Thoughts on Wisconsin’s Win Over The Georgia State Panthers
The Wisconsin Badgers flirted with disaster against Georgia State, but ultimately squeaked by the Panthers with a 23-17 win. It was ugly and left a large amount of concerns heading into the start and daunting part of their Big 10 schedule. Let’s look at some thoughts below.
1. The offense struggled with Bart Houston at quarterback – The Badgers had serious trouble finishing their drives against Georgia State with Bart Houston as the quarterback. This was an issue against LSU as well and the first half was ugly for the offense. The opening drive looked promising, but ended with a 41 yard field goal by Rafael Gaglianone. The second drive saw the Badgers get down to the 10 yard line, but once again they had to settle for a field goal. Their third drive started at the Georgia State 23 yard line courtesy of a fumbled punt snap by the Panthers. This drive ended with Bradrick Shaw fumbling at the one yard line and the Panthers recovering. The Badgers led 6-0 at halftime despite being far superior on the field and in the box score. That leads to the second point…
2. Alex Hornibrook looked much more comfortable leading the offense – After one drive in the second half with Houston at QB, Paul Chryst decided to put Alex Hornibrook in. The entire offense responded with a touchdown drive and Hornibrook looked better running the offense. In fact, the offense was far more efficient with Hornibrook in than with Houston. Hornibrook led the final five drives of the game and the offense finished with 192 yards along with two touchdowns and a field goal (the fifth drive ended the game). Houston led six drives and the offense had 223 yards and just two field goals to show for it.
— Matthew Dixon (@BirdstoneWINS) September 17, 2016
It was not all Houston’s fault, however. Corey Clement did not start while the duo Taiwan Deal and Troy Fumagalli got injured during the game. Neither player returned after their injury and there was also the fumble by Shaw on the goal line. Still, Hornibrook was able to make do with the lack of those players and looked better too. In addition, the offensive line was dominating the trenches as the Badgers had 25 carries for 120 yards in the first half (the Badgers finished with 49 carries for 187 yards on the game). Now we go to point three….
3. Who leads the offense? – This is the classic case of the (very recent) hot hand versus the starter. Hornibrook looked better leading the offense against Georgia State, but maybe that was due to the lack of preparation by the Panthers for him. Houston was made the starter for a reason and he has shown some talent, but also some struggles along the way (read here and here for those). The presumptive return of Clement will also help either quarterback, but the upcoming schedule will still cause fits. Coach Chryst has an interesting decision on his hands.
4. The defense had trouble against the pass – Does anyone else have an in route or slant they would like to run against the defense? The Badgers were constantly burned by those routes in the final three quarters after dominating the first 15 minutes in which they allowed just five total yards of offense to Georgia State. Conner Manning was 9 of 12 for 79 yards in the second quarter (and the same total for the entire first half). While the Badgers were not punished in the first half for the poor pass defense, they sure were in the second half.
The Panthers were able to record pass plays of 20 yards (twice), 38 yards, 40 yards, and 60 yards against Wisconsin. All of those with the exception of one of the 20 yard plays occurred in the second half. Manning finished the game 20 of 29 for 269 yards with one touchdown. Only four Panthers caught a pass: Glenn Smith (5 catches for 131 yards), Robert Davis (8 for 93 and a touchdown), Keith Rucker (6 for 38), and Kendrick Dorn (1 for 7). The Badgers must improve on this.
5. The young guys showed good and bad – Let’s get the bad out of the way early: Bradrick Shaw’s fumble at the goal line cannot happen. As such, Shaw was punished with fewer carries the rest of the way, but at least he did not make another big mistake with his second chance as well. There was also the pick by Hornibrook that went right through George Rushing’s hands.
Shaw did some good early on. Once again, he looked powerful and showed strength, which will suit him well when he gets a bigger share of the carries down the road. Alex Hornibrook came and and led the Badgers to the win. Sure, Wisconsin led 6-3 when he came in, but he did well to lead the offense (read above). Freshman Kyle Penniston had a vital role as he caught a 29 yard pass and a 1 yard touchdown pass from Hornibrook on the go-ahead drive midway through the fourth quarter.
6. Mounting injuries a concern – We do not yet know the severity of the injuries to Clement, Fumagalli, and Deal, but they are a big concern. Clement is the starter at running back while Deal provides solid depth. Fumagalli is the starting tight end and showed reliablity in the passing game when needed. Losing any of these guys for an extended period of time will be a blow to the offense. The one silver lining is that younger guys are getting big time reps.
7. Special Teams played better – A big issue against Akron last week was the first half special teams play. They did better in the final 30 minutes last week and they looked back to normal against Georgia State. The only real bad moment was the usually solid Rafael Gaglianone missing a 30 yard field at the end of the first half. He redeemed himself late in the game with a 41 yard field goal to make it 23-17.
The brutal stretch for Wisconsin begins next week with a trip to Michigan State.