Hornibrook learning to respond to failures, looks to improve play against Purdue

Alex Hornbook is looking to put his prior struggles against Nebraska behind him and improve his performance against Purdue this weekend. 

Image By: Jon Yoon

Alex Hornibrook is not the same quarterback he was a year ago.

While he still has improvements to make, as evidenced by the costly interception he threw last Saturday versus Nebraska, there’s certainly a difference between the nervous redshirt freshman that played last season and the sophomore currently starting for the No. 7 Wisconsin Badgers (2-0 Big Ten, 5-0 overall).

“He’s a little quicker with his reads,” said senior tight end Troy Fumagalli. “You can tell him progressing through some reads that he wouldn’t make last year pretty quick.”

Hornibrook’s supporting cast has surely been key to his steady improvement, with the emergence of true freshman running back Jonathan Taylor providing a spark to the offense.

Hornibrook’s wide receivers have aided his growth too, with sophomores Quintez Cephus and A.J. Taylor begining to play more significant roles.

But amidst the bevy of faces beginning to contribute more to the Badgers, Hornibrook’s most trusted target is his oldest one.

“He’s just a guy that you know is gonna compete for the ball and come down with it if it’s a 50-50 ball,” Hornibrook said of Fumagalli. “To be able to go to a guy like that, when you’re in trouble especially, it helps a lot.”

Since the start of last season, Fumagalli, the Aurora, Ill., native has posted over 60 catches and nearly 900 receiving yards, proving to be an extremely reliable target for his quarterback.

Hornibrook may be more mature and experienced now, but every quarterback needs a safety net.

That role continues to be owned by Fumagalli, who has 75 yards and two touchdowns on third downs this season.

“It’s very important,” Fumagalli said. “It could turn a sack into a gain of three, or a gain of four, keep the drive alive. It’s huge – just always being open, always being someone he can trust in the back of his mind.”

Hornibrook has needed the help of his teammates recently, as he’s started the Badgers’ slate of conference games with two touchdowns and three interceptions.

His performance against Nebraska was probably his least impactful of the season, as he completed just nine pass attempts and for a season-low 113 yards.

Still, the Badgers won by 21 points, and Hornibrook’s woes were offset by stellar performances elsewhere on the field.

“Some things weren’t going too great in the first half,” Hornibrook said. “And in the second half, obviously, the O-line and running backs kinda blew the doors off, and kinda just took over after that.”

Hornibrook has a chance to amend his past mistakes this weekend, when he’ll face a Purdue (3-2, 1-1) team that allows 223.8 pass yards per game.

In reality, though, he won’t be expected to blow the doors off of Camp Randall Stadium, no matter how porous the Boilermakers’ defense proves to be. Rather, he’ll be asked to manage the game as he leads a team of players — running backs, wide receivers, tight ends and even defenders — who make his job significantly easier.

That type of balance is what allowed him to shrug off his performance versus Nebraska and start focusing on this week’s matchup.

“On the flight we watched it [film of the game[, talked to coach ...the next day we watched it again, talked about some things,” Hornibrook said. “And then it was on to Purdue.”

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