September is quickly turning into a month of horrors for BYU. While the Cougars offense has been atrocious, it was the defense’s turn to head South on Saturday as well, allowing Wisconsin to roll to an easy 40-6 victory that they controlled from the opening kickoff until the final few minutes.
Badgers quarterback Alex Hornibrook was the main reason why the team won their marquee non-conference road game, completing a nearly perfect afternoon in Provo by going 18/19 — the one incompletion was a bobbled drop — for 256 yards and four touchdown. Freshman tailback Jonathan Taylor joined in on the fun to continue his impressive run in the backfield by rushing for 128 yards and a score, literally using his big offensive line to run right over a typically stout BYU defense.
That the team put up nearly 500 yards of offense without involving star tight end Troy Fumagalli much (two catches, 39 yards and a touchdown) is also an encouraging sign for Paul Chryst’s squad as they enter Big Ten play in two weeks against Northwestern.
Wisconsin’s defense looked as good as ever in the picturesque setting under the Wasatch front but it was hard to tell if it was just the visitors being that good or the home team being that bad offensively. Beau Hoge struggled in his first start taking over for the injured Tanner Mangum (in a walking boot and scooter on the sidelines after an injury against Utah), completing just 11 passes for 111 yards while also throwing two interceptions. He didn’t get much help from his normally solid offensive line or run game either, with freshman Ula Tolutau managing to lead the ground game with only 58 yards.
The loss caps off a brutal run for the Cougars against Power Five competition, being outscored 86-19 in three losses to LSU, Utah and Wisconsin and managing to find the end zone just twice in 12 quarters. Things do ease up a tad on the schedule the rest of the way but it’s clear there are big questions that head coach Kalani Sitake and company have to answer going forward.
Meanwhile, the Badgers managed to pass their biggest test of the first half of the season with flying colors and may have an even better offense than first thought coming into the year. With Michigan likely being the only ranked team left on the schedule, Hornibrook and Wisconsin may be eyeing yet another division title and trip to a New Year’s Six bowl if they can continue to roll like this.
BYU’s offense has been lackluster to start the 2017 season and they didn’t get much respite in their Week 3 matchup against Wisconsin’s stifling defense. As a result, the combination of a backup quarterback for the Cougars and an efficient performance from the visitors on both sides of the ball allowed the Badgers to hold a 24-6 lead going into the locker room at halftime in Provo.
Wisconsin tailback Jonathan Taylor picked up where he left of last week and led the way on the ground with 86 yards rushing and a touchdown that he powered across the goal line. His performance helped take the pressure off his backfield teammate Alex Hornibrook, who wrapped up two quarters worth of work with a near perfect stat line of 10/11 for 149 yards and two scores. Perhaps the biggest surprise for Paul Chryst’s offense was how much of that passing game didn’t have to rely on stud tight end Troy Fumagalli (just one catch for 20 yards).
With BYU starting quarterback Tanner Mangum on the sidelines in a walking boot and scooter, backup Beau Hoge (son of former NFLer Merril Hoge) was okay — if a bit wide-eyed — in his first extended action as the guy behind center but finished with 71 yards passing, an interception and another 25 yards rushing.
We’ll see if a big play that led to a field goal just before halftime could help spark the Cougars in the third quarter but it certainly looks Wisconsin is well on their way to a 3-0 start to the year based on the early returns from this trip out West.
Florida Atlantic quarterback De'Andre Johnson was one of the notable absences for the Owls when they travelled to play Wisconsin last week and school officials never seemed to be all that specific as to the reason why beyond labeling the issue as a “medical condition.” On Wednesday though, it was revealed just what that condition is and it’s far more serious than first thought.
According to the Sun Sentinel, a Facebook post by Johnson’s father revealed the quarterback had surgery last week for two blood clots in his arm. Head coach Lane Kiffin confirmed on Monday that the signal-caller remained in a local hospital.
“It was pretty scary,” Kiffin said.
He’s not kidding and the coach did not say whether Johnson would even play again this season after undergoing such an ordeal. While the Florida State transfer and recent ‘Last Chance U’ star at East Mississippi Community College did see time in the FAU opener, he did not start the game and was mostly limited to running the ball against the Midshipmen. To make matters worse, the quarterback had to remain back in South Florida to recover from surgery just as Hurricane Irma hit the area over the weekend.
That’s certainly rough news out of Boca but hopefully Johnson can recover fully in the coming weeks and months.
Big plays helped guide No. 4 Penn State (2-0) past a determined Pittsburgh (1-1) in Happy Valley. Despite Pitt’s workmanlike clock management giving the Nittany Lions offense little time on the field, the Panthers could only tie down Saquon Barkley and the Nittany Lions so much before they made some plays in a 33-14 victory Saturday afternoon.
Barkley finished his day with 88 rushing yards and a touchdown with 45 receiving yards and a receiving touchdown. Barkley also got involved on kick return duty at times, with two kick returns for another 50 yards. Pitt managed to keep Barkley largely ineffective in the first half, but Penn State kept plugging away to get him involved, including back-to-back runs for first downs to start the second half. Trace McSorley found Barkley over the middle for a 46-yard touchdown to push Penn State to a 21-3 lead early in the third quarter.
Penn State’s defense had to grind out some plays and were put to the test against the Panthers’ offensive attack to work the clock. For the most part, Penn State answered the call with a pair of interceptions off Pitt quarterback Max Browne and allowing just three points off two separate 15-play drives. Browne was later taken out of the game after having to be examined for a cut on his forehead after his helmet popped off. Ben Dinucci took over and finished off Pitt’s only touchdown drive on the first play from scrimmage since entering the game.
McSorley did not have a particularly sharp afternoon, completing 15-of-28 for 164 yards, but he did score three touchdowns. The lone interception was a deep pass as time expired at the end of the first half, so it was not a costly turnover. McSorley did contribute to the running game with 65 yards. Tight end Mike Gesicki scored each of Penn State’s two first-half touchdowns, scoring both in the first quarter with one coming on Penn State’s first offensive snap from the eight-yard line following an interception return by Grant Haley.
Pitt will look to give their clock management another tough test next week when they return home to the western side of the state to face Oklahoma State. The Cowboys have scored 59 and 44 points in their first two games, including Friday night’s 44-7 victory at South Alabama. Oklahoma State edged Pitt in Stillwater a year ago in this home-and-home series, 45-38.
Penn State will play a third-straight home game next week before stepping foot into Big Ten play. The Nittany Lions will host Georgia State for the first meeting between the two schools. Penn State and Georgia State have previously worked together at satellite camps in Georgia.
If the first half was any indication, Pittsburgh’s game plan is to work as much clock as possible to keep Penn State’s offense off the field. That has been fairly effective after one half of play in Happy Valley, but Penn State leads the Panthers 14-3.
Pitt has dominated the time of possession but despite having two 15-play drives has just scored three points. Keeping Penn State’s offense on the sideline has prevented the Nittany Lions from getting much momentum with the ball though, so we’ll see how long that strategy can pay off for the Panthers.
Penn State capitalized on a turnover on the first series of the game with a quick eight-yard touchdown pass from McSorley to tight end Mike Gesicki one play after Grant Haley had picked off a pass by Pitt quarterback Max Browne. Haley’s 42-yard return gave the Nittany Lions great field position inside the Pitt 10-yard line.
Gesicki came up with the second touchdown of the game as well, hauling in a pass on a zone read by McSorley and finding his way to the pylon for a score after the Pitt defense was forced to shift directions after focusing on Barkley in the backfield.
Saquon Barkley has not had a chance to have much of an impact in this one so far, with just five rushing attempts for 22 yards so far.