MADISON, Wis. (AP) Bart Houston began the season as Wisconsin's starting quarterback before losing his job to Alex Hornibrook.
With Hornibrook listed as questionable with a head injury for the Big Ten title game against No. 8 Penn State (10-2, 8-1 Big Ten) on Saturday, the No. 6 Badgers (10-2, 7-2) may have to turn back to Houston. A fifth-year senior, Houston rallied the Badgers to a 31-17 victory over Minnesota last Saturday.
''No doubt he's given us a spark a number of times, it's been good to see,'' Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst said Monday.
Houston took over for Hornibrook when he was injured late in the second quarter against the Golden Gophers and led Wisconsin to 24 second-half points. Wide receiver Jazz Peavy said Houston's fun-loving persona helps keep the team loose no matter what the situation is.
''In the fourth quarter we were going into one of these drives and Bart comes into the huddle telling jokes and stuff like that,'' Peavy said with a laugh. ''I'm thinking this guy's really relaxed right now and I'm locked in and focused.''
Peavy, whose 71-yard scamper on a jet sweep set up Corey Clement's 2-yard touchdown run to snap a 17-17 tie, said Houston has a ''fun, goofy personality'' that bodes well in pressure situations.
''Bart brings that ease to the group of guys in the huddle. He allows us to be a little more freely and not uptight,'' Peavy said.
Chryst has come to appreciate his senior quarterback's approach to the game on and off the field.
''One thing I have enjoyed and appreciate from Bart is I think he is having fun playing the game,'' Chryst said.
Houston, who scrambled 12 yards to sustain a third quarter scoring drive, has proven he can make plays with his arm and his feet.
''Bart does a great job of being in the moment,'' Chryst said. ''He cares about this team and has confidence in himself. He wants to contribute and believes he can contribute and help.''
When Chryst was asked what would happen if Hornibrook can't go on Saturday and Houston gets dinged he replied ''We'll be all right.''
Notes: Offensive lineman Jacob Maxwell has been ruled out for Saturday with a right shoulder injury.
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