Congratulations, Bart Houston. You’ve been named Wisconsin’s starting quarterback. Your first assignment: toppling one of the nation’s most ferocious defenses.
The Badgers open the season Sept. 3 against LSU at Green Bay’s Lambeau Field. Offshore odds-makers currently list the Tigers as a 10-point favorite.
Houston, a fifth-year senior, hopes to play it cool when he steps on the field Week 1, the same way he did when he learned he won the job Thursday morning.
“I kept it inside,” Houston told the team’s website, uwbadgers.com. “I was excited. But then, it was like, ‘All right, let’s get to it. Let’s go watch some LSU film.'”
Houston (6-4, 235) won the competition with redshirt freshman Alex Hornibrook.
“I felt like Bart did everything that he needed to do and earned the right to get the start and was also energized by what Alex did,” Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst told uwbadgers.com.
Chryst said he announced the decision now so the team can move forward with LSU preparations. He complimented both signal-callers for how they handled the competition.
“One thing I was impressed with was how Bart and Alex approached camp. I thought they both got better. One of our key goals was to make sure that both were ready to play this season; not just play but to be able to win with them playing. I felt both did that,” he said.
After redshirting as a freshman in 2012, Houston sat behind Joel Stave, who produced a 31-10 record as a three-year starter. Houston graduated in December and could have transferred with immediate eligibility, but he stayed in Madison to win the gig.
Urgency weighed on Houston. The California native struggled during the first scrimmage of training camp.
“I wasn’t happy, I wasn’t playing the game like I usually play the game and, that is, just going out there and playing the game. I was getting too focused on what happened on the last rep and I let it affect me on the next rep,” he said.
Houston settled down. His play took off from there.
“I thought he performed better. I just thought he was trying to do too much,” Chryst said.
Hornibrook (6-4, 219) kept pressure on Houston to perform well. Chryst let the freshman know how pleased he was on Thursday when announcing his decision.
“I wanted to make sure Alex knew that I thought he grew a ton. The confidence that not only the staff but I think the rest of the team has in him, it’s big. I think there are some specific areas that he knows that he can get better at and specific areas that he can build on that he does well.” the coach said.
Chryst’s choice came as a surprise to Hornibrook. The Pennsylvania product believed his performance earned him the job.
“I felt throughout camp, I definitely could be the starter; I think I performed well enough to be. At the same time, I understand what coach was saying and where he was coming from. If it’s best for the team, then it probably is. I’m not going to complain. That’s not me. I’ll just work harder,” he said.
Chryst plans to provide practice reps for his top two quarterbacks, a departure from last season when Stave took most of them. The coach said the process isn’t finished just because a starter has been named.
“We’ve still got a ways to go. Both need to continue to keep growing,” he said.
Houston played in 15 games during the last three seasons. He completed 29 of 51 passes for 295 yards and 4 touchdowns against 2 interceptions.