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Wisconsin Football: Joel Stave Is Finding His Groove at the Right Time

Sep 7, 2013; Madison, WI, USA; Wisconsin Badgers quarterback Joel Stave (2) throws a pass during warmups prior to the game against Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles at Camp Randall Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Randy ChambersAnalyst ISeptember 7, 2013

Wisconsin officially has a passing game for the first time since Russell Wilson took over the offense. His name is Joel Stave, and he has looked awfully sharp in Wisconsin's first two wins to start the season.

In the Badgers' 48-0 win over Tennessee Tech, he threw for 219 yards and three touchdowns while completing 85.7 percent of his passes.

Sure, Tennessee Tech isn't the same as Ohio State or Michigan, but Stave's improved play should certainly put Wisconsin fans at ease. Last season, he was one of three Wisconsin quarterbacks who couldn't get going, as the passing offense ranked dead last in the Big Ten. Stave was inconsistent and missed much of the second half of the season due to a clavicle injury.

It's a good thing he is healthy and has found his rhythm, as the schedule is going to turn up a few notches.

Next week, Wisconsin will travel to Sun Devil Stadium to play Arizona State. The Sun Devils have one of the best pass-rushing defenses in the country and are sure to put a ton of pressure on the sophomore quarterback. They finished last season with 51 sacks and have two terrific defenders in defensive lineman Will Sutton and linebacker Carl Bradford.

After a home game against Purdue, the Badgers will then have a road game against Ohio State. The Buckeyes are the overwhelming favorites to win the Big Ten and have beaten Wisconsin in five of their last six meetings. And much like Arizona State, they can also make life difficult for an opposing offense with an athletic defensive front and talented secondary.

Those two big games are great measuring sticks for Wisconsin, a team that believes it could make a respectable run at a third straight Big Ten title. However, that likely isn't going to happen unless there is stability at quarterback.

The defense will continue to hold its own with linebackers Chris Borland, Brendan Kelly and Ethan Armstrong. The ground game also looks terrific with a heavy dose of Melvin Gordon, James White and Corey Clement. All three runners have topped 100 rushing yards in the second straight game.

The biggest question mark for Wisconsin was at quarterback. It's tough to beat great teams with a one-dimensional offense, and Wisconsin learned that the hard way last season. In five of the Badgers' six losses last year, they failed to throw for at least 200 yards. The lack of production had no choice but to improve.

Although Massachusetts and Tennessee Tech aren't great competition, Stave has at least shown that he is capable of being the answer at the position. He's played extremely well in the first two games, and that should give fans confidence as Wisconsin begins the heart of its schedule.

 

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