EAST LANSING, Mich. — By the time Alex Hornibrook's first start was over, there wasn't much question about whether he could handle one of the toughest road tests in the Big Ten.
Hornibrook threw for 195 yards and a touchdown, and 11th-ranked Wisconsin turned its early season showdown with No. 8 Michigan State into a rout, beating the Spartans 30-6 Saturday.
"You've got to have respect for a guy whose first start is against a Michigan State defense," Wisconsin running back Corey Clement said. "He's going to come out the next game and do even better. I think he's just getting his feet wet."
The freshman quarterback outplayed fifth-year senior Tyler O'Connor, his Michigan State counterpart. The Badgers (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten) were the better team in the first half, then outscored the Spartans 17-0 in the third quarter.
Michigan State (2-1, 0-1) was down 13-6 early in the third and had the ball in Wisconsin territory when LJ Scott's fumble bounced to Wisconsin's Leo Musso in the secondary. O'Connor was the only player with a decent shot at him on the return, and Musso spun past the quarterback and into the end zone for a 66-yard touchdown.
O'Connor finished 18-of-38 for 224 yards with three interceptions.
"People have been saying a lot of good things about us lately," Spartans coach Mark Dantonio said. "And now we'll take some shots."
Clement ran for two touchdowns for Wisconsin, which went with Hornibrook at quarterback after fifth-year senior Bart Houston (44-of-71, 527 yards, two TDs passing) started the first three games. Hornibrook wasn't spectacular (16-of-26), but he kept his cool.
"That's something that I take pride in, just staying the same level, not going too far up or too far down," he said.
Dantonio ran down the list of categories in which his team came up short: "Possession time, turnovers, running the football, sacks, third-down conversions, combined with fourth-down conversions. It's all right there. That's why you don't win a football game."
Wisconsin had the ball for 32:48, forced four turnovers, outrushed Michigan State 122-75 and went 7-of-16 on third down. The Spartans were sacked four times.
This was a rare blowout in the recent history of this series. The previous seven meetings were decided by an average of 4.9 points.