Saturday the Badgers close out the non-conference portion of their schedule by hosting the UTEP Miners of Conference-USA. Wisconsin dodged a bullet last weekend, barely beating Utah State at home. Another poor offensive showing led to Bret Bielema making a major change in the starting line-up. Danny O’Brien was yanked at halftime against the Aggies in place of Joel Stave, who finished out the game at quarterback. Stave will remain in as the starting QB against UTEP with O’Brien backing him up. Freshman Stave’s chances will be helped by the return of Jared Abbrederis who missed a game-and-a-half with a concussion.
UTEP will be trying to build momentum heading into their own conference season. They’re coming off a big win against New Mexico State, in a game that saw QB Nick Lamaison throw for 300 yards and four touchdowns. Jordan Leslie was the big play target in that contest with 7 catches for 147 yards and a TD. UTEP faces a Wisconsin defense that has held opponents to 14 PPG in three contests this season. Linebackers Mike Taylor and Chris Borland have been as-advertised for the Badgers, and now Wisconsin is also getting big contributions from other players including CB Devin Smith, S Dezmen Southward and DE David Gilbert.
The Badgers’ defense has needed to be stout to make up for a surprisingly punchless offense. Montee Ball has put up average numbers for him while the passing game has been almost non-existent. The team hopes to finally leave its offensive line difficulties behind it and return to some semblance of the old Wisconsin dominance. New starting QB Joel Stave has a tough task ahead of him generating enough of a pass attack to keep defenses from loading up against Ball and the other running backs. With a showdown game at Nebraska looming, the Badgers would love to get their offense on track and help their young QB gain some much-needed confidence.
Game time is 11 AM central. The game will be televised on ESPN2 and broadcast over the radio airwaves by The Badger Sports Network.