Did you feel that?
If you noticed a strong gust of wind on Saturday, it was the collective exhale that left Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday afternoon after Wisconsin narrowly escaped Georgia State, 23-17
The Badgers didn’t play well. That’s pretty well represented by the final score. A team that is typically blown out in Madison was allowed to hang around for the entire afternoon. At one point in the fourth quarter, the winless Panthers even took a 17-13 over a B1G team with a No. 9 ranking.
No question, Saturday’s game was ugly. But after a tight win over LSU and a blowout victory against Akron in the first two weeks of the season, there’s no reason to panic after one error-filled performance.
Wisconsin wasn’t at full strength. Corey Clement was sidelined following an ankle injury suffered in last week’s game against the Zips. Without their top offensive producer, the Badgers offense was never able to gain momentum.
The offensive production took another hit when tight end Troy Fumagalli and running back Taiwan Deal both suffered injuries in the first quarter. Outside of a pair of Rafael Gaglianone field goals – the only six points of the first half – the offense had nothing to show in the first 30 minutes.
It got better in the second half. Not much better, but it was an improvement nonetheless. Alex Hornibrook fueled some scoring drives after replacing Bart Houston in the third quarter. Hornibrook – who may have earned a starting role in next week’s game against Michigan State – completed 8-of-12 passes for 122 yards and a TD.
Beating Georgia State by six points on your home turf isn’t an accomplishment worthy of much bragging. But Wisconsin got it done without its best offensive player. At this stage in the season, tallies in the “W” column are all that matter.
Worry was present on the faces of many Badgers fans on Saturday. And for good reason. After a sigh of relief, though, that worry should be gone.
There’s no reason for the Badgers to go back to the drawing board. There’s no need for massive offensive scheming changes. Wisconsin didn’t execute well against Georgia State, that’s the bottom line.
Wisconsin probably got caught looking ahead, too. After all, when your next four contests are against Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State and Iowa, an 0-2 Georgia State team that was pummeled by Ball State probably wasn’t on the radar screen.
Clement’s return should result in more points for the Wisconsin offense. If Fumagalli and Deal are back, that’ll help as well. Really, the only question lingering will be around the quarterback situation, something that’s been hovering over Madison since spring practice.
Is Hornibrook the guy now? Will Houston get another shot next weekend? Those are questions we still don’t know. We probably won’t have the answers until late next week, either.
We do know that Saturday wasn’t a typical performance from Wisconsin’s high-powered offense. It won’t have that much trouble scoring points all season long.
You can return to regular breathing patterns, Badgers fans. There’s no reason to panic about what you saw against Georgia State.