Alex Hornibrook changed the conversation with one clutch throw. No. 5 Wisconsin is still undefeated in large part after its even-keeled quarterback shook off another groan-inducing interception.
Hornibrook’s 24-yard touchdown pass to A.J. Taylor in the third quarter broke open a defensive slugfest, Kendric Pryor scored on an end-around and the Badgers beat No. 19 Michigan 24-10 on Saturday.
Wisconsin (11-0, 8-0 Big Ten, No. 5 CFP) padded its postseason resume by winning a grinding, physical matchup against the Wolverines (8-3, 5-3, No. 24 CFP).
Hornibrook finished 9 of 19 for 143 yards, but bounced back from the turnover early in the third quarter with some of his best throws of the season.
“Sometimes adversity helps us play even harder and better. We were able to do that today,” Hornibrook said.
It has been a season-long story line. Hornibrook has now thrown 12 interceptions in Big Ten play. While Hornibrook has been resilient, defense and Big Ten-rushing leader Jonathan Taylor have been the biggest reasons why the Badgers remain unbeaten.
In the biggest game yet of the season, Hornibrook became a difference-maker.
“I guess it’s a pretty big deal,” Hornibrook said when asked about the attention he gets for his picks. “But we kind of fight back through it.”
He connected with Taylor through a tight window in the end zone for a 14-10 lead with 3:31 left in the third quarter.
After a three-and-out for Michigan, Wisconsin’s Danny Davis made a one-handed catch with a defender draped on him for a 27-yard gain. Pryor followed with his 32-yard scoring run with 24 seconds left in the third for a two-score lead.
“Two big throws and then they got a few runs out, too,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said. “That ended up being the difference in the game.”
Wisconsin’s defense had a say, too.
Linebacker Leon Jacobs forced Michigan quarterback Brandon Peters to fumble at the Wisconsin 2 in the second quarter. Pressure picked up in the second half.
Peters had to be carted off the field in the third quarter after getting hit by linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel following an incompletion on third-and-5 from the Michigan 30.
Without him, the already limited Wolverines didn’t have the firepower to come back from a double-digit deficit. The run game was held to 58 yards on 37 carries.
“Everyone was a little cranky” after getting up early for a late-morning start,” Wisconsin linebacker T.J. Edwards said. “Everyone had a little edge to them.”
Defense also gave Michigan its best chance to upset Wisconsin on the road, and it looked as if that might happen for two-plus quarters.
An athletic front controlled the line of scrimmage. Big Ten-leading rusher Jonathan Taylor had trouble finding holes.
Momentum turned after Hornibrook showed he could make clutch throws late in the third quarter.
“They didn’t do anything different, we just beat ourselves, up front especially,” Michigan defensive lineman Aubrey Solomon said.
Jonathan Taylor finished with 132 yards on 19 carries, with 87 yards in the second half.
Michigan: Before getting hurt, Peters made some nice throws against the nation’s top-ranked defense, especially during the seven-play, 84-yard touchdown drive that ended with Mason’s score in the first half. Peters had one big mistake in the first after fumbling near the goal line during his scramble out of the pocket from the 5. Overall, the sophomore can build on some positives in his third career start at a tough road venue, especially considering the opponent. Peters finished 9 of 18 for 157 yards.
“Brandon, I thought, was very good. We can’t get him hit as much,” Harbaugh said.
Wisconsin: The defense gave up a couple deep shots, including a 48-yard completion to receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones on the first-half touchdown drive. Otherwise, the unit had another stout day, and coordinator Jim Leonhard dialed up a couple different blitzes in the second half. After following a season-long script of recovering from mistakes, a second straight win over a ranked opponent should look good to the College Football Playoff selection committee.
Harbaugh said only that Peters was getting tests after getting “shaken up.” The quarterback was due to meet the rest of the team at the plane for the trip home.
AT THE HALF
The teams played to a 7-all tie at the half, though Michigan went into the locker room with momentum after fullback Ben Mason scored on a 1-yard run with 2:24 left. Wisconsin was outgained 169-99 in the first half, with its only score coming on Nick Nelson’s 50-yard punt return.
Michigan: The Game against Ohio State at the Big House on Nov. 25.
Wisconsin: Travels to Minnesota on Nov. 25 in the rivalry game for Paul Bunyan’s Axe.