Mills' Seven Storylines: BYU Edition
The Wisconsin Badgers cruised past the BYU Cougars on Saturday, capping off their non-conference play with a 40-6 win at LaVelle Stadium. This afternoon matchup featured another UW offensive display, some record-breaking performances and breathtaking mountain views.
For the casual Badger fan, this is a lot to take in. If you enjoyed game day, you’ll be sure to enjoy this week’s edition of Mills’ Seven Storylines:
Storyline #1: Young, Lean and Mean
It started with true freshman running back Jonathan Taylor in Week 1 and it continued in Week 3. Indeed, Taylor’s 128-yard day was notable but performances from other UW youngsters were also impressive. Sophomore A.J. Taylor, freshman Danny Davis and sophomore Quintez Cephus combined for 10 receptions. In particular, Davis’ athleticism was on full display during his 50-yard catch from sophomore quarterback Alex Hornibrook. If you didn’t already hear, Hornibrook’s 256-yard game was one of the best in Badger history. On the defensive side, redshirt freshman cornerback Dontye Carriere-Williams boasted eight tackles and an interception in Provo, Utah. This is a program known for producing young talent and effective UW recruiting flexes its muscles early on in 2017.
Storyline #2: I MUST be Dreaming
As the game extended and as time dwindled down, I kept pinching myself. I never thought Saturday’s matchup against BYU would be the day freshman running back Garrett Groshek or senior running back Rachi Ibrahim would outgain Bradrick Shaw or Chris James. Groshek would finish with 43 yards on nine carries and Ibrahim totaled 27 yards on eight carries. Compared to Shaw and James, who combined for 9 carries, is astounding. UW’s depth and current player performances seem to write off both rushers as head coach Paul Chryst might be inserting them to keep their confidence up as budding freshman star Jonathan Taylor runs circles around opponents.
Storyline #3: Hello and Good Bye
A 40-6 Wisconsin win against BYU gives the program its first true non-conference road game win since a UNLV victory in 2010. Such a performance deserves, or delivers, a well-earned bye week before the Badgers face Northwestern on Sept. 30. This is a much-needed break for UW as the conference play kicks off in two weeks. Wisconsin was without RB Taiwan Deal, OL Jon Dietzen, DE Chikwe Obasih, S Patrick Johnson, WR George Rushing and FB Jake Whalen against the Cougars. A week off gives head coach Paul Chryst time to adjust lineups, fine-tune plays and provide the necessary medical attention without the stress of another game. The Badgers hope as many players as possible will be available when BIG ten play begins and a Week 4-bye is a step in the right direction.
Storyline #4: Insert Fire Emoji here*
Sophomore quarterback Alex Hornibrook impressed on paper, but a quick glance at the past proves his performance was one for the record books. He put up career highs in passing yards (256), passing touchdowns (4) and completions. Plus, Hornibrook set the Wisconsin single-game completion record with a 94.7 percent rate to overtake alum Darrell Bevell (94.4 percent). The lefty completed a career-best 277.4 pass efficiency rating, propelling him to number two in Badger history. He has work to do if he is to break John Stocco’s 296.7 performance in 2006, but Saturday’s game could be a tease of what is to come.
Storyline #5: Familiarity in an Unfamiliar Land
During his postgame press conference, head coach Paul Chryst emphasized the mentality coming into Wisconsin’s game against BYU.
“It was one of those games where we weren’t quite sure what we were going to see. I thought our coaches did a really good job and more importantly, our players understood how to attack it,” he said.
Obviously, referencing game film was a critical factor as the Badgers overwhelmed the Cougars. Furthermore, Chryst acknowledged, “Joe (Rudolph) had a really good plan” when it came to the opposing BYU linebackers and offensive schemes.
Storyline #6: Rid of the Fourth Down Demons
One might remember Week 2’s air-deflating play the Wisconsin Badgers ran against Florida Atlantic. It was a long drive ending with the Owls defense stopping the Badgers on fourth-and-one at their [FAU] one-yard line. Then there was the criticism of the play call, myself included, yet UW silenced doubts in Week 3. At the BYU 12-yard line, the football is handed off to running back Garret Groshek on a fourth-and-one play. He ran one yard forward, thus securing the first down. Only a few plays later, another Badger touchdown lit up the scoreboard. I will sleep better this week knowing UW exercised its fourth down demons. It may not seem significant now, but I am betting a fourth down play will be a determining factor in a future 2017 Wisconsin game.
Storyline #7: Remember the Time
The 40-6 Wisconsin route over BYU suggests the Badger offense controlled the pace of play and time of possession. Both assumptions are correct; the UW offense totaled 40 minutes with the football compared to the Cougars’ 19:51-minute mark. In football, I believe this has become a meaningless statistic, which must change. If you control the ball, you control the game. This can force opponents to use timeouts, make desperate attempts and play sloppy. I recognize turnover ratio or big drives could prove otherwise, but in a sport, such as collegiate football, time of possession signifies more to me than a “right time at the right place” play. Thus far, Wisconsin averages just over 37 minutes/game compared to their opponents’ 22 minutes/game. I stand by the notion if you control the clock, you control the game. On Saturday, the Wisconsin Badgers proved this to be true.
Those were seven storylines you may have missed during Friday's action. Now, you have seven more reasons to check back in TWO WEEKS.
Jonathan Mills is a staff writer and covers Wisconsin football/basketball for BadgerBlitz.com on the Rivals.com network. Follow him on Twitter at @realJ_Mills