By The Sports Xchange
MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst said the No. 9 Badgers will not get style awards for edging Georgia State, but he is happy they have won three straight games.
Second-string quarterback Alex Hornibrook orchestrated a late-game surge to invigorate a listless offense as the Badgers rallied for a 23-17 win against Georgia State on Saturday.
“It was good to find a way to win and it’s hard to win, and (we) appreciate that,” said Chryst, whose team begins a two-game road stretch next week at No. 12 Michigan State.
“We knew this was a good team and we had to find a way to win. Guys stepped in and made significant plays. We’re 3-0 going into Big Ten play and that part’s good.”
Junior kicker Rafael Gaglianone kicked three field goals as Wisconsin scored the final 10 points at Camp Randall Stadium.
Hornibrook completed 8 of 12 passes for 122 yards and had one interception. He came in with 6:00 left in the third quarter to replace senior starter Bart Houston, who completed 10 of 18 passes for 91 yards.
Hornibrook quickly made an impact. He completed two passes for 48 yards and running back Dare Ogunbowale scampered 2 yards for a TD score to increase Wisconsin’s lead to 13-3 with 2:54 left in the third.
The Panthers countered with a scoring drive of its own, as junior quarterback Conner Manning connected on passes of 40 and 20 yards to junior running back Glenn Smith. That set up a 13-yard touchdown run by Roger Davis to pull Georgia State to 13-10.
Georgia State continued its comeback when Hornibrook threw an interception that was picked off by cornerback Chandon Sullivan. The pass was intended for Badgers wide receiver George Rushing, who let the ball slip out of his grasp.
During a three-play, 68-yard drive, Smith caught a 60-yard pass and junior running back Kyler Neal rushed 9 yards for a TD as Georgia State took its first lead at 17-13 with 11:36 left.
But Hornibrook found freshman tight end Kyle Penniston for a pair of key completions on Wisconsin’s next series. Penniston caught a short pass for a 1-yard touchdown as Wisconsin regained the lead 20-17 with 7:25 to go.
After Gaglianone’s 41-yard FG increased the Badgers’ lead to 23-17 with 3:36 left, Wisconsin ramped up pressure on Georgia State QB Conner Manning, who threw three incomplete passes in the final series.
Georgia State coach Trent Miles said the Panthers (0-3) performed well during certain junctures. Mile was particularly happy with his defense, especially allowing two Badgers field goals in the first half.
“We knew we had to play really well and we did in spurts but not when we needed to, to win the game,” Miles said.
“We were better tackling and we were more physical today. We did a better job of tackling in space. We did a better job of getting everybody into the right gaps and played pretty well for most of the game.”
Manning, a senior, completed 20 of 29 passes for 269 yards. Smith paced the Panthers with five carries for 131 yards.
It was a rough start as injuries piled up for Wisconsin. Running back Taiwan Deal and tight end Troy Fumagali both were sidelined at the end of the first quarter with right leg injuries. Neither player returned.
Deal, who had seven carries for 34 yards, was expected to assume the bulk of work on the ground for the Badgers (3-0), with the absence of senior Corey Clement. Clement did not play in the Georgia State game. He missed one half in the Badgers’ win over Akron last week, after suffering a rolled left ankle.
Contributions on the Badgers defense kept the Panthers (0-3) off the scoreboard in the first quarter. Junior defensive end Conor Sheehy blocked a 45-yard field goal attempt by senior kicker Roger ten Lohuis with 6:36 left in the second quarter.
Wisconsin collected 201 yards on offensive in the first half, compared to 86 for Georgia State. The Badgers, however, only had 81 through the air in the first. The Panthers had 79 yards passing.
Gaglianone booted field goals of 41, 28 and 21 yards, but missed a 30-yard attempt as time expired in the first half.
Georgia State got on the board with a 10-play, 49-yard drive, capped by a 45-yard field goal from ten Lohuis to trim Wisconsin’s lead to 6-3 with 6:00 left in the third.
Ogunbowale led Wisconsin 20 carries for 65 yards and one TD. Penniston finished with three catches for 35 yards and a score for the Badgers.
Chryst said he was pleased with Hornibrook’s effort in the win but reiterated that Houston is the starter.
“I thought we needed a little bit of spark and I liked the way both of them were preparing and thought Alex might give us a little something,” Chryst said. “Bart’s our starter for right now. I’m proud of what Alex did when he came in. I’m not planning anything right now other than appreciating this win.”
Chryst did not have injury updates with Fumagali and Deal, but said Clement participated in a good workout on Saturday prior to the game.
NOTES: Wisconsin plays back-to-back road games against ranked Big Ten Conference foes in the next couple weeks. The Badgers play at No. 12 Michigan State on Sept. 24 and in Ann Arbor against No. 4 Michigan on Oct. 1. … Junior linebacker TJ Watt and junior defensive end Alex James each have two sacks each this season for Wisconsin. … The Badgers have compiled a 75-9 record — an 89.2 winning percentage — on their home field dating to the 2004 season.