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Wisconsin football players, coaches embrace their bye week

Dennis Punzel

The Wisconsin State Journal

The bye week in college football can mean different things to different people.

For some players it's a good chance to heal from injuries or general aches and pains acquired in the weeks leading up to the break. For others it's a good opportunity to work on different aspects of their games.

For coaches it provides some welcome time to assess individuals and schemes without the pressure of having to prepare for an opponent.

University of Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst sees potential benefits in all those areas and more as the No. 15 Badgers get the week off following their come-from-behind victory over Iowa last weekend.

"They've got to fuel up their tank and they've got to make sure they come back with some energy," Chryst said. "I know some of them will go home and that's important for them to go home and reconnect. Some will just lay low.

"That's what's kind of neat about a team, everyone's a little bit different. This is the halfway point if you count camp so they've got to take advantage of this time to re-energize, whether it's through (eating) Cheetos or watching games or maybe not watching any football and just getting away from it. We've got to come back ready to roll."

Chryst is counting on quarterback Alex Hornibrook to pick up where he left off Saturday after leading the Badgers on a big 88-yard drive in the fourth quarter at Iowa, culminating with a 17-yard strike to A.J. Taylor for the lead with 57 seconds remaining.

That's the kind of performance that he expects with the maturity and experience from the three-year starter.

"One of his strengths is, whatever the situation, embrace it," Chryst said. "I think he competes. He's been good, but like everyone on this team, can keep getting better."

Chryst said that Hornibrook's focus has improved over the years.

"I think early in the career it's, 'What do I do?' Then there's 'What are the defenses doing?' Now the focus is on how you play," Chryst said. "I think he's done a good job of working on that and a lot of it's showing up. There's still room to grow, but I've liked his approach."

Chryst also has liked the approach of senior fullback Alec Ingold, who has emerged as something of a secret weapon this season. While the primary role of a fullback always will be blocking, Ingold demonstrated his versatility at Iowa, catching a 33-yard pass to set up the first touchdown and then running 33 yards for a TD in the final seconds.

It was enough to get Chryst and his staff contemplating ways to make full use of him in the offense.

"The coaches also have spent time this week addressing one of the team's weaknesses, the pass rush. The Badgers rank last in the Big Ten with just three sacks.

"No doubt, that's a big part of defensive football," Chryst said. "I think the bye week is a good chance to go through and take a good look at your self-scout. We believe we can get more.

"A lot of it comes from one more step and where does that one more step come from? It sometimes comes from the pass rusher, sometimes it comes from the coverage aspect of it so you buy one more step. Any defense is better when you can get some of that and, certainly, we'd like to get more and feel like we can get better in that area."

Should the Badgers need any added inspiration against the Cornhuskers, Chryst suggested they might get some from the presence of the 1993 UW team that earned the program's first Rose Bowl championship in its first appearance in Pasadena since 1963. That team set the standard for 25 years of unprecedented success. That team will be honored at halftime.

"I wasn't in town at the time but that group was pretty significant," Chryst said. "I think that team was probably very similar to the first basketball team that went to the Final Four. People didn't think in their lifetime that they'd go to a Rose Bowl. They certainly changed this program."

Preston leaves team

Defensive end Keldric Preston left the program, a UW official confirmed Thursday. first reported that the redshirt sophomore was missing from the Badgers' online roster.

The Tampa native and former three-star prospect played in just one game for UW, recording one tackle against Utah State in last year's season opener.

Preston is the fourth scholarship defensive player -- along with cornerback Dontye Carriere-Williams, safety Patrick Johnson and outside linebacker Arrington Farrar -- to leave the program in the past month.

-- Copyright © 2018, The Wisconsin State Journal/Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.