Joel Stave wasn’t sure coming into the 2013 season if firs-year head coach Gary Andersen would call upon him to lead the Wisconsin Badgers offense.
Likewise, Andersen wasn’t sure if Stave had the ability to, or would be able to reach his potential in just his second season of collegiate play.
Both men sort of went all-in with each other.
Stave, with Andersen’s approval solidly beneath him, entrenched himself at the position of lightning rod for the three-time returning Big Ten champs. Being a quarterback at any level comes with the added attention, praise and of course, scrutiny, all of which Stave had the full understanding of moving forward this season.
Andersen believed in his the Wisconsin-born product, Stave. He liked his stature in the pocket, his presence in the huddle and the head on his shoulders. All which pointed in a positive direction for the Wisconsin team many thought would struggle moving through the 2012 schedule.
Now that the honeymoon phase has faded, it’s easy to see why there might have been some hesitation to start the season when looking at the choices between Stave, Curt Phillips and JUCO sensation, Tanner McCevoy.
The game against Penn State showed exactly what Badgers fans, and Andersen, feared when the decision was made back in training camp to go with the sophomore at QB.
On the plus side, he’s proven to be highly consistent in the 8-12 yard range, serviceable when rolling to his right and able to keep his cool under pressure and error on the side of caution.
2013 also glared the extreme inconsistency for Stave, who struggled with throwing the deep ball and hitting the short passes, especially, in a location that allows guys like James White, Jacob Pedersen, Melvin Gordon and others to make a move with the football and gain yards after the catch.
Plain and simple, the bowl game vs. South Carolina has to be the time when Stave moves forward.
A less than perfect performance in a win just won’t do for Badgers fans.
Wisconsin simply cannot go through the off-season wondering who is going to start under center for them next season. If they want a chance at racing for the Big Ten title, and possibly a National Championship, they have to do it with Stave and he has to perform better in their one game left this season.
We still don’t know if Melvin Gordon is going to take a run at the NFL next season. But if he comes back, Wisconsin probably comes into the pre-season rankings around the 15 spot in the country. Plenty capable of making a move into the top five come seasons end, even with their patty cake schedule, and challenging for one of the top two spots in the country should Alabama, Ohio State, Auburn, Oregon, Stanford or another top slotted school, slip.
And if they are going to do it, they have to do it with Stave under center, performing at a higher level than we saw this season.