Phillips' role different for Badger this time against Hoosiers

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By Jeff Potrykus
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Saturday, November 16, 2013

MADISON--Seeing the Indiana Hoosiers on the opposite sideline Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium will spark fond memories for Curt Phillips.

The date: Nov. 12, 2012.

The place: Memorial Stadium in Bloomington, Ind.

The occasion: Phillips’ first start as Wisconsin’s quarterback.

“It is wild to think that this time last year I started my first game,” the sixth-year senior said this week. “It feels like it was forever ago.

“But it is exciting. Last year for me personally it was exciting because it was my first start and if we won that game we were locked into the Big Ten championship game.”

UW rolled, 62-14, and Phillips contributed a touchdown pass and 68 of UW’s school-record 564 rushing yards.

The circumstances will be different when the teams meet at 11 a.m. Saturday.

UW (7-2, 4-1 Big Ten) is likely locked into second place in the Leaders Division behind Ohio State (9-0, 5-0). Phillips will be donning a headset rather than a helmet. He will be watching redshirt sophomore Joel Stave try to lead UW to its ninth consecutive victory over the Hoosiers and keep alive the Badgers’ slim hopes for a BCS at-large berth.

Stave has started all nine games; Phillips has played in one game. He has attempted two passes and rushed once for 2 yards.

“It’s humbling,” Phillips said. “I’m not going to say it is what I expected or what I planned on happening.

“But at the same time I really did try to make sure when I did get the opportunity last year that I made the most out of it because you don’t know if that is ever going to come around again.

“So I think all my friends and family did a great job of making the most of it and said: ‘Make sure you are in the moment and have fun with this because you may not get this chance again.’”

Phillips this season has to be prepared to lead the offense in an emergency and act as another set of eyes for Stave.

“He has a calming effect on the sideline,” UW offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig said. “He has a great demeanor on the sideline. I am on the headset with him for the signals and stuff like that and then I talk with Joel on the headset.

“Curt is listening to that conversation and then when Joel takes the headset off, I know they continue to talk about what is going on in the game. It has been a huge plus.”

Phillips can also share his insight during meetings and video reviews.

“It is always more fun to watch film when it is you on the film as opposed to somebody else,” he said. “But it is fun to see the young guys develop.

“And at the same time it is another stepping stone for us, another goal on our way to doing something big.”

According to Phillips, he has already earned a bachelor’s degree in consumer affairs and is working on his master’s in educational leadership with an emphasis in athletic administration.

His goal is to coach football.

“Being interested in coaching,” he said, “I am trying to absorb as much as I can from the coaches.”

As Phillips talked about how dramatically his role on the team has changed since last November, when he made the first of five consecutive starts, his competitive nature seeped out.

It was clear he believes he is capable of leading the team if needed but he has accepted the staff’s decision to go with Stave.

“Curt is a competitor,” senior linebacker Conor O’Neill said. “Obviously he wishes he was out there. He loves the sport.

“I think he has helped Joel as a player. To see how much he is in Joel’s ear and how he is basically an extension of the coaches out there. It is beneficial for our team how mature he is and how unselfish he is about it. …

“You’ve got to put the team before yourself. And I think football is the perfect embodiment of that. It truly is a team sport and you can’t just have one good individual to be a good team. You have to have everybody in it together.”

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