Quick-paced and gutsy offense characterized the Maryland effort Saturday, however the Wisconsin defense, ever steady, and a resilient Alex Hornibrook carried the Badgers to their seventh straight victory.
Here are three key takeaways from Saturday’s victory.
Defense was characteristically composed in an myriad of situations
The Wisconsin defense was like your best friend Saturday – reliable, dependable, there for you, the lot. After being given a short field and having to face an up-tempo Maryland offense, the defensive corps delivered as expected. After a Jonathan Taylor fumble that put Maryland on the Wisconsin 5, the defense forced two clutch incomplete passes and shut down the rush attack, forcing a chip shot FG and saving the Wisconsin lead to that point.
What’s more, after a Hornibrook interception that put Maryland at midfield, Wisconsin would force a punt soon after. Clean and effective tackling, coherent communication and consistent pressure on the quarterback made for a textbook Wisconsin defensive performance.
In essence, whenever the team needed a big play, the defense was there. When the offense stalled, and the lead looked vulnerable, the defense was there. When the Maryland offense built momentum, the defense was there.
Fumagalli is back, baby
In the last three weeks, Troy Fumagalli has recorded 31 total receiving yards. After the first half Saturday, Fumagalli had racked up 74 yards on 6 catches, not to mention 8 targets.
In his trademarked Fumagalli way, his steady hands and ability to get open consistently gave Hornibrook a crutch to lean on. Fum is rarely asked to make a deep run, but that doesn’t make his production any less valuable. Often, he’ll run slants designed to pick up shorter sums of yardage, making him an undoubtable asset to the Wisconsin offense.
Having a player like Fum – whose production can be relied on with near certainty – is both a luxury and a truly valuable characteristic of the offense, as he’s a presence the opposing defense must keep in the back of their mind at all times.
That sort of due attention means more for Wisconsin considering their offense is viewed as run-heavy to begin with. Anything that helps to diversify the offensive attack is a major win.
At the game’s conclusion, Fumagalli had totaled 83 yards, his highest total since Florida Atlantic came to town.
When Hornibrook is on, he’s on
“Finding a rhythm” is high on the list of cliché football quips, but it’s something Hornibrook has toiled with throughout his sophomore season. More often than not, Hornibrook has come out of the gate slowly, making early mistakes but delivering later.
Saturday continued such a pattern, after an early interception off of a grossly overthrown ball, Hornibrook flipped his proverbial switch, delivering on target, smart and measured passes. Rather than relying on Taylor for the majority of the offensive load, Hornibrook played perhaps a more central role. For the first time during the Big Ten schedule, it looked like Hornibrook’s offense.
After the interception, Hornibrook went 15/22 for 210 yards and two touchdowns. His ability to shake off early mistakes, embody a resilient mindset, and produce at a high level has been and will be invaluable to the Wisconsin offense. Ideally, Hornibrook wouldn’t be required to bounce back, and instead would deliver from the gun, but his clear ability to do so is something Wisconsin can take solace in.
Photo courtesy of foxsports.com