Michigan Wisconsin Football

Wisconsin quarterback Alex Hornibrook throws during the first half Saturday against the Michigan Wolverines at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison.

The University of Wisconsin’s hopes of remaining undefeated began deteriorating Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium.

The Badgers had managed less than 100 total yards when Alex Hornibrook threw his 12th interception of Big Ten play, allowing Michigan to take a late third-quarter lead in a game where even the smallest deficits were beginning to feel insurmountable.

What came next were four plays of more than 20 yards over two consecutive touchdowns drives, a season-saving shift in momentum not many could see coming in the Badgers’ 24-10 victory over the Wolverines (8-3, 5-3).

Three of those plays were clutch third-and-long conversions by none other than UW’s polarizing sophomore quarterback, who once again shook off the sting of a critical turnover to help the fifth-ranked Badgers (11-0, 8-0) move one game closer to the College Football Playoff.

"I think (the media) gets more stressed out about (interceptions) than I do,” said Hornibrook, who finished 9-of-19 passing for 143 yards. "I guess it’s a pretty big deal, but we fight back through it. Sometimes adversity helps us play even harder and better. We were able to do that today."

While only down 10-7 after Hornibrook’s interception, the ineptitude of UW’s offense made the deficit feel much larger. Six of the Badgers’ eight possessions had ended in three plays or less, and they had only run one snap in Michigan territory.

That all changed after the pick. Hornibrook lofted a perfect deep ball down the left sideline to A.J. Taylor for 51 yards on third-and-13, putting UW in the red zone for the first time. Three plays later, this time on third-and-16, Hornibrook stepped up to avoid pressure and fired a pass through a tight window to Taylor for a 24-yard touchdown.

“I think it’s so common to see a guy just be done after a couple turnovers,” said UW inside linebacker T.J. Edwards, who finished with 11 tackles, 2.5 for loss, and a sack. "(Hornibrook) had a turnover, and he threw that absolute dart to A.J. in the end zone.

"That’s what you love from that guy. He’s just a warrior. He goes through so much with everyone criticizing him and things like that. He knows it comes with being a quarterback, but he does a good job of responding. That’s all you can ask for."

On the next drive, Hornibrook connected with freshman wide receiver Danny Davis on third-and-8, one play before freshman Kendric Pryor took an end around 32 yards for a score that extended the Badgers’ lead to 21-10 with 24 seconds left in the third quarter.

UW added a late 30-yard field goal with 2:25 remaining after burning more than five minutes of clock over 10 plays. Heisman Trophy candidate Jonathan Taylor also added a late 52-yard run and finished with 132 yards on 19 carries despite being held in check early on.

Michigan’s loss combined with Ohio State’s win over Illinois guarantees that UW will face the Buckeyes in the Big Ten Championship game Dec. 2 in Indianapolis.

The Badgers recorded just four first downs before their two touchdown drives, but they took a 7-0 lead late in the first quarter when Nick Nelson returned a punt 50 yards for a touchdown.

UW started the second half by gaining zero total yards on two straight three-and-outs, and Hornibrook’s interception to linebacker Devin Bush at the UW 29-yard line led to a 39-yard field goal that put Michigan ahead 10-7 with 6:36 left in the third quarter.

The Badgers’ defense played like one of the best in the country yet again, holding its ninth opponent of the season to 17 points or less.

Michigan’s only touchdown came on an 84-yard drive, capped by a 1-yard score by fullback Ben Mason that tied the game at 7 with 2:24 left in the first half.

That happened one drive after the Wolverines wasted a major opportunity for another touchdown. UW outside linebacker Leon Jacobs forced a fumble from quarterback Brandon Peters inside the Badgers’ 5-yard line, and cornerback Derrick Tindal recovered on the 1.

“Oh, that was huge,” UW coach Paul Chryst said. "You’re talking about points. And I think it just shows, too, that you keep playing. You don’t know. Wherever it’s at, (our defense) has done a nice job of just continuing to play."

The Badgers held Michigan to just 65 yards on 28 plays in the second half. Peters left late in the third quarter after taking a big hit from outside linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel, and the Wolverines managed just two first downs the rest of the game with John O’Korn under center.

“We can’t get him hit as much,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said. “They played a three-man pick stunt that was effectively holding our center and we weren’t able to slide off of that and that got us beat a few times."

While it was another typical game from the Badgers’ defense, their offense made the few critical plays that it couldn’t against Michigan in a 14-7 loss last season, when the Wolverines’ defense dominated in holding UW to 159 total yards.

Hornibrook threw for just 88 yards and three interceptions in that game — one he hasn’t forgotten more than a year later.

“I was ready to play them after that game last year,” Hornibrook said. "I was excited for this. I didn’t really say too much about it, but I was excited to play this team again."


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