Preview: (9) Wisconsin at Nebraska

THE BASICS

The teams: The No. 9 Wisconsin Badgers (4-0, 1-0) vs the Nebraska Cornhuskers (3-2, 2-0)

The time: 7 p.m. CDT, Saturday

The place: Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, Neb.

The TV coverage: BTN with Kevin Kugler and Matt Millen in the booth, and Lisa Byington on the sideline.

The last time: Dare Ogunbowale ran for 120 yards and the game-winning touchdown in overtime as the Badgers beat Nebraska 23-17 at Camp Randall Stadium last October.

The series: Wisconsin leads 7-4

The line: Wisconsin -11.5

The Badgers injury report:

QUESTIONABLE

TE Troy Fumagalli (leg)
DE Isaiahh Loudermilk (leg)
K P.J. Rosowski (leg)

OUT

Game:

RB Taiwan Deal (leg)
DE Chikwe Obasih (knee)
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) Claim the West

There is still plenty of football to be played, but the winner of Saturday night’s game will grab the inside track to the Big Ten West title, and that’s especially true of Wisconsin. While Nebraska still has games against Ohio State and a road trip to Penn State, this has the potential to be the toughest road game left on the Badgers schedule. Get by this one, hold serve at home against Iowa and Michigan, and Wisconsin will put itself in position to be a legitimate College Football Playoff contender.

2) The real Alex Hornibrook

Wisconsin quarterback Alex Hornibrook’s numbers are very good. He leads the Big Ten in pass efficiency, ranks second in completion percentage and already has as many touchdowns this year (9) as he had all of last year. But he’s also been a little shaky at times, specifically after making a mistake. Coach Paul Chryst said after last week’s win, in which the sophomore quarterback threw one touchdown but also two interceptions, that Hornibrook needs to trust what he’s seeing and let it rip. The Badgers have been able to overcome the inconsistency so far, but the margin shrinks on the road in Big Ten play.

3) The Blackshirts are back?

It took 1 1/2 games, but it appears Nebraska’s defenders are warming up to the new 3-4 scheme that Bob Diaco brought with him when the Huskers made him the highest-paid assistant in school history this offseason. After giving up 42 points in the first half at Oregon, Diaco’s defense has allowed just two touchdowns since then, including keeping Illinois out of the end zone last week. The big question, though, is whether that’s a product of good defense or subpar offenses? Wisconsin will figure out the answer to that question one way or the other on Saturday night.

4) Bringing the pressure

Northwestern quarterback Clayton Thorson got acquainted with the Wisconsin defense last week to the tune of eight sacks — the most for the Badgers since 2001. Hitting those numbers again this week aren’t likely, but Nebraska quarterback Tanner Lee can expect plenty of people in his face. And as opposed to Thorson, who could pull the ball down and run a little bit, Lee is not mobile. It would be a surprise if the Huskers don’t find a way to get the ball out of Lee’s hand quickly or run some draws and screens to try and slow Wisconsin’s rush.

5) Walking into a hornet’s nest

Nebraska doesn’t lose home games at night. The Huskers have won 20 straight games at night in Memorial Stadium, and the environment, like it is at Camp Randall Stadium, changes when the lights come on. Add in the fact Wisconsin is No. 9 in the country, is a double-digit favorite and the mounting pressure on coach Mike Riley to deliver a marquee win, and the Badgers should expect a scene unlike most of the players on the team have dealt with before. It’ll be key for Wisconsin to buck its trend of slow starts and not give Nebraska any extra energy in a stadium that will already be full of it.

NUMBERS TO CONSIDER

— Nebraska is a double-digit underdog at home for the first time since 2008 against Missouri. The Huskers lost that game 52-17.

— Despite missing the Northwestern game, tight end Troy Fumagalli leads the team in targets, catches (15), yards (236) and is tied for the lead in touchdowns (3).

— Wisconsin has outscored Nebraska by 110 points in their six meetings since the Huskers entered the Big Ten in 2011.

PREDICTIONS

Zach Heilprin’s prediction: Wisconsin 27, Nebraska 20 (4-0 on the season, 3-1 against the spread)
Ebo’s prediction: Wisconsin 31, Nebraska 13 (4-0 on the season, 2-2 against the spread)
Joe Miller’s prediction: Wisconsin 28, Nebraska 13 (4-0 on the season, 2-2 against the spread)

Injury update on Wisconsin TE Troy Fumagalli

MADISON — It’s looking like Wisconsin will have the services of tight end Troy Fumagalli on Saturday at Nebraska.

“Troy’s been able to work every day this week and each day do a little bit more,” coach Paul Chryst told reporters. “Feel good [about him playing] barring any setback from [Thursday’s] work.”

Fumagalli is Wisconsin’s top offensive weapon, leading them in catches (15) and yards (236) despite missing last week’s game against Northwestern with a leg injury. In his place, sophomore Kyle Penniston and junior Zander Neuville combined for one catch.

Meanwhile, Chryst said that defensive end Isaiahh Loudermilk, who is listed as questionable with a leg injury, practiced on Thursday and he feels good about his chances of playing on Saturday. The 6-foot-7, 303-pound redshirt freshman is a vital component to Wisconsin’s front seven, especially with senior Chikwe Obasih still out with a knee injury.

Here is Wisconsin’s full injury report:

QUESTIONABLE
TE Troy Fumagalli (leg)
DE Isaiahh Loudermilk (leg)
K P.J. Rosowski (leg)

OUT
RB Taiwan Deal
DE Chikwe Obasih
WR George Rushing

OUT FOR SEASON

OLB Zack Baun (foot)
RB Sam Broadner (knee)
ILB Jack Cichy (knee)
ILB Mason Stokke (leg)

Former Wisconsin quarterback Joel Stave back in the NFL

Joel Stave has found a new team.

The former Wisconsin quarterback has been signed to the Washington Redskinspractice squad, the team announced Tuesday.

Stave went undrafted in 2016 after finishing his Wisconsin career with 7,365 yards, 48 touchdowns and the most wins (31) of any quarterback in program history. He spent time with the Minnesota Vikings, Seattle Seahawks and Kansas City Chiefs, including the 2017 preseason with the latter.

He was released by the Chiefs in September after completing 4 of 9 passes for 80 yards and one touchdown during the preseason.

The Redskins cut offensive lineman Jerry Ugokwe to make room for Stave.

(10) Badgers 33, Northwestern 24: 2-minute drill

MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin used an early second half burst to take a lead and then held on for a 33-24 victory over Northwestern on Saturday in the Big Ten opener for both teams.

Play of the Game

Wisconsin’s offense was struggling to get anything going when it faced a third-and-3 early in the third quarter and trailing 10-7. Instead of trying to pick it up running, the Badgers went play-action and hit it big. Quarterback Alex Hornibrook found Quintez Cephus wide open down the field for a 61-yard gain. Wisconsin would score on the next play to take the lead and wouldn’t trail again.

Asked whether it was a call he made based on his gut or something he saw in the Northwestern defense, coach Paul Chryst said it was a little bit of both before jokingly adding, “It’s the one that’s second-guessed if it doesn’t work.”

Game Balls

Offense: WR Quintez Cephus

Without tight end Troy Fumagalli, the sophomore wide receiver became the No. 1 weapon in the passing game for Wisconsin, seeing the ball come his way seven times on Saturday. And he was more than ready, finishing with four catches for 99 yards, and it was his 61-yard catch and run that set the Badgers up to take the lead.

Defense: Natrell Jamerson

Wisconsin had a big hole to fill at safety after 2016 Team MVP Leo Musso moved on and they looked to Jamerson to fill it. On Saturday, we saw why they felt so confident he’d be able to fill that role despite having never played the position before.

The versatile senior was everywhere against Northwestern, racking up four tackles, 1/2 a sack, two interceptions and one touchdown. If that wasn’t enough, he also continues to be a stalwart on special teams, including downing a punt at the 2-yard line that ended up leading to the game-clinching safety by D’Cota Dixon.

Special Teams: Anthony Lotti

The sophomore had another nice game, dropping three punts inside the 20-yard line, while also booming a 52-yard kick when Wisconsin was backed up in its own end zone late in the game.

Video of the game

Best tweets

In their own words

What did Jamerson see on his interception return for a touchdown?

“Green grass.”

In Case You Missed It

— Wisconsin’s captains Natrell Jamerson, Jazz Peay and Alex James, with former quarterback Brooks Bollinger serving as the honorary captain.

— Tight end Troy Fumagalli missed the game with what the Badgers called a minor leg injury. Chryst said they didn’t know until Friday night if he would play or not. They don’t expect it to be a long term issue.

— Wisconsin became the last team to allow a point in the second half of a game this year.

— Left tackle Michael Deiter was replaced on two of the final three series of the game by redshirt freshman Cole Van Lanen. Deiter told reporters afterwards that the ankle injury he suffered against BYU was still bothering him.

Inside the Numbers

8 — That’s how many sacks the Badgers had on Saturday — the most they’ve had in a single game since 2001.

84 — That’s how many points Wisconsin has outscored its opponents by in the second half of games this year.

11 — That’s how many different players have scored a touchdown for Wisconsin this year, the same number as all of last year.

What’s Next

Wisconsin (4-0) heads to Nebraska (3-1) to take on the Cornhuskers in a night game at Memorial Stadium next Saturday.

Preview: (10) Wisconsin vs Northwestern

THE BASICS

The teams: The No. 10 Wisconsin Badgers (3-0) vs the Northwestern Wildcats (2-1)

The time: 11 a.m. CDT, Saturday

The place: Camp Randall Stadium, Madison, Wis.

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

The last time: Corey Clement ran for 106 yards and a touchdown, while the Wisconsin defense held Justin Jackson to just 42 yards in a 21-7 win for the Badgers last November.

The series: Wisconsin leads 58-35-5

The line: Wisconsin -16.5

The Badgers injury report:

QUESTIONABLE

LG Jon Dietzen (leg)
K P.J. Rosowski (leg)

OUT

Game:

RB Taiwan Deal (leg)
DE Chikwe Obasih (knee)
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) Keep it going?

Wisconsin had its bye last week, and while it was needed considering how banged up the Badgers were, it also came after they played their most complete game of the year in a 40-6 whipping of BYU. Both sides of the ball dominated the action almost from the start, and they looked like the team many thought they would be during fall camp. Will that continue or will the week off get them out of their rhythm and lead to the reappearance of some hiccups seen in the first two games?

2) Encore performance

The last time we saw Alex Hornibrook, the sophomore was completing 18 of his 19 passes to set the single-game school record for completion percentage. Obviously, no one is expecting a repeat of that masterful performance, but can the quarterback take advantage of a banged up Northwestern secondary? If he does, it will be because his increased trust in his receivers and tight ends continues to grow and the brilliant pass blocking he got against BYU carries over to Saturday.

3) We meet again

Over the last 30 years, Wisconsin has clearly been more successful as a program than Northwestern, but the records in the series don’t indicate that. In fact, since 1985 each school has won 13 times. And some of the games the Wildcats have won have been absolute heartbreakers for the Badgers, including 2015 (Jazz Peavy catch, non-catch), 2009 (John Clay fumble on potential game-winning drive), 2000 (OT loss in final game of ShoeBox suspensions) and 1996 (Barry Alvarez didn’t want to take a knee). All of those games felt more like a Wisconsin loss than a Northwestern win. What will the 99th meeting between the two schools bring?

4) Slowing Justin Jackson

If you feel like this is the 20th time Justin Jackson has played against Wisconsin, you’re not alone. It’s what happens when a true freshman torches a strong defense like Jackson did to the Badgers in 2014, rushing for 162 yards. He followed that up with 139 yards and a touchdown in 2015. The one game Wisconsin has won since Jackson arrived at Northwestern came last year when the Badgers held him to 42 yards. If they can slow him in a similar fashion on Saturday, and force quarterback Clayton Thorson to beat them through the air, the chances Wisconsin moves to 4-0 get a nice bump.

5) Can Wisconsin run the ball?

Two years ago, Wisconsin had -26 yards rushing against Northwestern. Last year, the Badgers ran for 190 yards but just 3.3 yards per carry and 46 of that came on a Jazz Peavy fly sweep. So can Wisconsin, which owns the best rushing attack in the Big Ten and boasts the fifth-leading rusher in the country in Jonathan Taylor, take advantage of a Wildcats’ defense that is giving up 157 yards per game? If they can, it will add to a growing collection of evidence that the offensive line is getting closer to being a top-flight unit again.

NUMBERS TO CONSIDER

—- Wisconsin is just 3-6 as a ranked team against Northwestern since 2000

—- Quarterback Alex Hornibrook has a passing efficiency rating of 188.98, the best mark in the Big Ten and the third-best in the country.

—- The Badgers have had at least 200 yards passing and rushing in each of their first three games this year, matching the total they had in 2015 and 2016 combined.

— Wisconsin is 14-3 against Big Ten West teams since the start of 2014. Two of those losses have come against Northwestern.

PREDICTIONS

Zach Heilprin’s prediction: Wisconsin 27, Northwestern 13 (3-0 on the season, 2-1 against the spread)
Ebo’s prediction: Wisconsin 38, Northwestern 13 (3-0 on the season, 2-1 against the spread)
Joe Miller’s prediction: Wisconsin 31, Northwestern 7 (3-0 on the season, 2-1 against the spread)

Packers 35, Chicago 14: 2-minute drill

GREEN BAY, Wis. — Chicago quarterback Mike Glennon turned the ball over four times, while Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers threw four touchdowns in what turned into a 35-14 blowout win for the Packers on Thursday night at Lambeau Field.

Play of the Game

Green Bay led 7-0 after its first drive and the Bears were looking for an answer. They didn’t get it. Instead, outside linebacker Clay Matthews came off the edge on Chicago’s first snap and knocked the ball loose from Glennon. Linebacker Jake Ryan recovered at the Bears 3-yard line, and three plays later the Packers were in the end zone to claim a 14-0 lead.

Game Balls

Offense: Offensive line

A patchwork group that had Lane Taylor playing left tackle for the first time ever, an undrafted free agent in Lucas Patrick making his first career start at left guard and another undrafted free agent in Justin McCray getting the nod at right tackle, the Packers were able to get movement in the running game and kept Rodgers upright for most of the night, allowing just two sacks. It was a dire situation the line faced and they held up.

Defense: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix

Clinton-Dix had one of the two interceptions that Glennon threw, and finished with eight solo tackles. On a wet field that could have proven disastrous for the defense, Clinton-Dix and company got the job done in forcing a total of four turnovers.

Special Teams: Justin Vogel

The rookie punter had a fantastic night in tough conditions. He punted five times, and finished with a net of 46.2 yards. He dropped one inside the 20 and never allowed the dangerous Tarik Cohen to burn them in the return game.

In their own words

Green Bay wide receiver Davante Adams took what many are calling a clear cheap shot to the head by linebacker Danny Trevathan in the third quarter. It sent Adams’ mouth guard flying, and he ended up being taken off the field on a gurney and to a local hospital.

While Adams was said to be doing fine and all early signs were positive, the fallout from the hit poured into the locker room, where Trevathan was engulfed by reporters. He reportedly told them that while he was sorry that Adams got hurt, it wasn’t intentional and he doesn’t believe he should be fined or suspended.

In the Green Bay locker room, most of the players wouldn’t comment on whether the hit was dirty or not, but the one guy that always speaks his mind — tight end Martellus Bennett — let everyone know his feelings on the matter.

“I thought it was f**ked up,” Bennett said. “No matter what team they’re on, you don’t want anyone to go through that situation. They have families and things like that.

“What we thought was f**ked up was he was celebrating that play. You’re getting your ass kicked, you take a cheap shot and then celebrate when a guy goes down. That’s what really pissed us off.”

In Case You Missed It

— During the national anthem, both teams lined up on the sideline with arms interlocked in a show of unity. However, the call by Rodgers during the week for fans to join them went largely unanswered. Bennett, who sat during the anthem on last Sunday, told reporters he could hear someone in the crowd yelling at him.

“Some motherf**ker yelling, ‘Put your hand on your heart.’ That’s all I heard,” Bennett said. “Someone just kept saying, ‘Put your hand on your heart! Put your hand on your heart!’ I’m like, my arms are locked, back the f**k up.”

— Play was suspended at the end of the first quarter due to serve weather in the area. The delay lasted 46 minutes.

— Green Bay was hammered by injuries, including losing starting running back Ty Montgomery early in the game. It was reported by the NFL Network that Montgomery sustained broken ribs and will be out an undetermined amount of time.

Other injuries:

Blake Martinez (concussion | returned)
Josh Jones (back — returned)
Jamaal Williams (knee)
Joe Thomas (ankle)

— Cornerback Damarious Randall was benched after allowing a touchdown late in the first half and was replaced by Josh Hawkins. Randall spent the first part of the second half with arms stretched out sitting on the bench. He later walked back to the locker room by himself and the team said he was not injured. Asked afterwards about Randall, coach Mike McCarthy said, “That’s an internal matter that we’ll keep internal.”

Inside the Numbers

75 — That’s the number of sacks Matthews has in his career — now the most in team history.

24 — That’s the total number of yards that Aaron Rodgers’ last seven touchdowns have traveled.

4 — That’s the number of offensive line combinations Green Bay has used through the first four games of the season.

3 — That’s how many pass deflections that Hawkins had in what was essentially two quarters of work.

What’s Next

Green Bay (3-1) will travel to take on the Dallas Cowboys (2-1) Oct. 8. at AT&T Stadium.

Packers 27, Bengals 24 (OT): 2-minute drill

GREEN BAY, Wis. — Aaron Rodgers threw for 313 yards and three touchdowns as the Green Bay Packers erased a 21-7 deficit to beat the Cincinnati Bengals 27-24 in overtime on Sunday at Lambeau Field.

Play of the Game

Green Bay was in danger of having to give the ball back to the Bengals in overtime, facing a third-and-10 from their own 21-yard line. But Rodgers got Cincinnati to jump offsides and took advantage, throwing deep to wide receiver Geronimo Allison, whose 72-yard catch and run set the stage for a game-winning 27-yard field goal from Mason Crosby.

Game Balls

Offense: Aaron Rodgers

The two-time MVP found his form late and brought the Packers back from a a deficit that he helped build. He was just 9 of 15 for 73 yards in the first half and threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown. That effort got him and the offense booed off the field at halftime, and he was actually OK with that, saying he probably would have been booing, too.

But he came on in the second half, especially on the final two drives. Trailing 24-17 with 3:46 left, Rodgers went 8 of 10 for 54 yards and found wide receiver Jordy Nelson for the game-tying touchdown with just 17 second left. Then, in overtime, he hit Allison for the big play to put them in position for the win.

Defense: Josh Jones

In his first career start, Jones was a star. Playing what was essentially as an inside linebacker much of the game, Jones finished with a game-high 12 tackles, including two in overtime that got the ball back to the offense. The N.C. State product also had a pair of sacks, including one that forced a tougher field goal attempt, an attempt that kicker Randy Bullock missed. This is what the Packers had in mind when they took Jones in the second round of the NFL draft last April.

Special Teams: Mason Crosby

The kicks he made weren’t tough — his words — but they were obviously important. The veteran connected on an extra point to send the game into overtime and then the 27-yard kick to win it. The Bengals tried to ice him each time by calling timeout but he wasn’t phased.

In their own words

Tight end Lance Kendricks was one of three players to sit during the national anthem on Sunday. While he was supporting teammate Martellus Bennett, he was also doing it to draw attention to the crisis in Puerto Rico, which has been decimated by Hurricane Maria.

“I want to support a teammate. I understand what’s going on with Marty and his brother. It’s tough.

Secondly I was just trying to bring some awareness to what’s going on in Puerto Rico. It’s a U.S. Territory. We need to get over there and help those people. That’s just as important as anything else. I just want to bring some awareness to that and nothing more.

My wife is Puerto Rican. I’ve been to Puerto Rico three or four times. It’s a beautiful place. And for it to be half underwater, and help not to get their ASAP, I feel like that’s something that should really be focused on.

I’m not in anyway political. I don’t really have a huge voice on that. That’s just my opinion. If people don’t like it, you can’t be selfish. It’s bigger than us. It’s bigger than all of this.”

In Case You Missed It

— Three players — tight ends Martellus Bennett and Lance Kendricks, along with cornerback Kevin King — sat on the bench during the national anthem, while a large number of players, including quarterback Aaron Rodgers, stood with their arms interlocked as a show of solidarity in response to comments from President Donald Trump.

— Kendricks, who is from Milwaukee and played for Wisconsin, scored the first touchdown of his Packers career. He capped it off with a Lambeau Leap that included him flashing the “W.”

— Rodgers’ second quarter interception was returned 75 yards for a touchdown by William Jackson — just the second time he’s had one taken back for a score. For reference, former Packers quarterback Brett Favre threw 35 pick-6s in his career.

— Jordy Nelson’s 1-yard touchdown and 3-yard touchdown catches gave him 66 in his career, leaving him trailing only Don Huston’s 99 in team history.

— Right tackle Bryan Bulaga left Sunday’s game in the fourth quarter with an ankle injury and did not return. Bulaga missed the first two games of the season because of the ankle injury.

Inside the Numbers

89 — That was the temperature on Sunday, making it the warmest home game in Lambeau Field history.

5 — That’s the number of times quarterback Aaron Rodgers was sacked in the first half — the second-most in a single half in his career.

3 — That’s how many times Rodgers has thrown for at least 300 yards this season — the first time in his career he’s topped the mark three straight times to open a season.

2 — That’s the number of sacks Josh Jones had on Sunday — the most by any Packers rookie defensive back in team history.

What’s Next

Green Bay (2-1) has a short week as the Packers will welcome the Chicago Bears (1-2) to town on Thursday night.

Grades for Wisconsin at the quarter pole of the season

These types of articles are normally reserved for the middle of the season when you’ve likely got six or more games to judge a team on. But with Wisconsin’s bye coming after just three weeks — and no other break in the action until the first or second week of December — we decided to undertake an effort to grade what we’ve seen so far in a 3-0 start for the Badgers. Is it fair to do so with such a small sample size? Probably not. But here we go.

Quarterback: B+

Save for a rough outing late in the second quarter and most of the second half against Florida Atlantic, Alex Hornibrook has been fantastic in his second year as a starter. After throwing nine touchdowns all of last year, the sophomore has thrown eight already and is on pace to break Russell Wilson’s single-season school record of 33. And perhaps even more importantly, he’s got just one interception.

The competition will certainly pick up in Big Ten play, but Hornibrook looks like the quarterback many envisioned coming into the year.

Running back: A-

If we were grading this based on Jonathan Taylor alone, it would have easily been an A+. The New Jersey native has been terrific in averaging 146 yards per game — tops for any freshman in the country. He’s still learning and isn’t perfect, but his blend of power, speed and balance make him a terror for defenses.

The rest of the running back group has been up and down. Junior Chris James was anxious and struggled in his debut against Utah State, before bouncing back with a 100-yard outing in a win over Florida Atlantic. Sophomore Bradrick Shaw looked solid as the starter in the opener, but an injury kept him out in Week 2, and it seems unlikely he’ll get his job back this season considering what Taylor has done.

The freshman is the lead dog here and is the reason for such a high grade.

Wide receiver: B

All of the wide receivers have taken a significant leap from a year ago, especially Quintez Cephus. The sophomore already has three touchdowns and has become Wisconsin’s No. 1 option on the outside.

A.J. Taylor, Danny Davis and Jazz Peavy have all been involved and looked solid, but the overall grade suffers due to the drops in the first two weeks. Still, this group has the makings of being the deepest Wisconsin has had in recent memory. Their final grade figures to be much higher.

Tight ends: A-

Troy Fumagalli was outstanding in the first two games, gaining nearly 100 yards each week. He caught his third touchdown of the year against BYU in what was an otherwise quiet game for the preseason All-American. The senior has also been part of a strong rushing attack that is currently second in the Big Ten.

Outside of junior Zander Neuville’s impressive touchdown catch against Utah State, he and sophomore Kyle Penniston have not really been heavily involved in the passing game, combining for five catches through three games. They, like Fumagalli, still play a vital role in the run game.

LISTEN: The latest edition of our Wisconsin podcast ‘The Camp’

Offensive line: B

The numbers would suggest Wisconsin has been off the charts good along the line, as the Badgers rank 14th in the country in rushing at 275 yards per game and are giving up about one sack per game. But while they’ve been pretty good, in only one game — against BYU — were they the dominating unit many thought they would be. While the game was still in doubt, they opened huge running holes and allowed Hornibrook to have all day to pass. If they can get that kind of effort on a week-to-week basis, their end of the of season grade will jump significantly.

Defensive line: B+

Wisconsin’s defense isn’t designed for the linemen to have big numbers, and that has certainly played out for the group in the first three games as they’ve combined for just one tackle for loss. But they’ve played a role in helping the Badgers limit opponents to 90.6 yards per game on the ground, good enough for 15th in the nation.

They’ve done it largely without senior Chikwe Obasih (knee), who remains sidelined indefinitely . While it’s been a challenge without him, redshirt freshman Isaiahh Loudermilk has filled in nicely behind senior starters Alec James and Conor Sheehy.

Linebackers: A-

Teams have been able to run the ball early in games against Wisconsin, but that’s been more about scheme than anything physical. Once they’ve had a chance to digest what they’re seeing, it’s been lights out for opposing offenses.

At inside linebacker, sophomore Chris Orr leads the team in tackles coming off a missed season with a torn ACL, while junior T.J. Edwards has continued to evolve as a playmaker, coming up with three tackles for loss and two interceptions. Junior Ryan Connelly has been solid, too.

On the outside, senior Leon Jacobs leads Wisconsin with four tackles for loss, senior Garret Dooley has been solid on the edge, and junior Andrew Van Ginkel has proven to be the pass rusher the Badgers needed with his two sacks.

Secondary: B

Wisconsin has been up in its games, so the passing numbers for the opposition aren’t great indicators of how well the secondary is playing — and they are playing well. The only concern here is the issues they had in communication in the first two games, including on a play that resulted in a long touchdown for Florida Atlantic. But none of those things showed up against BYU, and it’s possible they just needed time to adjust with several new faces seeing the field for the first time.

Special teams: B+

The Badgers have been solid here, with kicker Rafael Gaglianone going 3 of 4 on field goals, while Anthony Lotti has dropped four of his 10 punts inside the 20-yard line. With kickoffs split between Zach Hintze and P.J. Rosowski, Wisconsin is allowing opponents to start — on average — at their own 22-yard line.

The return units with Nick Nelson and Taylor, especially the latter on kickoff, have been one or two blocks away from taking one back for a score.

Overall: A-

After an uneven first two weeks, Wisconsin showed against BYU what it can be and what many believe it will be. That’s reflected in the overall grade, as we add in the promise shown and the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately factor.

(10) Wisconsin 40, BYU 6: 2-minute drill

PROVO, Utah — Playing in the state of Utah for the first time in its history, No. 10 Wisconsin rolled to a 40-6 win over BYU on Saturday at Lavell Edwards Stadium. The Badgers used a balanced attack to pile up 491 yards and limited the Cougars to just 192 as they moved to 3-0 for a second straight year.

Play of the Game

Danny Davis had shown an ability to get over the top of defenses but him and quarterback Alex Hornibrook had yet to hook up. They did on Saturday, as the wide receiver hauled in a contested deep ball midway through the first quarter for a 50-yard gain. The play was reviewed but was upheld.

“The ball hit my hands, fell into my body, and [then] was on his body, so I ripped it away from him and ended up grabbing it,” Davis said.

But did he actually catch it?

“Yeah, I caught it,” he said. “Catch is a catch, baby.”

The play started what was the first of three straight touchdown drives as Wisconsin built a 24-3 lead on its way to a complete victory.

Game Balls

Offense: QB Alex Hornibrook

Alex Hornibrook heard some things in the postgame media room following the Florida Atlantic game that he didn’t like. Not anything to do with his arm strength — he’s used to that. No, some in the media were questioning his accuracy after completing just 8 of his final 19 passes in a 31-14 win.

“That’s one thing I kind of pride myself about is my accuracy, and I knew some people were questioning that last week,” Hornibrook said Saturday. “I’ve heard the arm strength thing my whole life. I don’t care too much about that. [The accuracy] is one thing I pride myself in, and it kind of irritated me last week.”

How did Hornibrook respond? By completing 18 of 19 passes for 256 yards and four touchdowns. His 94.7 percent completion percentage is the best in school history and his pass efficiency rating of 277.4 was the second-best.

“He was locked in all week,” guard Micah Kapoi said. “We saw it all week in his prep and how he practiced. It showed big time. He had great game.”

Defense: Dontye Carriere-Williams

It was clear that BYU had a plan of attacking the redshirt freshman and he held up. He finished with eight tackles and had the first interception of his career. Linebacker T.J. Edwards said Carriere-Williams played well enough that he now gets to be called by his name.

“We call him two-nine around just to call him by his number,” Edward said. “So we told him he graduated from two-nine today and we’ll call him Dontye from now on.

“He did a good job. He’s a good player for us. He’ll be really strong going forward.”

Special Teams: Zach Hintze

With junior P.J. Rosowski still not healthy, Zach Hintze got the nod on kickoffs again and he was busy. He had seven of them and four were touchbacks, while a fifth should have been.

Video of the Game

https://twitter.com/BadgerFootball/status/909207957077884928

From the coach

LISTEN: Paul Chryst addresses the media after the game

 

In their own words

Michael Deiter was hurt. The Wisconsin left tackle was dealing with a right ankle injury, so the Badgers sent Cole Van Lanen into the game to replace him. To put it mildly, Deiter objected to the replacement and sent him and a trainer running back to the sideline. Here’s Deiter on what was said and how it played out afterwards.

 

In Case You Missed It

— Wisconsin’s captains were tight end Troy Fumagalli, safety Natrell Jamerson, defensive end Alec James and wide receiver Jazz Peavy.

— Redshirt freshman Kendric Pryor made his college debut. The wide receiver had a strong spring and fall camp before injuring himself in a moped accident.

— Wisconsin won their first true non-conference road game since 2010.

— Junior Beau Benzschawel (right ankle) and sophomore Bradrick Shaw (leg) were both listed as questionable for the game but both played. Benzschawel started at right guard, while Shaw got four carries for 19 yards.

— Sophomore A.J. Taylor caught his first career touchdown on an 18-yard pass from Hornibrook in the third quarter.

— Prior to the game, a parachuter came in too fast and crashed into the north end zone wall and his chute ended up in the stands. He was checked out by medical personnel but seemed OK. You can see video here.

Inside the Numbers

7 of 7 — That was Alex Hornibrook’s effort on third down against BYU. Ninety-five yards and two of his touchdowns came on third down.

4 — That’s the number of touchdowns Hornibrook threw for — the most by any Wisconsin quarterback since Russell Wilson had four in 2011.

256 — That’s how many yards Hornibrook had on Saturday, his career-high. It was his third straight game of more than 200 yards after hitting that mark just once as a redshirt freshman.

0 — That’s the number of points Wisconsin’s defense has given up in the second half of games this year.

9-1 — That’s Wisconsin’s record in true road games under coach Paul Chryst.

What’s Next

Wisconsin (3-0) has its bye week before the Badgers start Big Ten play on Sept. 30 against Northwestern at Camp Randall Stadium.

Preview: (10) Wisconsin at BYU

THE BASICS

The teams: The No. 10 Wisconsin Badgers (2-0) vs the BYU Cougars (1-2)

The time: 2:30 p.m. CDT, Saturday

The place: Lavell Edwards Stadium, Provo, Utah

The TV coverage: ABC with Mike Patrick and Tommy Tuberville in the booth, and Paul Carcaterra on the sideline.

The last time: Wisconsin got 193 total yards and three touchdowns from running back James White in a 27-17 win at Camp Randall Stadium in 2013.

The series: 1-1

The line: Wisconsin -16

The Badgers injury report:

QUESTIONABLE

RB Bradrick Shaw (leg)
RG Beau Benzschawel (leg)
K P.J. Rosowski (leg)

OUT

Game:

RB Taiwan Deal (leg)
OL Jon Dietzen (leg)
DE Chikwe Obasih (knee)
WR George Rushing (leg)
S Patrick Johnson (arm)
FB Jake Whalen (head)

Season:

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

THE BREAKDOWN: FIVE THINGS TO WATCH

1) The injury bug

Wisconsin has yet to finish its non-conference season and the Badgers are already in desperate need of the bye they’ll get after this week. But getting to that bye week unscathed won’t be a an easy task with what they’ll be missing on Saturday. Already without a pair of starters on defense in defensive end Chikwe Obasih and linebacker Jack Cichy, the Badgers will not have starting left guard Jon Dietzen and potentially starting right guard Beau Benzschawel. Add in guys that were expected to contribute this year such as running back Taiwan Deal, wide receiver George Rushing, outside linebacker Zack Baun and safety Patrick Johnson, and you see the challenge coach Paul Chryst and his staff are facing.

2) On the road

Expect more than a dozen players to make their road debuts on Saturday for Wisconsin, including remarkable freshman running back Jonathan Taylor. How will they handle all the little extra things that come with a road game like this one, including the plane ride, an unfamiliar bed and surroundings to go along with a tough stadium environment? Most of them have risen to the occasion, especially Taylor, but this a new venue and we won’t know how they’ll react until they are put in the situation.

3) Playing at a high elevation

Part of the tough environment Wisconsin will deal with at Lavell Edwards Stadium is the actual environment. Provo, Utah sits 4,551-feet above sea level — or about 3,800-feet higher than Madison. Chryst admitted they were aware of what was awaiting them in Utah with the altitude and what it means in terms of breathing, but they could only do so much to prepare. The Badgers will likely need to count on their depth to help them through it, which could be tricky with their injury concerns.

4) A first start

Wisconsin isn’t the only team that is dinged up. BYU is, too. And at the most important position — quarterback. Though the BYU coaches weren’t willing to say who would start, all indications are that the ankle injury suffered by senior Tanner Mangum will keep him from playing, leaving sophomore Beau Hoge to get his first start and his first action of any kind since 2015. More of a dual threat than Mangum, Hoge takes over an offense that’s averaging 11 points per game and has struggled to produce any consistent success on that side of the ball.

The Badgers defense was nasty in the second half against Florida Atlantic, allowing just 50 yards and two first downs. They could be in line for a similar outing on Saturday.

5) Passing game improvement

The passing game has been a little hit or miss in the first two weeks for Wisconsin. Quarterback Alex Hornibrook is averaging more than 200 yards per game, has four touchdowns and just one interceptions, but there have been too many moments where things didn’t look quite right. And the issues were not centered on one person even if many want to point the finger at Hornibrook. Sure he missed some throws, but his numbers would look quite different if not for the myriad of dropped passes.

As Chryst said this week, it’s important for the quarterback to help the receivers, but it’s a two-way street, and outside of a couple outstanding catches by wide receiver Quintez Cephus, the help hasn’t been there enough. That needs to change for them to reach their potential through the air.

NUMBERS TO CONSIDER

Jonathan Taylor is averaging 155 yards per game, the highest total by any true freshman in college football. The second-best is Ohio State’s J.K. Dobbins with 126.5 yards per game, according to UWBadgers.com.

BYU has two players — running backs Ula Tolutau and Austin Kafentzis — that signed letters of intent to play for Wisconsin. Tolutau took his 2-year Mormon mission, and when he returned he decided, with Gary Andersen no longer coaching the Badgers, that he’d play elsewhere. Kafentzis, who committed to Andersen, came to Wisconsin even after the coach left for Oregon State, took part in spring practice in 2015 but transferred soon after.

Wisconsin is 0-2 in true road non-conference games since 2011, with one loss coming in 2012 at Oregon State and the second one in controversial fashion a year later at Arizona State.

This is the first time Wisconsin is playing a game in the state of Utah, leaving just 16 states where the Badgers have not played a game in program history.

PREDICTIONS

Zach Heilprin’s prediction: Wisconsin 27, BYU 13 (2-0 on the season, 1-1 against the spread)
Ebo’s prediction: Wisconsin 38, BYU 10 (2-0 on the season, 1-1 against the spread)
Joe Miller’s prediction: Wisconsin 31 , BYU 7 (2-0 on the season, 1-1 against the spread)