Wisconsin strolled into East Lansing on Saturday as five-point underdogs and left with a 30-6 win over a top-10 team. Alex Hornibrook – in his first career start – threw for 195 yards, one touchdown and one interception, while the defense forced four turnovers and held a Michigan State offense averaging 32 points in check.
“I think anytime you have success, you need everyone to do their part and execute,” Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “I thought (we did that). Those that we did execute on and did convert on, there was time given by the line and the tight ends and running backs – whoever was in on protection – and obviously someone made a play on the other end of it, and in between (Hornibrook) gave them a chance to make that play. There’s nothing really magical about playing the game. That’s what you have to do. You have to go out and play it and focus on trying to execute and be the best. We’ve been doing a good job up until this point, and we just got to keep growing. We’ve got a great challenge ahead of us this week, but every challenge is an opportunity as well.”
No. 8 Wisconsin (4-0) plays No. 4 Michigan (4-0) in Ann Arbor this Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET. It marks the Badgers’ third game against a top-eight team this season. They also host No. 2 Ohio State (3-0) and No. 15 Nebraska on Oct. 15 and 29, respectively.
Somehow, the Badgers haven’t looked ahead or been overwhelmed.
“I think this team has done a good job of just being in the moment,” he said. “You get one week, Sunday through Friday, to prepare to play a game on Saturday. You want them to enjoy playing the game and you know every game we’ve played this year – and every game we will play in – things will go your way and things won’t. You just got to keep competing and keep playing. You want them to enjoy that. . . . But they were happy, and they were proud. They knew that they put it out there and we happened to score more points than the opponent. But they’ve done a good job of just being in the moment. I want them to do that and then turn the page. We’ve got another opportunity this week.”
The Badgers will have to be at their best to knock off Michigan in The Big House, where Jim Harbaugh is 9-2 with the only losses against Sparty and Brutus. Michigan has a ton of weapons – none more dangerous, perhaps, than the versatile Jabrill Peppers.
“He’s a really good player,” Chryst sad. “I don’t know if he’s the best in college football, but if you’re having discussions, what he does is really unique and it’s impressive. But their team has a lot of really good football payers. You can’t just highlight one player on that team and say, ‘If we (stop him), we’re going to be good.’ They’ve got a lot of really good players and they’re really well-coached – and that combination makes for a good team. So we certainly know the things we got to do and we’ll work on them this week. For us to be successful, each play you need all 11 guys to do their assignment and do it the best they can – and even that doesn’t guarantee success. But it gives you your best chance.”
Wisconsin is currently a 10.5-point underdog. Then again, the Badgers were underdogs in East Lansing, especially after surviving Georgia State 23-17 at Camp Randall the week prior.
“We knew Georgia State was a good football team,” Chryst said of the 0-3 Panthers. “There were some things that we did and didn’t do to make it the game it was, just like every game we’ve played in. We did some things last week, and Michigan State did some things – good and bad – that make it turn out to be the game that it is. There is no carryover as far as because you’ve done something one week, you’re going to do it the next. That’s the beauty of the journey they call a season. You go play each one, they’re all chapters and at the end of it you got a book. But you can’t write it before the end of it. I think that’s hard because everyone wants to play ahead and talk about what this means and what that means. You don’t have to live it. For us, you get to live each and every moment. That’s what makes the season kind of fun.”