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Wisconsin QB Alex Hornibrook listed as questionable vs. Penn State

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Wisconsin is still in the running for the Big Ten West Division crown as they prepare for a road trip to Penn State this weekend. With the Badgers in need of a win, it remains unknown if starting quarterback Alex Hornibrook will be available.

Wisconsin’s injury report at the beginning of the week listed Hornibrook as questionable for this weekend’s road game against the Nittany Lions. Hornibrook returned to the starting lineup this past weekend at home against Rutgers after sitting out a game two weeks ago against Northwestern due to not passing the concussion protocol. Hornibrook left Saturday’s win against Rutgers with a head injury concern.

If Hornibrook is unable to play for Wisconsin, the Badgers will once again put the ball in the hands of Jack Coan. Coan, a sophomore, completed 20 of 31 pass attempts for 158 yards and a touchdown in a 31-17 loss to Northwestern, and he filled in for the injured Hornibrook on Saturday against Rutgers by completing five of seven attempts for 64 yards and a touchdown.

With Coan at quarterback, Wisconsin should be expected to stick to their running game with perhaps a little more emphasis on the ground with Jonathan Taylor against a Penn State defense that will be looking to bounce back after giving up 35 points to Michigan in a 42-7 loss in Ann Arbor. Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley has also been playing a little banged up in recent weeks as well, although there has been no indication his status will be adjusted this week against the Badgers.

Wisconsin trails Northwestern by one game in the Big Ten West Division standings and would lose a head-to-head tiebreaker with the Wildcats. In order for Wisconsin to return to the Big Ten Championship Game for a third consecutive season, Wisconsin will have to finish ahead of Northwestern in the division standings. A loss at Penn State would severely hurt Wisconsin’s chances given Northwestern’s remaining schedule (at Iowa, at Minnesota, home vs. Illinois). The Badgers have a road game at Purdue after their road trip to Penn State and then a home game to close out the regular season against rival Minnesota.

Northwestern enters November in first place in Big Ten West after win over Wisconsin

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Following a 31-17 victory at home over Wisconsin (5-3, 3-2 Big Ten), Northwestern (5-3, 5-1 Big Ten) will turn the calendars to the final month of the regular season with a chance to win the Big Ten West Division for the first time. The division is now officially in their control with just three Big Ten games remaining on the schedule.

Clayton Thorson struggled in the passing game at times but managed to do enough damage on the ground with two rushing touchdowns and a 27-yard run to help set up a score in the third quarter as he escaped from under pressure closing in on him to take advantage of a wide open right side of the field. It was the kind of gritty performance that bodes well for Northwestern, especially against a Wisconsin team playing without starting quarterback Alex Hornibrook and on a day where the fumble issues of Jonathan Taylor led to some self-inflicted wounds for the Badgers.

With Hornibrook out of the game due to not being medically cleared out of concussion protocol, Jack Coan made his first career start for the Badgers and was rarely asked to make too much happen through the air. Wisconsin relied on their running game with Taylor, Garrett Groshek and Alec Ingold leading the attack. But northwestern’s defense was ready for the challenge and played well at home to preventing Wisconsin from gaining an edge. If anything, Northwestern’s own running game leveled the playing field with  Isaiah Bowser continuing to fuel the Wildcat’ running game, with Thorson complimenting the effort.

Northwestern took a 24-10 lead into the fourth quarter and essentially put the finishing touch on the win shortly after Coan fumbled the football deep in the Wisconsin end early in the fourth quarter. The fumble recovery by Northwestern, the third of the day, was followed by a touchdown run by Bowser to build a 21-point lead.

The win moves Northwestern to 5-1 in the Big Ten West, which now includes head-to-head wins against Purdue and Wisconsin. Having played one more conference game than the rest of the division, the Wildcats will own no less than a half-game lead in the division after all games have been played on Saturday (Purdue was playing at Michigan State at the same time and Iowa was kicking off against Penn State later in the afternoon). Northwestern will host Notre Dame next week (looking to play spoiler against the Irish?) but the next Big Ten test for the Wildcats will come in two weeks on the road at Iowa. That game should be of much significance, as a win could potentially put Northwestern one giant step closer to playing in the Big Ten championship game at the end of the season. Northwestern has the road game at Iowa and then a road trip to Minnesota and a home game against Illinois to wrap up the regular season and the Big Ten schedule. It may all come down to what happens in that Iowa game for Northwestern.

Wisconsin, the runaway favorite in the Big Ten West and picked to win the Big Ten and play in the playoff by some in the preseason, now needs a good amount of help if the Badgers are going to make a third straight trip to the Big Ten championship game. At 3-2 in the Big Ten, Wisconsin will look for a rebound win next week at home against Rutgers before two straight road games at Penn State and Purdue. But Wisconsin now needs to finish ahead of Northwestern in the standings to avoid losing out on a head-to-head tiebreaker. That may be wishful thinking at this point.

Northwestern leading Wisconsin in battle for first place in Big Ten West

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With first place in the Big Ten West Division on the line, Northwestern holds the upper hand at halftime in Evanston with a 14-10 lead on Wisconsin. Clayton Thorson has run for a pair of touchdowns as the Wildcats look to pick up a big win in division play this afternoon.

Wisconsin started Jack Coan at quarterback with Alex Hornibrook not medically cleared from concussion protocol. With a backup making his first career start, it was no surprise Wisconsin would look to rely on the running game in the first half. Coan attempted just three passes, but he did complete all three of them for 13 yards. On the ground, Jonathan Taylor led the running game and fullback Alec Ingold scored Wisconsin’s touchdown shortly after an interception by the Badgers defense gave the offense a short field.

After the Badgers capitalized on an interception thrown by Thorson, Thorson and the Wildcats responded on the ensuing possession with a 15-play drive covering 75 yards for a game-tying touchdown. Thorson pushed the ball just across the goal line to cap the drive. Northwestern made another trip down to the goal line in the second quarter, but this time Wisconsin came up with a goal-line stand on fourth down to keep Thorson out of the end zone.

Taylor fumbled the football at the Wisconsin 15-yard line just moments later, which gave the Wildcats a short field and allowed the home team to take the lead for the first time. Neither team should be expected to open things up offensively so there will be a ton of grinding in the second half to come as this game comes to a close.

Wisconsin QB Alex Hornibrook reportedly in concussion protocol

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Wisconsin is traveling to Northwestern for a key game in the Big Ten West standings. The Badgers may have to play the game without starting quarterback Alex Hornibrook too.

According to multiple reports out of Wisconsin today, Hornibrook has entered concussion protocol to put his availability for this weekend in question. To prepare for the potential absence of the experienced starter, Wisconsin is preparing backup Jack Coan to start just in case it is needed. The news was first reported by the Wisconsin Radio Network and then followed up by The Journal Sentinel.

According to the report from The Journal Sentinel, Hornibrook was seen going through conditioning drills that is typical for players entered in the concussion protocol. Hornibrook has dealt with concussion problems before in his time at Wisconsin. In 2016, a concussion forced Hornibrook to miss the 2016 Big Ten Championship Game, a loss to Penn State, and he was limited in the Cotton Bowl against Western Michigan that bowl season after suffering a concussion in the final game of the regular season in 2016.

Coan appeared in six games for Wisconsin in 2017, in which he completed all five pass attempts he made. Coan has not played this season, as Wisconsin has been holding off on using him with the new redshirt rule in place. Players can appear in up to four games before having to burn a year of eligibility, so not playing Coan has allowed for some roster flexibility for the Badgers. Coan would be getting the nod over Danny Vanden Boom, who has appeared in two games this season.

BYU snaps No. 6 Wisconsin’s home winning streak in non-conference play with 24-21 upset

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It has been a rough day of college football for a handful of Big Ten teams. None will suffer a loss as damaging as the one No. 6 Wisconsin (2-1) took at home against BYU (2-1). The Cougars pulled off an upset of Wisconsin, 24-21, that was essentially sealed in the final minute when Wisconsin kicker Rafael Gaglianone pushed his game-tying field goal attempt wide left.

The loss by Wisconsin was the first by the Badgers at home against a non-conference opponent since losing at home against UNLV on September 13, 2003. Wisconsin had won 41 consecutive home games against non-conference opponents.

BYU head coach Kalani Sitake chose to use two timeouts before Gaglianone’s late field goal try despite having 41 seconds remaining on the clock, potentially giving BYU’s offense chance to do something with the football in the event the game had been tied. But Sitake’s decision to play for no worse than overtime paid off in a big way.

BYU also did a good job of not letting Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor hurt them. Taylor rushed for 117 yards on 26 carries, but Taylor was held out of the end zone all day long and there was never a run that really hurt BYU. Wisconsin running backs Taiwan Deal and Alec Ingold did account for three rushing touchdowns.

It was BYU’s Squally Canada who led all players with 118 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Tanner Mangum completed just 12 of 22 pass attempts for 89 yards, and wide receiver Aleva Hifo threw the game’s only touchdown pass of the day with a 31-yard pass.

BYU’s special teams pinned Wisconsin inside their own 10-yard line for the final offensive possession by the Badgers in the fourth quarter, which seemed to play into BYU’

s favor with the game thrown into the hands of Wisconsin quarterback Alex Hornibrook. Hornibrook did use safe passes and a couple of runs to his advantage to move Wisconsin into position for the game-tying field goal try. But that was a tradeoff that BYU likely would have taken every time.

The loss by Wisconsin will drop the Badgers off the playoff radar for now, but Wisconsin will have opportunities to hop right back into the discussion as the season progresses. With the games still to play for Wisconsin, the Badgers have a chance to not stay off the radar for too long, but this loss does do some damage to their profile well ahead of the first release of the College Football Playoff rankings. Meanwhile, BYU should be getting some consideration for the top 25 in the polls on Sunday.

Wisconsin opens Big Ten play with their first road game of the season next week. The Badgers travel to Iowa City to play the Iowa Hawkeyes in primetime. BYU will return home next week for a matchup against FCS McNeese State.