The No. 11 Wisconsin Badgers (1-0 Big Ten, 4-0 overall) continued to roll on Saturday, upsetting the No. 8 Michigan State Spartans (0-1, 2-1) in East Lansing, Mich., 30-6.
The win marks the first time since 1962 that Wisconsin has beaten two top-10 teams in a single season, making them the first Big Ten team to register two top-10 wins since Penn State in 1999.
The Wisconsin defense and the left hand of redshirt freshman Alex Hornibrook led the Badgers to a decisive victory over a quality MSU football program. The defensive unit for UW didn’t allow a touchdown all afternoon, and the 19-year-old quarterback made the throws when it counted most.
Hornibrook finished the day 16-of-26 passing for 195 yards with an interception and a touchdown.
Despite the accomplishments of the young quarterback, the defense was again the star of the show, headlined by linebackers T.J. Watt and Vince Biegel. The unit ended the affair with three interceptions, a recovered fumble, four sacks and allowed only 75 yards rushing. That brings their four-game average to 80.5 yards per outing, which is good enough for a first place standing in the conference, where they also lead in total defense (277 yards per game) and scoring defense (11.8 points per game).
The big play on defense this week came from senior safety Leo Musso. After junior safety D’Cota Dixon forced a Spartan fumble, the former all-state running back from Waunakee, Wis., patiently waited for his blockers, experienced ball carriers as he is, and took the ball 65 yards to house.
Third downs, in addition to critical fourth downs, were nearly as vital in UW’s success versus its Big Ten foe. The Spartans were just 4-of-15 (26.6 percent) on such plays, while the Badgers finished 9-of-18 (50 percent). Those numbers led to a five-minute advantage for them in time of possession, keeping their defense fresh and their offense firing.
The Wisconsin offense found success in the big moments thanks to Hornibrook’s composure, an uncommon attribute for someone of his experience level. On various occasions, the young gun did an excellent job of feeling the pressure, moving in the pocket and delivering a catchable ball in tight windows regardless of pressure. There are areas the first-time starter still needs to improve upon, but Wisconsin fans should be exceedingly pleased with what they saw from Hornibrook.
They should also be pleased that No. 6 was back in the backfield. Though senior running back Corey Clement wasn’t quite able to find his rhythm, only gaining 54 yards on 23 carries, he found the end zone twice and appeared to have the burst fans are used to seeing.
The Badgers will head back to the state of Michigan next week, this time to face Jim Harbaugh and the No. 4 Michigan Wolverines. If the Badgers can resume their stifling defense and continue to move the ball on offense, they could find themselves in a very interesting position in a week or two. Let the speculation begin.