PROVO, Utah — Alex Hornibrook said he doesn’t peruse his social media accounts often, the platform many University of Wisconsin fans used last week to take shots at his accuracy and arm strength after a poor performance against Florida Atlantic. Simply the questions he heard from the media during a short post-game interview session were enough to irk the sophomore quarterback.
His response? Breaking the school record for single-game completion percentage the next time he took the field.
Hornibrook shredded BYU’s defense in a 40-6 victory at LaVell Edwards Stadium on Saturday, completing 18-of-19 passes for 256 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions, quieting his critics and propelling 10th-ranked UW (3-0) to a statement win heading into Big Ten play.
"People doubting my accuracy kind of drove me a little bit,” Hornibrook said. "It’s one thing that I kind of pride myself by — my accuracy. ... I’ve heard the arm strength thing my whole life. I don’t really care too much about that. But (accuracy’s) one thing I pride myself in, and it kind of irritated me a little bit last week."
Hornibrook’s accuracy reached near-perfect levels against the Cougars (1-3). His pass efficiency rating of 277.4 ranks as the second-highest single-game mark in school history, and his only incompletion came because of a first-half drop by wide receiver Danny Davis.
Hornibrook set career highs in passing yards and touchdowns, and his final scoring toss made him the first Badgers quarterback since Russell Wilson against Minnesota in 2011 to throw four touchdowns in a game.
“He was locked in all week,” UW left guard Micah Kapoi said. "We’ve seen it all week in his prep and how he practiced, and it showed big-time. ... I think this week it really clicked for him. Everything came together."
Hornibrook revealed after Saturday’s game that he had a jammed finger on his left hand against FAU last week, and that it “probably had something to do with the accuracy.”
He certainly had nothing holding him back against BYU, which allowed 491 yards of offense on the day.
Hornibrook set up UW’s first touchdown — a 1-yard plunge by true freshman running back Jonathan Taylor that gave the Badgers a 10-3 lead — with a 50-yard bomb to Davis. Taylor, overshadowed by Hornibrook’s brilliance, had another impressive performance with 128 yards on 18 carries.
The next drive, Hornibrook hit Quintez Cephus in the end zone from 9 yards out on third-and-5, and the Badgers then drove 83 yards on 10 plays, capped by another touchdown pass to Cephus. On the second one, Hornibrook stepped up in the pocket to avoid pressure coming from his left and fired an accurate throw over the middle for the score.
“(Hornibrook) was very accurate and calm under pressure,” BYU linebacker Butch Pau’u said. “I felt like our defensive ends and defensive tackles got a lot of pressure on him, but he remained calm and everything was on time.”
Outside of one long drive and a 50-yard pass that set up two first-half field goals, UW shut down BYU’s struggling offense, led by backup quarterback Beau Hoge in his first career start.
That left no pressure on Hornibrook and the Badgers’ offense. The quarterback threw two more touchdowns on third down in the second half.
Wide receiver A.J. Taylor caught an 18-yard pass for his first career score on third-and-8, giving the Badgers a 31-6 lead with 2 minutes, 59 seconds remaining in the third quarter. Two drives later, Hornibrook placed a 19-yard touchdown pass to Troy Fumagalli on third-and-18.
“I think Alex bailed us out a little bit in the red zone,” UW coach Paul Chryst said. “... I thought he saw the field really well and I thought he was decisive."
Hornibrook found the target on all eight of his third-down throws Saturday for 114 yards and three touchdowns. For the season, he’s completed 18-of-23 third-down passes for 241 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions.
The touchdown throw to Fumagalli marked the sophomore’s 14th straight completion and ended a stunning performance that escaped any and all forms of criticism.
Hornibrook’s record-breaking afternoon won’t be replicable every week, but a consistent dose of the potential he showed Saturday could help the Badgers meet their lofty expectations as they enter Big Ten play.
“When he’s confident like that, I think he’s one of the best in the country,” UW inside linebacker T.J. Edwards said. “He showed it today."