Through three games, Wisconsin Badgers quarterback Joel Stave was the talk of the town in Madison. He seemed to have shaken off the cobwebs of a bad mental slump and sluggish on-field performance during 2014.
Wisconsin’s reality became it needing Joel Stave to play that way for it to win. The run game was without star running back Corey Clement and the young offensive line was still trying to figure out its chemistry with the running backs.
Fast forward two weeks and things don’t exactly look good for the Badgers offense. After putting up a season high 325 yards on the ground against Hawaii, the Wisconsin offense couldn’t find a run game to speak of against Iowa, rushing for just
But, it wasn’t the lack of a run game that mattered most to the Badgers’ in the losing effort. Rather, it was the fact that quarterback Joel Stave continued his weak performance from Hawaii in to the Big Ten opener.
No play better demonstrated his lack of awareness of situation than what took place on the 1-yard line with the Badgers about to score and take a late lead.
Instead, Joel Stave had his foot stepped on and rather than eating the ball tried to get the handoff off. Let’s just say it didn’t end well, as Stave’s attempt never got to running back Taiwan Deal and it was Hoosiers football at the two-yard line instead of a touchdown Wisconsin.
“I didn’t see that Joel (Stave) took a step in, like a false step type deal, and yet he’s still got to protect the ball no matter what the situation is,” said head coach Paul Chryst following the game. “Those are hard lessons to learn, but we’ve got to protect the football in all areas and we obviously didn’t do that today. I think it had a huge part in the result of this game, obviously.”
Not only did the decision-making come in to question, but Stave was wildly inaccurate at inopportune times. He finished the game 21 of 38 passing for 234 yards, but he also threw two interceptions and fumbled the ball twice.
Stave also couldn’t help the Badgers sustain drives, as Wisconsin was just 4 of 14 on third down conversions.
It wasn’t just this week either, as Stave struggled as a passer for most of the Hawaii game. He had just 164 yards, and much like this week, struggled with accuracy. Multiple times he threw low, high or inside to a receiver running an outside route.
Suddenly the Joel Stave most remembered from last season felt like he was back. That doesn’t mean it’s a permanent thing, but two weeks of lackluster performances indicates a problem afoot.
It’s up to Chryst, offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph and most importantly, Stave himself, to fix these issues.
With the Big Ten West likely as open as ever, coming back next week with a win over Nebraska puts the Badgers right back in the division race. It’s likely Stave is going to be called on to continue to produce in pressure situations.
The problem is, the Stave that was out there on Saturday against Iowa isn’t the one that can win this game.