Badgers confident in quarterback Stave
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
MADISON--Joel Stave’s overall numbers in Wisconsin’s loss at Arizona State were average.
His completion rate of 50 percent (15 of 30) was his second-lowest in the nine games he has started at UW.
The redshirt sophomore twice failed to get the ball to Jacob Pedersen for big gains, once in the second quarter when he didn’t see the tight end breaking open deep for a possible touchdown and then in the third quarter because of a bad throw near the Arizona State sideline.
The two passes batted down at the line of scrimmage by defensive tackle Jaxon Hood, listed at 6 feet, could have been avoided.
Yet several critical plays Stave made and the way he drove UW into position to kick the game-winning field goal did not go unnoticed by offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig.
“He is improving every week and I am looking forward to that continuing,” Ludwig said as UW (2-1) prepared for its Big Ten opener Saturday against visiting Purdue (1-2). “Because I think he’s got great potential. He’s got a good skill set.
“And football is very important to him. Being a great player is very important to him. And he works very hard at it.”
Stave was sacked on his third pass attempt of the night, drilled in the ribs on one attempt and pressured throughout the game as the Sun Devils blitzed liberally.
Yet Stave, who completed 10 of 19 passes for 157 yards after halftime, drove UW from its 17 to a first down at the Arizona State 13 in 1 minute 18 seconds without timeouts.
“I think that is huge for not just my confidence but the whole offense,” said Stave, who completed 4 of 6 passes for 70 yards on the drive. “For us to be able to move the ball down the field and put ourselves in a position to come away with a win I think is great for everyone.”
Ludwig acknowledged Stave must relax early in games because his energy level has led to errant throws. For example, he threw high and wide of Jared Abbrederis on third and 14 on UW’s second series in the loss to Arizona State. An accurate throw likely would have resulted in a first down.
“As he matures and grows into the position I anticipate improvement,” Ludwig said. “He gets pretty fired up. So he’s just got to cool out a little bit.”
However, Ludwig was encouraged by Stave’s toughness throughout the night and cited two critical plays before the final possession.
On UW’s first scoring drive, Stave faced third and 8 at the Badgers’ 42. The Sun Devils rushed six and linebacker Junior Onyeali had has arms around Stave’s waist and was dragging him down, but UW’s quarterback flipped the ball to Jordan Fredrick for a 10-yard gain.
“This is a confidence-building play for Joel Stave,” analyst Brian Griese said during the telecast. “He holds onto the ball too long, no doubt.
“But to have the presence of mind to flip that ball and get a first down can do a lot for your confidence in a hostile environment.”
With UW trailing, 32-24, in the fourth quarter, Stave faced third and 6 from the Sun Devils’ 12.
Arizona State blitzed again and Stave eluded linebacker Anthony Jones and then, while in the grasp of safety Damarious Randall, passed to James White for a 9-yard gain that led to a touchdown.
“He had two big-time plays under duress,” Ludwig said, “under major duress.”
Stave acknowledged there were several plays on which his execution was lacking.
One came with UW holding a 21-13 lead in the third quarter and Stave facing second and 4 from the Sun Devils’ 47.
Stave had Pedersen uncovered down the right sideline near the Arizona State 30 but he rushed the throw, largely as a result of the pressure he had been feeling for most of the game. The ball sailed behind his tight end. UW eventually punted and the Sun Devils drove 91 yards for a touchdown.
“I felt like I had been standing in the pocket a little long and I threw it a little harder than I needed to, on his back shoulder,” Stave said. “In that situation when I saw him open I felt like I didn’t want to wait any longer. I’ve got to be a little bit more patient on that.”
Ludwig dismissed the notion that the two months Stave missed last season recovering from a broken collarbone had any lingering effect.
“I think he had enough time to catch up,” he said, “but again he is a young quarterback, a young guy.
“Now he has been through some of those situations before but there is a lot to the game. We see it every week, something he’s never seen before.
“Every live rep he takes is going to pay off.”