I’m a frustrated Badger fan
After UW Athletic Director Barry Alvarez agreed to step back to the sidelines and coach the Badgers in the Rose Bowl when former coach Bret Bielema defected to Arkansas, Alvarez said he wasn’t worried about risking a black mark on his stellar 3-0 record at the Rose Bowl. All he was worried about, he said, was making sure these players had a good experience and emerged with a win.
Well, if that’s true, I can’t understand why Alvarez was reluctant to pull the trigger and insert Joel Stave in the second half, which saw the UW get blanked against what granted was a stellar Stanford defense. The Stanford Cardinal walked away with a 20-14 victory, and the Badgers left Pasadena with the bitter memory of having lost a third straight Rose Bowl.
Sure, the Badgers looked like they were destined for a blowout loss like they laid on Nebraska in the Big Ten title game. Applaud them for recovering from an awful start and making a great game of it. And sure, maybe the whole game plan revolved around Curt Phillips at quarterback. Still, the result was another crushing loss.
I recall several times during the regular season when Phillips' passes were tipped. Stanford obviously saw the tapes. They saw that hesitation, or that low trajectory, or the slow release that allowed defenders to get their hands on passes. Sure, Phillips completed 10 of 16 passes Tuesday, but several of those completions were deflected—including one on that touchdown drive to end the first half that slipped right through a defender’s hands. It should have surprised no Badger fan that the end came as it did—another deflected pass that was intercepted as the clock wound down.
Did Stave, arguably the best passer on the team, threw just once. It would have been a first-half touchdown had Jarred Abbrederis been able to hang onto the ball.
Sure, Stave was injured against Michigan State, and the senior Phillips led the Badgers to that romp over the Cornhuskers in the Big Ten championship game. But Phillips passed for just 83 yards Tuesday. Stanford was smart enough to know he wasn’t going to beat the Cardinal with his arm. So Stanford, which already had one of the best run defenses in the nation, stacked the line to stop Montee Ball and the Badgers’ vaunted run game.
I sat there the entire second half watching the TV, certain that on the very next series, Alvarez would insert Stave and the defense would have to loosen up to respect Stave’s throwing ability.
“I wish I had a tape recording so you could hear what you sound like,” my wife said at one point as I verbalized my frustrations.
I think it’s reasonable to argue that Stave could have led the Badgers to a couple of touchdown drives in the second half—and a Rose Bowl victory.
Here’s hoping new coach Gary Andersen, who had no role in this game other than to observe from the sidelines, would have been smart enough to turn to Stave in the second half Tuesday.