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Hornibrook’s efficiency helps No. 10 Wisconsin cruise past BYU

Wisconsin Badgers quarterback Alex Hornibrook (12) throws a pass in the fourth quarter against the Brigham Young Cougars Saturday at LaVell Edwards Stadium. Wisconsin defeated BYU 40-6. (Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

The Sports Xchange

PROVO, Utah — If there is such a thing as a perfect day for a quarterback, Wisconsin sophomore Alex Hornibrook probably experienced something close to it against BYU.

Hornibrook never got rattled and found ways to pick apart the Cougars on virtually every drive. He set a school record for accuracy in leading the No. 10 Badgers to a 40-6 victory on Saturday, completing 18 of 19 passes for 256 yards and four touchdowns.

His 94.7 percent completion percentage eclipsed the mark set by Darrell Bevell in 1993 when he completed 17-of-18 passes (94.4 percent) against Northwestern. Hornibrook also posted a career-best 277.4 pass efficiency rating, while posting career highs in passing yardage and touchdown passes.

“I thought he saw the field really well and I thought he was decisive and that was what I liked the best,” Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst said.

Jonathan Taylor added 128 rushing yards and a touchdown for the Badgers. Taylor is the first freshman to have back-to-back 100 yard rushing games since Corey Clement did it in 2013.

The Badgers (3-0) scored on all four of their drives before halftime and never trailed. They totaled 267 yards and averaged 8.9 yards per play in the first half. Wisconsin finished with 491 yards while holding the Cougars to 192 yards.

“It seemed like everybody was locked in,” Hornibrook said. “It just felt like a different energy on the field a little bit.”

Beau Hoge made his first start at quarterback for BYU. The sophomore filled in for Tanner Mangum, who injured his ankle in a 19-13 loss to Utah a week earlier. Hoge completed 11 of 20 passes for 111 yards with two interceptions.

The Cougars (1-3) gained just 11 first downs and averaged 4.2 yards per play in the 1,000th game of their football program.

“We wanted to see how we would measure up and there’s your answer,” BYU coach Kalani Sitake said. “Not to make any excuses, but it was a good clinic to see who we want to be and what it takes.”

Wisconsin linebacker T.J. Edwards picked off Hoge’s first pass attempt on BYU’s opening drive to set up a 23-yard field goal from Rafael Gaglianone that gave Wisconsin a 3-0 lead. The Cougars answered with a 31-yarder from Rhett Almond.

Taylor plowed into the end zone from a yard out on the final play of the first quarter to put the Badgers up 10-3. Danny Davis III set up that touchdown after hauling in a 50-yard pass on the drive’s opening play.

Davis reeled in that pass as he fell backward and kept his hands clamped onto the ball even as BYU safety Micah Hannemann tried to wrestle it away.

“That’s what I love about my receivers,” Hornibrook said. “They’ll fight for that football and they’ll go for it, even if they don’t have a great chance of getting the ball. That’s the biggest thing that develops trust.”

Wide receiver Quintez Cephus had two touchdown catches — hauling in one for nine yards and the other for 15 yards — to cap both of Wisconsin’s second-quarter drives and extend the lead to 24-3. He finished with a career-high five catches.

The Cougars cut the lead to 24-6 after a 50-yard pass from Hoge to Micah Simon set up a 32-yard field goal on the final play of the half.

Wisconsin punted for the first time on its opening drive of the third quarter, but BYU could not capitalize. The Cougars were also forced to punt on their first possession of the quarter, and the Badgers increased their lead to 31-6 on an 18-yard pass from Hornibrook to A.J. Taylor with 2:59 left in the third quarter.

“There are glimpses of us doing great things and other times we’re not doing well at all,” BYU tight end Matt Bushman said. “We just need to find the balance where we’re not trying to do too much and once we have the opportunity where we have the defense on their heels, to go out and make plays.”

The Badgers tacked on their final points in the fourth quarter after cashing in on BYU mistakes.

Hornibrook connected with Troy Fumagalli for a 19-yard touchdown pass following Hoge’s second interception. Then, Wisconsin added a safety a few seconds later after Hoge was sacked by linebacker Christian Bell and fumbled the ball out of the back of the end zone.

BADGER BITS: Wisconsin RB Bradrick Shaw, who missed last week’s game because of a leg injury, carried four times for 19 yards. ... Badgers S Patrick Johnson (arm) and OG Jon Dietzen (leg) where among those out because of injuries. ... BYU retired the jerseys of former quarterbacks Marc Wilson and Robbie Bosco and former running back Luke Staley at halftime. All three players wore No. 6 during their careers. ... BYU freshman RB Ula Tolutau led the team with a career-high 58 yards on 13 carries.