Joel Stave Finally Looks Ready To Lead Wisconsin Badgers


Joel Stave impressed for the second straight game in Saturday’s 58-0 victory against Miami (Ohio), and it finally looks like the passing game will be a strength for the Wisconsin Badgers for the first time since 2011 when a guy named Russell Wilson walked the streets of Madison.

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One of the most polarizing Wisconsin football players in recent memory, Stave has had an interesting career to say the least. Over the past three seasons, Stave has dealt with inconsistency, the yips, a broken collarbone and a lack of confidence. Throughout his time as the starter, Badger nation has been begging the coaching staff to play whoever the backup quarterback was at the time, and for good reason.

Let us take a look at the final game of last season. After Stave threw his third interception against Auburn midway through the third quarter of the Outback Bowl, the Badgers did not throw the football until they absolutely needed to. Wisconsin ran the ball 17 times in its next 18 snaps till there was just a minute left in the fourth quarter. The Badgers could not trust a guy who threw more interceptions than touchdowns last season.

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Fast forward to 2015, and Stave looks like a completely different player, showing the confidence and consistency that has lacked in his first three years in Madison.

Paul Chryst named Stave the starter in the spring. For the first time in his career, Stave did not enter fall camp in a competition battle for the starting quarterback job. He knew he was the guy from Day 1.

Chryst excelled working with quarterbacks in his seven years as the offensive coordinator for Wisconsin. Former Badger quarterback Scott Tolzien won the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award under Chryst in 2010. In that same season, Wilson completed just 58.4 percent of his passes and threw 14 interceptions with North Carolina State. In his lone season with Wisconsin, Wilson finished with a 72.8 completion percentage with 33 touchdowns and four interceptions as the Badgers won their second of three consecutive Big Ten titles.

Another benefit for Stave has been the emergence of a new receiver. He went to his favorite target Alex Erickson on his first three pass attempts on Saturday, but Stave found junior Rob Wheelwright six times for 79 yards and two touchdowns.

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  • Wheelwright has the look of a solid receiver but has been unable to put it all together and struggled with injuries throughout his career. He seems poised to have a breakout season for the Badgers.

    Fifth-year senior tight end Austin Traylor improved as a pass catcher in the offseason and grabbed a 20-yard touchdown against Miami. Chryst likes to get his tight ends involved in the passing game, and once redshirt sophomore Troy Fumagalli gets healthy, Stave will have another solid option to look for.

    Stave has benefited from an elite running game with backs like Montee Ball, James White, Melvin Gordon and Corey Clement. Wisconsin has relied on its talented backfield to win games, but so far this season, that may not be the case. With an inexperienced offensive line and an unhealthy Clement, Wisconsin’s running game does not look as good as what Badger fans are used to. Through two games, Wisconsin ranks No. 107 in the country and last in the conference with 114 rushing yards per game.

    Stave is 22-8 as a starter in his career and could stand alone as Wisconsin’s all-time winningest quarterback with nine more wins this season. As was the case in several games throughout his career, the Badgers ended up winning last year’s Outback Bowl in spite of him, not because of him. Stave will be relied on to win big games in 2015, and for the first time in his roller coaster of a career, he looks ready to lead the Wisconsin football team.

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