Joel Stave becomes more comfortable changing plays
MADISON—Most weeks this season, whether after a victory or a defeat, Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen has been asked to assess the overall performance of quarterback Joel Stave.
Andersen hasn’t shied away from noting the errant throws that have been been an issue in several games.
However, Andersen has made sure to note the redshirt sophomore from Whitnall High School has consistently made proper adjustments at the line of scrimmage on running plays. Stave sometimes checks to a new play, and other times he changes the play to the opposite side of the formation.
“So much of it is checked on the line of scrimmage,” Andersen said.
Identifying a successful audible isn’t always easy. Yet one play that stands out occurred in the third quarter of UW’s 27-17 victory over BYU in Game 9.
The Badgers’ lead was 20-10 in the third quarter and two plays after a 73-yard punt they faced second-and-5 from their 12. UW deployed two wide receivers (Jared Abbrederis and Jordan Fredrick) to the right, fullback Derek Watt and tailback James White in an I-formation and tight end Jacob Pedersen next to left tackle Tyler Marz.
UW’s players were lined up with 14 seconds left on the play clock. Then with about nine seconds left on the clock, Stave began alerting his teammates of the change and the ball was snapped with four seconds left.
White took the handoff from Stave and started to his right. Watt executed a cut block that took linebacker Alani Fua out of the play near the line of scrimmage. Fredrick did the same to defensive back Daniel Sorensen at the 20. Right tackle Rob Havenstein sealed his man to the inside and Abbrederis occupied cornerback Robertson Daniel long enough to allow White to reach the sideline.
White gained 26 yards to the 38 to give UW’s offense room to breathe. White capped the 10-play, 92-yard drive with a 14-yard touchdown run on the third play of the fourth quarter.
“We have a lot of those in our scheme and if we don’t get the look that we like, we’re going to change to a play we know is going to work,” said redshirt freshman center Dan Voltz, who started against BYU in place of injured Dallas Lewallen. “That is kind of the beauty of this offense.
“No matter what defense they present to us, we are going to have a play call that is going to look good and then it is a matter of us making the blocks.”
UW (8-2, 5-1 Big Ten) faces host Minnesota (8-2, 4-2) at 2:30 p.m. Saturday. Asked Monday about the play against BYU, Stave guessed he changed the play in part to run to the wide side of the field and away from outside linebacker Kyle Van Noy, BYU’s best defender.
“In that situation I would guess it was (one) run to a different run,” he said. “Just based off how coach Ludwig likes to call plays.”
According to offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig, Stave generally has made run checks about a dozen times each game. Stave guessed he made checks 24 times in the 51-3 victory over Indiana last week.
“It is a substantial workload on the quarterback,” Ludwig said. “You see a lot of teams these days look over to the sideline, and the coach calls it from the box.
“The way we like to do it is to train the quarterback and he’s got parameters when he goes to the line of scrimmage and he just plays within those parameters.”
Stave chuckled when asked if he had checked to a bad play this season. He acknowledged he had made several miscues but one mistake stood out, in Week 2 against Tennessee Tech.
UW held a 14-0 lead in the second quarter and faced second-and-6 from the Tech 26. Stave got a look that should have led him to check out of an end around to Kenzel Doe.
He didn’t change the play and Doe lost 17 yards.
“Nobody was happy with that one,” Stave said. “That was one I really should have gotten out of. I learned my lesson, though.”