Ohio State fotball: Wisconsin QB up to challenge
Joel Stave walked on at Wisconsin and now is the starting quarterback.
Joel Stave isn’t one to back away from a challenge.
He could have accepted the only scholarship offered him as a high-school senior, by Western Michigan. The only scholarship Wisconsin offered a quarterback that year went to a kid in Florida who ended up elsewhere.
But when the Badgers gave Stave (pronounced STAH-vee) a no-expenses-paid opportunity to walk on, he decided that was the better offer.
“I just wanted an opportunity to try to play in the Big Ten,” he said. “You don’t get that opportunity very often, so I just wanted to take it and see what I could do with it.”
He has done quite a bit with it.
After redshirting two years ago and learning from Seattle Seahawks and former Badgers quarterback Russell Wilson, Stave started six games last season before missing the last four because of a broken collarbone. He was up to the challenge of reclaiming the starting job this fall and will be under center for the Badgers on Saturday night at Ohio Stadium.
“I’m a competitor,” he said this week. “That was always kind of the plan, to come and compete and try to give myself the opportunity to play as early as I could. I had a great opportunity to learn for one year under Russell, and then just compete as hard as I could going into camp last year to put myself in position to maybe play.”
Stave completed 58.8 percent of his passes with six touchdowns and three interceptions last season, and the Badgers were 4-1 in the games he started and finished. He was the first freshman to start at quarterback for Wisconsin since Jim Sorgi in 2000.
This season, Stave has completed 63.2 percent of his passes with six touchdowns and three interceptions. He ranks eighth among Big Ten quarterbacks in pass efficiency, and Gary Andersen, the Badgers’ first-year coach, fielded questions this week about whether he was concerned with the passing game.
“Oftentimes, when you start talking about the passing game … it goes right to the quarterback. Well, not so true,” he said. “There’s things that go into it that many times are missed. The offensive line, we want to get better. We want to run better routes, cleaner routes, crisper routes. We want to make sure we put them in a position, as coaches, to be able to execute.
“Is the throwing game a concern? Yes. Is it alarming? I would say no. But it’s a concern, and we want to get better because, again, great running teams, if they have the ability to get those safeties to back off just a little bit, it really helps.”
Wisconsin, as usual, is a great running team. The Badgers are averaging 349.8 yards rushing, best in the Big Ten and third-best in the Football Bowl Subdivision. They have run on nearly three of every four downs. They expect Ohio State to crowd the line of scrimmage with extra defenders until the strong-armed Stave, 6 feet 5 and 225 pounds, makes them respect his ability to hurt them downfield.
Whether he is up to it, in just his 11th career start, time will tell. But he won’t back down from the challenge.
“I think our passing game can be something that teams will have to worry about defending,” Stave said. “I think we have the personnel and the coaching staff here that can make this offense pretty multidimensional and pretty dynamic.”