Wisconsin starting quarterback Alex Hornibrook is listed as questionable for Saturday’s Big Ten Championship game — but Penn State coach James Franklin isn’t buying it.
Hornibrook suffered a head injury during the Badgers’ regular-season finale win over Minnesota, and he showed up on Wisconsin’s Monday injury report.
When asked about how the Nittany Lions would prepare for the Badgers knowing that information, Franklin wasn’t fazed in his Tuesday press conference.
“He’s going to play,” Franklin said of the Malvern Prep graduate and West Chester native. “I’ve got a lot of friends in the Malvern Area. I’m from Pennsylvania. He’s from Pennsylvania. He’s playing in this game. I still got friends from my time with the Green Bay Packers. I’ve got informants and spies everywhere. He’s playing.”
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Hornibrook, who has been Wisconsin’s starting signal-caller since the Badgers’ Sept. 24 game at Michigan State, is still working his way back into the swing of things.
Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst said on a Sunday teleconference that the redshirt freshman was “feeling a lot better than he did” on Saturday.
“Take it day by day, and see where he’s at,” Chryst said of his approach in handling Hornibrook’s situation. “I know he got on the bike today and did some things, said he felt good after that, but we’ll probably just take it day by day here.”
Hornibrook isn’t the only quarterback Penn State has to worry about. Badgers senior Bart Houston, who started the first three games of the season, has garnered plenty of reps, essentially splitting time with Hornibrook.
On the season, Hornibrook has thrown for 1,243 yards and eight touchdowns, while completing 58.1 percent of his passes and tossing seven interceptions.
Meanwhile, Houston has completed 63.9 percent of his throws, tallying 912 yards with five touchdowns to three picks this season. In his last four games, Houston has connected on 17 of 24 passes for 283 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
Chyrst complimented Houston in his Monday press conference.
“Bart does a good job of being in the moment,” Chryst told reporters. “He cares about this team and has confidence in himself. He wants to contribute and believes he can contribute and help.”
Questionable special teams?
Franklin explained a punt return formation that Wisconsin implements that he believes is illegal.
“They line up, they screen move, they shift their fronts,” the coach said. “They’ve gotten so many people to jump offsides by real fast screen jumping or moving, moving the guys down the line of scrimmage, it’s caused everybody to jump offsides.”
Franklin said, in his eyes, the Badgers aren’t shifting to run a punt return set.
“They’re doing it to clearly gain a penalty,” the coach said. “Right after they do it, their whole special teams go crazy. You can see that’s clearly what they’re trying to do. We’ll be prepared for that.”
When Franklin left the Penn State football offices to go home around 11 p.m. Sunday, he went over to the Bryce Jordan Center.
He heard that more than 150 tents of students were lined up to purchase tickets to the Big Ten Championship game, and his eyes didn’t fool him.
“I’ve never seen anything like that,” Franklin said. “It was really cool. Great to get a chance to interact with them, let them know how much we appreciate them. I think that’s one of the things that makes this place special, the support we get from our students as well as the community.”
However, he did have a message for those students.
“I was concerned because it was cold,” Franklin said. “I told them to stay warm, don’t get sick. The other thing is, there’s no excuse not to go to class tomorrow, make sure you’re at class.”