Iowa Football

Unsung quarterback Alex Hornibrook comes up big for Wisconsin at Iowa

Wisconsin Badgers quarterback Alex Hornibrook (12) gets a pass off under pressure from Iowa Hawkeyes defensive end Anthony Nelson (98) in the first quarter of their game at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Wisconsin Badgers quarterback Alex Hornibrook (12) gets a pass off under pressure from Iowa Hawkeyes defensive end Anthony Nelson (98) in the first quarter of their game at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — You know about Jonathan Taylor. You know about the massive offensive line, the 3-4 defense.

Alex Hornibrook gets lost in that stuff sometimes, but not Saturday night. The Wisconsin quarterback was great.

Difference-making great.

Hornibrook completed 17 of 22 passes for 205 yards and three touchdowns as the 16th-ranked Badgers escaped Iowa, 28-17, at Kinnick Stadium. His 17-yard TD pass to A.J. Taylor with 57 seconds left provided what turned out to be the winning points.

“I thought he was seeing things,” said Wisconsin Coach Paul Chryst. “He had a good edge about him. I thought he was understanding the game, seeing things. I thought he was on. He needed to be, right? He needed to be.”

The junior from Pennsylvania went 5-for-5 passing on Wisconsin’s telltale drive. His 28-yarder across the field and down the sideline to Kendric Pryor was his longest completion in the 10-play, 88-yard march.

On second-and-7 from the Iowa 29, the lefty completed a 12-yard pass to tight end Jake Ferguson to the Hawkeyes 17. Taylor slipped around linebacker Nick Niemann on the ensuing play, Niemann falling to the ground in the end zone as the wide receiver caught a perfect throw.

“Everybody knew what we had to do there. We just locked it in, and got the job done,” Hornibrook said. “We have trust in each other. So that last drive, obviously, it’s a little different, but that’s something we practice all the time. Everybody in the huddle knew we could do it. We just kept fighting the whole game.”

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Hornibrook sported an insane quarterback rating of 200.5 in this one. Iowa’s game plan was to do everything it could to make the quarterback be the one who beat him.

That’s what he did.

“We wanted to take away the run, and we did a pretty good job on that,” said Iowa safety Amani Hooker. “We wanted him to have to make plays. And he made plays.”

“He’s a leader,” said Wisconsin fullback Alec Ingold. “He never wants to be in second place ... (That last drive), he just gave us the same message he always does. ‘We’re going to take over, let’s go.’ Whether it’s the first drive, the second drive, the last drive, it’s always the same with him.”

Hornibrook is 23-4 as Wisconsin’s starting QB, including 17-2 in Big Ten play and 11-1 in road games. When he throws more than one touchdown pass, the Badgers are 9-0.

That ninth win came Saturday night.

“I think he’s a really good player,” Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said. “There’s not a lot talked about him or written about him, but you think about how many games they have won when he’s in charge. I think they know that better than anybody, they know who he is, and what he is, and when they go to him, he responds pretty favorably. He didn’t do anything that hurt them tonight, and he made some really good throws and some good plays.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8259; jeff.johnson@thegazette.com

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