Forget about any questions about whether or not health issues will interfere with Alex Hornibrook at Wisconsin. Hornibrook is reportedly considering a transfer and has entered his name into the NCAA transfer portal.
“Alex informed us of his decision to leave the team earlier today,” Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst said in a released statement. “He contributed to a lot of our recent success and we want to thank him for all he did for our program. We wish him the best of luck.”
Hornibrook released a statement of his own through his Instagram account.
Hornibrook will be a graduate transfer, which will make him eligible to play right away for any other FBS program this fall. He has one final year of eligibility at his disposal. In 35 career games played at Wisconsin, Hornibrook has passed for 5,438 yards and 47 touchdowns with 33 interceptions. Concussion concerns late last season took him out of action for a few games down the stretch of the regular season, although he did return for the regular season finale against Minnesota. He did not play for the Badgers in the Pinstripe Bowl against Miami, a year after thriving against the Hurricanes in the Orange Bowl.
Hornibrook did return to participate in offseason winter workouts with the program last month, which was an encouraging sign. But now he will likely be on the move. Entering a name in the transfer portal does not require a player to leave his current school, so a return to Wisconsin is still entirely possible. This just allows Hornibrook to evaluate and be in contact with other programs as he decides what to do next.
If Hornibrook does leave Madison, the Badgers may simply put incoming four-star freshman Graham Mertz into a starting role. Mertz enrolled early in Madison, which makes him eligible to participate in spring practices for the Badgers. If Mertz doesn’t impress enough to get the starting job in the fall and needs a little more time to be prepared for the job, then Wisconsin still has Jack Coan to rely on. Coan served as Wisconsin’s backup quarterback last season and he started in place of the injured Hornibrook when needed.
Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor provided the first highlight of the day and had another strong day on the ground, but Miles Sanders provided similar production on the ground as No. 20 Penn State (7-3, 4-3 Big Ten) sent the Badgers home with a 22-10 loss. The loss makes any chance of winning the Big Ten West even more of a challenge for Wisconsin with just two games to play.
Sanders carried the football 22 times for 161 yards and a touchdown to pace the Penn State offense. Trace McSorley left the game late in the first half after medical trainers had to look at his right knee on the field, but the Penn State senior captain returned in the second half to polish off a hard-fought win at home.
Taylor ripped off a 71-yard touchdown run on the third snap of the game for the Wisconsin offense, and Taylor continued to grind out yardage on the ground and make a few more sizable runs against the Nittany Lions. But Penn State’s defense, led by Shareef Miller, was up to the task and handled backup quarterback Jack Coan by forcing Wisconsin into a position where throwing the ball had to be the way to make a comeback. Coan was intercepted once on the 20 passes he attempted as Wisconsin seemed to think their biggest home run threat would come on the ground in the hands of Taylor.
Coan started the game for Wisconsin in place of Alex Hornibrook, who was questionable all week with a head injury, a problem that has been consistent in recent weeks.
With the loss, Wisconsin fails to make up any ground on Northwestern this week. The Wildcats, who lead the Big Ten West, play at Iowa today and have an opportunity to open up a massive lead in the division with a win in Iowa City. Wisconsin must win their remaining two games and hope Northwestern drops their next three games beginning today.
Wisconsin will look to rebound on the road again next week with a trip to Purdue. Penn State will play their final road game of the year next week at Rutgers. A chance at winning 10 games this season is still in the mix for Penn State. James Franklin’s program must win their remaining two regular season games and their bowl game in order to pull off a third straight 10-win season for the first time in Penn State history since 1980-1982.
Wisconsin is without starting quarterback Alex Hornibrook, and Penn State once again has a concern about the health of its starting quarterback. Trace McSorley was helped off the field with an apparent knee injury late in the first half of a home game against the Badgers with Penn State leading Wisconsin 16-7. Tommy Stevens has come on to fill in for McSorley as Penn State takes a 16-7 lead into the halftime break.
Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor got right to work on the first offensive series of the game for the Badgers by ripping off a 71-yard run on a 3rd & 2 to put Wisconsin on the board with the first score of the game. But it was all Penn State from there as the Nittany Lions scored 16 straight points to take a 16-7 lead.
McSorley completed a 14-yard touchdown pass to DeAndre Thompkins on the ensuing drive after Taylor’s long touchdown run. After Wisconsin fumbled the ball when quarterback Jack Coan seemed to mishandle an exchange, the Nittany Lions took the lead on a 49-yard field goal by Jake Pinegar. Penn State added to their lead in the second quarter with a short Miles Sanders touchdown run with a leap over the pile to cross the goal line, but a missed extra point attempt kept the game a single-digit deficit.
At one point midway through the second quarter, Penn State had 12 first downs to just two for the Badgers. Struggles on third down had slowed Wisconsin’s offense, although that should be credit to the Penn State defense with pressure coming up front from Shareef Miller.
Wisconsin needs to figure something out for the second half as they need a win to remain close enough to Northwestern in the Big Ten West standings to have a shot at winning the division. Being unable to come back in this game would make it incredibly tough for Wisconsin to play in the Big Ten championship game for a third consecutive year. Penn State will be unable to win the Big Ten East but is in position to end the year with 10 wins in a bowl game if they can hold on to this one. Second halves of games at home have not been too kind to Penn State, so this one is still up for grabs.
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.
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.