move to 7-0 for the third time in the modern-era and the first time since 2004.

Wisconsin’s defense held Purdue to just a field goal in the second half last week, which means the Badgers have now outscored their six opponents 119-24 after halftime this season.

PREDICTIONS

Zach Heilprin’s prediction: Wisconsin 38, Maryland 13 (6-0 on the season, 3-3 against the spread)
Ebo’s prediction: Wisconsin 41, Maryland 10 (6-0 on the season, 3-3 against the spread)
Joe Miller’s prediction: Wisconsin 42, Maryland 10 (6-0 on the season, 3-3 against the spread)

Friday night football coming to Camp Randall Stadium.

MADISON — Friday night football is coming to Camp Randall Stadium — again.

The Big Ten announced Friday that Wisconsin’s 2018 game against Western Kentucky had been moved from Sept. 1 to Aug. 31, making it the second straight year the Badgers will open on a Friday night. This season, a crowd of 75,324 watched Wisconsin beat Utah State 59-10. It was the first time since 2002 the Badgers had started the season on a Friday.

There has been pushback by various organizations, especially the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association, to Friday night games with the main complaint centering around the impact on high school football. This year, a number of schools in the Madison area moved games to Thursday night to avoid a conflict with the Badgers.

When the announcement was made last November that the Big Ten would be playing more on Friday night, Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez issued a statement saying the Badgers were open to it in “selected years” but only for games played prior to Labor Day weekend.

4-star guard Tyler Herro de-commits from Wisconsin

MADISON — The Wisconsin basketball program took a major hit Tuesday with the de-commitment of Tyler Herro.

The 4-star guard, committed to the Badgers for more than a year, announced on Twitter that he was reopening his recruitment.

“I would like to thank the Wisconsin coaching staff for all the time they have spent on me, all the opportunities they have given me, and most importantly, all the faith they have put in me over the past thirteen months. Wisconsin basketball is a first class program that is lead by a first class coach.

After a lot of conversations with my family and prayer, I have decided to reopen my recruitment and explore all of my options. The past year since I committed I have grown not only as a basketball player, but as a person. My drive to become the best on all levels has been the fuel that drove this decision.

I want to thank the Badger fans for their constant support over the years. I wish the University of Wisconsin nothing but the best. The state of Wisconsin has always treated me with tremendous support and I will always call Wisconsin my home. I am not asking anyone to like my decision, but to respect it. I’m looking forward to the next chapter in my life and thanks again for your continued support.”

Herro was on Wisconsin’s campus as recently as two weeks ago when he took his official visit and spent time recruiting 2020 wing Jalen Johnson from Sun Prairie.

Ranked as the No. 2 player in the state in the 2018 class, Herro had offers from a myriad of programs before he committed, including Florida, Arizona, Indiana and others. According to Evan Flood of 247Sports, among the teams that will be in the running for Herro include North Carolina, Kentucky and Kansas.

His de-commitment, leaves Wisconsin with just one player in the Class of 2018 — center Joe Hedstrom from Hopkins, Minnesota.

Once again, the Packers will be forced to live life without Aaron Rodgers

MINNEAPOLIS — Whether he didn’t want to admit he knew or genuinely didn’t, Green Bay Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb’s reaction when asked about Aaron Rodgers’ health was likely one that was playing out in the homes of fans all across the country. He almost went through all the various stages of grief from denial to anger to acceptance in the very quick back-and-forth with reporters.

Cobb: “He’s going to do everything he can. I don’t know what the injury is. I haven’t had chance to (check on that).”

Reporter: “It’s a broken collarbone.”

Cobb: “Is that confirmed?”

Reporter: “Yes.”

Cobb: “I don’t know. I’ll never trust sources.”

Reporter: “That was your team.”

Cobb: “Team issued? OK. Well, I don’t know. We’ll have to put the pieces together and see what we can do.”

Like everyone else, Cobb was being forced to think about life without one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game. When Minnesota linebacker Anthony Barr drove Rodgers into the ground on the second drive of Sunday’s game it altered not only what played out the rest of the way, but also what the rest of the season can be for a Packers team so dependent on the right arm of No. 12. The news that he broke his right collarbone on the hit and could miss the rest of the year is as debilitating of an injury as any NFL team can suffer.

“He’s the heartbeat of this team,” wide receiver Davonte Adams said. “It runs through him. He’s the best doing it in this game.”

We were treated to the greatness of Rodgers just seven days ago in Dallas, with the two-time NFL MVP leading a game-winning drive that showcased all of what makes him special and what made the Packers so dangerous. But standing inside the visitors locker room Sunday afternoon after a 23-10 loss to Minnesota, that vision of Rodgers screaming, “That’s what we do” over and over again couldn’t seem longer ago. Instead of being asked about how Rodgers makes the impossible happen, teammates were being tasked with figuring out how to move on without their leader.

“It’s devastating. No question about it,” Cobb said. “We still have to play football. We have a long season ahead of us to figure out what we are going to do.”

What they’re going to do is hand the keys of the offense to Brett Hundley. The ridiculous suggestions of coaxing former Dallas Cowboys’ quarterback Tony Romo out of the TV booth were put to rest as soon as coach Mike McCarthy took to the podium after the game.

“Brett Hundley and Joe Callahan are my quarterbacks,” McCarthy said when asked if they’d bring someone in from the outside. “That is what I am focused on. I am not here for any personnel comments or ideas. Brett Hundley and Joe Callahan — that is what we’re going with.”

Hundley, placed in a tough situation against a very good defense and behind a patchwork offensive line, was up and down after replacing Rodgers. He was 18 of 33 for 157 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions, though two of the turnovers came on tipped passes. He didn’t take a single snap with the first-team offense in preparing for the game, and the plan going in wasn’t necessarily suited to his skillset. Both of those will change before he’s under center next Sunday against New Orleans.

“I’ll be better, especially with a week to prepare,” Hundley said. “For the offense, I trust in the offense. I believe in them. I love them. And they know I’m going to give them my best and they’re going to do the same. We’ll be better with a week of preparation. We’ll for sure get some things done.”

But no matter how well prepared Hundley and the team are, we know this won’t be easy to navigate for Green Bay. We saw it play out in 2013 when Rodgers suffered a broken collarbone on his left side and missed seven games. The Packers managed to go just 2-5-1 in his absence, including the game he got hurt, with three different quarterbacks — Seneca Wallace, Scott Tolzien and Matt Flynn — getting a start.

While unproven, the team feels better about Hundley now then they did any of those three, but he won’t be playing with a full deck. It’s that uncertainty around him will surely hurt his chances to shine. The running game, outside of the Dallas win, has been non-existent this year. And by the time Sunday’s game was over the Packers were missing three starters along an offensive line that has been juggling bodies all year.

It’s not an ideal situation, but it’s the situation the team finds itself in — having to somehow replace the irreplaceable Rodgers.

“Losing Aaron Rodgers speaks for itself,” McCarthy said. “In my opinion, he is the best player in football, but this is a team game. This is the ultimate team game, and we need to be better with the 11 people on the field that we have regardless of the phase that we’re in. Ultimately that’s my reasonability.”

Packers lose Aaron Rodgers to injury

MINNEAPOLIS — For the first time since 2013, the Green Bay Packers will be forced to play an extended period of time without Aaron Rodgers.

The quarterback was knocked out of Sunday’s game against Minnesota in the first quarter after being driven into the ground by linebacker Anthony Barr, and the team announced that he suffered a broken collarbone. It’s possible he’ll miss the rest of the season.

It’s the second time Rodgers has broken his collarbone, the other time coming in 2013. That was to his left side and he ended up missing seven games before returning in Week 17 in a win over the Chicago Bears.

Green Bay also lost left guard Lane Taylor to a knee/ankle injury and cornerback Quinten Rollins to an ankle injury in the first half.

Wisconsin didn’t play well, but with top-10 teams falling elsewhere, the win is all that matters

MADISON, Wis.| On the surface, a 17-9 win over Purdue is far from impressive. The Boilermakers are clearly tougher under new coach Jeff Brohm and continued to fight despite falling behind by two scores in the first half, but it’s still a program that has been at the bottom of the Big Ten for more than a decade. That said, after what happened all over the college football world this weekend, the Badgers should take their 6-0 record and run. Because while four top-10 teams fell to unranked opponents, and a total of five unbeaten clubs picked up their first losses of the season, coach Paul Chryst and company are off to the school’s best start since 2011.

Why did they avoid the pitfalls the others could not? Because they made the necessary plays that the likes of No. 2 Clemson and No. 4 Washington could not against double-digit underdogs. Whether it was Leon Jacobs’ clutch fourth-quarter interception, or redshirt freshman Kendric Pryor converting a key third-down with his first career catch or sophomore Quintez Cephus pushing his way through two defenders on another third down to help keep Wisconsin’s final drive going, the Badgers came through at the most important times. Wisconsin found ways to win that others did not.

After the game, though, fans took to social media and post-game radio shows to bemoan how Wisconsin won, including being critical of the Badgers inability to finish possessions and the play of quarterback Alex Hornibrook. And it’s easy to see why they complain, considering the offense rolled up 494 yards yet scored just 17 points, while the angst over Hornibrook’s struggles in Big Ten play grew as the day went on, with the sophomore throwing two more interceptions, bringing his total to five in the last three games. Those are legitimate gripes, but they come on the same weekend in which seven top-25 teams fell and the number of unbeaten teams went from 13 to eight.

There were others worried that efforts like Saturday will haunt Wisconsin when it comes time for the College Football Playoff committee to choose its four teams, but that’s foolish. The Badgers only path into the playoff is to win all of their games. It was that way before the season, and it’s even more evident now. 6-0 is 6-0 no matter how they got there.

So, again, when you turn the ball over three times, commit eight debilitating penalties and get a punt blocked, yet still come out on top, you take that win and run. Yes, you acknowledge your mistakes and work to get better, but you don’t have to apologize to anyone. On this weekend, a win was a win.