After a 54-10 blowout win over Akron on Saturday, Wisconsin moved up to #9 in the Associated Press rankings. Here are some key takeaways from Wisconsin’s first home game last Saturday.

1. Quarterbacks impress in home opener.

In his first game at home and second as starting quarterback, Bart Houston impressed. On Saturday, Houston went 15 of 22  for 231 yards and two touchdowns, giving him a 186.4 quarterback rating. He saw no interceptions in the game, and consistently made smart decisions. He has improved every week, and has been able to efficiently control the Wisconsin offense with an incredibly balanced running and passing attack.

Backup quarterback Alex Hornibrook also played well in the second half Saturday, though even he expressed that the pressure was very low with the Badgers leading by so much. Hornibrook went 5-5 for 61 yards and a touchdown. Following the game, Hornibrook thought his performance was satisfactory, though he believed he was lucky with one or two of his passes.

Badgers fans should feel good after both Houston and Hornibrook’s performances. With Houston’s continued improvement, we see why Chryst made the decision to put him as the starter. With Hornibrook, Badgers fans can be excited for what lies ahead next year when Houston graduates. Hornibrook is setting himself up as an early favorite for the starting role.

2. Receivers coming to form, providing dynamic options for Houston.

Last week it was Troy Fumagalli. This week it was Jazz Peavy.

Wisconsin showed the dynamic nature of their receiving unit with speedy Jazz Peavy pulling in seven catches for 100 yards and two touchdowns. Behind him was Robert Wheelwright, who had four catches for 99 yards. Other receivers who made some plays on Saturday included A.J. Taylor with two catches for 39 yards and George Rushing for two catches for 14 yards.

“I feel like we have a great receiving core even with our tight ends also,” Peavy said after the game. “I feel like we’ve got a lot of talent and a lot of playmakers.”

Wheelwright said that Peavy’s and his own high numbers on Saturday were thanks to Houston’s willingness to throw to anyone.

“He’s made the right decisions and lets us make plays and give us a chance,” Wheelwright said. “That’s what we love about him. He gives everybody a chance.”

The combination of Peavy and Wheelwright makes for a great passing duo that can beat you deep and in the slot. Such a dynamic group gives Houston a lot of options in the passing game especially when big playmakers, such as this week with Fumagalli, are focused on by the opposing defense.

Wheelwright also joked that he felt good about his own performance after Fumagalli dominated against LSU the week prior.

“We had to show Fumagalli that [he’s] not the only one that can catch,” Wheelwright said after the game.

3. Wisconsin’s run game explodes for nearly 300 yards, giving balance to passing attack.

Wisconsin has always been known for having a strong running offense, and another takeaway from the game may be the fact that the Wisconsin offense was almost completely balanced in Saturday’s game.

Wisconsin totaled 294 rushing yards with four rushing touchdowns on Saturday. The leading carrier for the offense was Corey Clement with 21 carries for 111 yards and two touchdowns. Clement was out for the second half with a left leg injury, but after the game he said it was only a precautionary removal and nothing to be concerned about.

“I feel great thanks to the O-line,” Clement said after the game. “These opportunities are really slim when you think about it for Division 1 football especially playing running back. I just try to take every opportunity, every carry and just not take it to the house but at least get a first down for my team.”

The only big mistake made by Clement was in the first quarter on a fourth and goal. He tripped up near the goal line in what we could expect would have been another Badgers touchdown.

Saturday’s game also was beneficial for Wisconsin’s younger running backs. Freshman Bradrick Shaw had the second most carries with nine for 74 yards and his first career touchdown. Taiwan Deal also had 12 carries for 58 net yards. Senior Dare Ogunbowale saw less touches on Saturday with four carries for 18 yards.

4. Wisconsin’s secondary deserves a lot of respect.

On the defensive side, Wisconsin made some great stops against a good offense in Akron. In Akron’s first game of the season against Virginia Military Institute, Akron’s starting quarterback Tommy Woodson threw for 407 yards with six touchdowns in the 47 to 24 win. This week, Akron was held to 10 points and 88 yards of net rushing offense and 136 yards of passing offense.

Early in the game, the defense forced a safety that would put the Badgers up 9-0. In the second quarter, cornerback Derrick Tindal forced a fumble on Akron’s longest play of the day, a 38-yard run by Akron’s running back Warren Ball. Later on in the quarter, safety Leo Musso made a huge interception near the Wisconsin 10-yard line.

“It’s one of those things where we are a defense that is always hungry to get better,” Musso said after the game. “We’ll never tell you that we played our best game. There’s always things you can improve on and that’s the truth. I think as we become one like we are, it’s just all about that communication and how much fun we have out there and that’s I think what everybody’s seeing.”

It’s Wisconsin unrelenting and constantly improving defense that is making a statement to the nation. We knew how strong the Badgers’ front seven would be this season, but the secondary has really come to form.

The only setback is that nickelback and #3 cornerback Natrell Jamerson will likely miss significant time with a leg injury. Freshmen Caesar Williams would be asked to step up in his place.

The Badgers take on Georgia State on Saturday at 11:00am CT at Camp Randall.

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