MADISON, Wis. – Listen in on nearly any postgame press conference across sports, and if you don’t hear a player or coach discussing response to adversity, make sure you’ve got the volume up high enough. The frequency with which the topic is discussed does not suggest it’s mentioned frivolously, but rather that it must be emphasized consistently. For some, individual and team responses to adversity are among the most central to a complete performance.
Wisconsin sophomore quarterback Alex Hornibrook is not perfect. He, like all quarterbacks in high profile programs, will make mistakes. Saturday versus Maryland, on Wisconsin’s premier drive, Hornibrook drastically overestimated wide receiver AJ Taylor’s speed, slinging a deep ball clear over his head, eventually landing directly in the Maryland defender’s arms. Such a turnover was not where Wisconsin hoped to be, especially so early in a Big Ten matchup. However, the earliness of the turnover gave Hornibrook one main advantage – time.
Over the remainder of the eventual win, Hornibrook was dominant, going 15/22 for 210 yards, one touchdown, and zero turnovers. Perhaps most noticeable, rather than acting as a role player, the offense looked like Hornibrook’s alone, something he’s arguably only done once this season versus BYU.
Following any on-field mistake, it’s apparent the culprit wants to recompense their teammates. If it were as simple as a change in mindset, the average performance of any quarterback would skyrocket. For Alex Hornibrook, his mindset has a lot to do with his turnaround, but trust plays a central role in his ability to rebound.
“I need to make sure that I know what everyone’s doing and everyone knows what they’re doing so we’re on the same page,” Hornibrook said Saturday.
Tight end Troy Fumagalli, who runs a majority of short and well-covered routes, feels similarly, citing the mental link between he and Hornibrook as a big part of the quarterback’s pattern of success.
“I think the two biggest things are trust and timing. A lot of what I do is over the middle and there’s a lot of traffic over there, so a lot of trust goes into that,” he said. “In terms of the mental aspect of the game, I think he does a tremendous job of having that ‘next play’ mentality.”
Looking ahead, the demonstrated knowledge that Hornibrook has the capacity to bounce back means the world to his teammates and coaching staff.
“I think he trusts the guys and we trust him,” Fumagalli added. “We know he’s gonna come back strong.”
That baseline trust makes mistakes appear far less devastating, especially in high profile matchups, which appear to be on the horizon for this undefeated Wisconsin squad.