Florida Atlantic at Wisconsin

Sports Xchange

September 06, 2017 at 5:37 pm.

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Saturday, noon ET
SITE: Camp Randall Stadium, Madison, Wis.
TV: Big Ten Network
SERIES: First meeting
RANKINGS: Wisconsin No. 9

PLAYERS TO WATCH
Badgers

–QB Alex Hornibrook overcame a rough first quarter to throw a career-high three touchdowns for 244 yards in his 10th career start. Wisconsin’s success on offense will depend largely on consistent play at quarterback, thus making Hornibrook’s bounce-back effort in the final three quarters a good sign heading into Week 2.

–TE Troy Fumagalli is considered one of the best at his position in the country. It’s a good sign for the Wisconsin offense that Hornibrook and Fumagalli established a good connection in the opener, with Fumagalli finishing with a career-high 105 receiving yards.

–CB Nick Nelson, a junior who replaces four-year starter Sojourn Shelton at cornerback, made his Badgers debut vs. Utah State after sitting out 2016 following his transfer from Hawaii. Nelson started 21 games for the Rainbow Warriors, recording 21 pass breakups. He made two tackles in the opener and is also returning punts.

Owls

–LB Azeez Al-Shaair led the team in tackles in each of the past two seasons, including 113 stops, with 12 for loss, in 2016. He opened this season with 14 tackles, once again leading the Owls. He’ll be busy against Wisconsin’s ground attack.

–RB Devin Singletary rushed for 1,021 yards as a true freshman last season, averaging 6.7 yards per game. He had only six carries in the opener against Navy, rushing for 26 yards.

KEYS
TO THE GAME

Florida Atlantic had difficulty stopping Navy’s option attack in its opener. Now, the Owls face Wisconsin’s power running game.

The No. 9 Badgers (1-0) will be looking to build on their big second half against Utah State, when they ran for 234 yards en route to a 59-10 victory.

Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst was pleased with efforts from a handful of his young playmakers, particularly at running back and receiver. True freshman running back Jonathan Taylor had nine carries for a team-high 87 yards and one touchdown. Sophomore RB Bradrick Shaw added 18 carries for 86 yards as the Badgers roared to a 49-0 advantage after halftime.

“I thought (Taylor) had a pretty good tempo to him,” Chryst said. “I was impressed with that. ‘Brad,’ one of the things we certainly like about him is when he takes it north and south, he can hit a hole. Each guy had his moments.”

Shaw, who has been hampered by a right leg injury, was listed as questionable on the team’s injury report released Monday.

Sophomore wide receivers A.J. Taylor and Quitez Cephus combined for six receptions for 71 yards and one touchdown against the Aggies. Chryst said their biggest area of improvement is confidence.

“I think part of that comes from knowledge of what they’re doing,” he said. “I think they know better what to expect. … I think they both have kind of earned that confidence by working. So I think they’re more relaxed.”

First-year FAU coach Lane Kiffin dropped his debut, 41-19 to Navy on Friday night, when the Owls gave up 426 rushing yards. The game was delayed twice by lightning and lasted 4 hours and 50 minutes.

“I know you are going to look at the score and think that we didn’t play very well defensively, but we did some really good things defensively and then fell apart at times,” Kiffin said. “That is one of the best scoring offenses in all of football.”

Chryst said he was impressed with FAU’s effort.

“I think there’s certainly energy,” Chryst said.

“I think in watching their game, I know the score probably wasn’t what they wanted, but they flew around and you saw a lot of good football players and things that he’s brought in there. But that’s from the outside looking in and watching tape.”

Kiffin, trying to improve a program that finished with a 3-9 record in each of the past three seasons, hasn’t settled on a starting quarterback.

Sophomore quarterback Daniel Parr got his first career start against Navy, completing 19 of 30 passes for 281 yards, with two touchdowns and one interception. Sophomore DeAndre Johnson, a junior college transfer with more mobility, is also in the mix.

Kiffin said he’d like to play both Parr and Johnson. Johnson had four rushes for 31 yards against the Midshipmen.

“(Parr) did do some good things,” Kiffin said. “His numbers weren’t bad. We were not playing against the greatest defense in football, so we would have liked to have been more productive.”

One disappointing development for Florida Atlantic was the right knee injury suffered by junior defensive tackle Ray Ellis late in the second quarter against Navy. Kiffin said Ellis, who was sidelined last year with a knee injury that required surgery, likely will undergo surgery again on the same knee.

“He really battled his way back,” Kiffin said. “(The knee) really started to look really good as he got healthier and healthier. Tough deal on him and the loss of a really good player.”

Wisconsin sophomore quarterback Alex Hornibrook recovered from a dismal first quarter last week, and then receivers dropped three passes in the second quarter. Hornibrook completed 7 of 13 passes for 63 yards and one interception in the first half. He was sacked three times.

He finished 15 of 23 for 244 yards and three touchdowns.

“There are some plays he can be better on, so overall, I liked the way that he saw the game, he made plays and gave guys a chance to make play,” Chryst said. “I think there’s still enough to work on that he’s got to focus on and get a lot better.”