The Wisconsin football team has found a quarterback who is capable of doing more than just handing off the ball to his running backs. Melvin Gordon and James White will continue to be one of the nation’s most explosive backfields, but maybe more importantly, the man handing them the ball– Joel Stave– has also proven himself to be a legitimate threat in the Badger’s passing game.
Stave has had his performances through the first 5 games respectfully shadowed by the rushing attack. Wisconsin’s run game has been good enough to be ranked 6th overall in the country with an average of 300.6 yards a game. In this run-first offense, he has still managed to throw for 1,056 yards, 8 touchdowns and has completed 63 percent of his passes. Statistics aside, Stave’s composure and leadership in games is no longer in question. Stave has flat-out shown his ability to put the team on his back and perform in big games this year.
He was first put to the test in week 4 against the Arizona State Sun Devils. The Badgers found themselves down 30-32 with 1:36 left in the fourth quarter and starting their drive at their own 17 yard line. Stave drove down the field completing 4 of his 6 passes and was able to get in field goal range. In a bizarre finish highlighted by an officiating gaffe, the clock hit 0:00, leaving the Badgers defeated.
Again he showed up the following week when Wisconsin football met up with No.4 ranked Ohio State in Columbus. OSU was able to keep the Badgers’ run game in check and Stave flourished under the pressure to keep his team in the game. Having a career night, he finished 20-34 for 295 yards, 2 touchdowns and an interception in the 24-31 defeat.
Joel Stave has opposing defenses now thinking twice before stacking up 9 guys in the box to stop the run. Look for Stave’s role as a passer to increase as the season continues.