QB Stocco Remains A Constant For Badgers

FAYETTEVILLE -- John Stocco had difficulty sleeping, and he felt just as uncomfortable standing on the sidelines.

He tried to stay involved during Wisconsin's final two games of the regular season, even though his right shoulder hurt too much for him to play or even sleep comfortably unless he was sitting in a recliner.

Stocco listened to the plays being called and gave advice to backup quarterback Tyler Donovan. But it wasn't the same.

Stocco was used to starting. He had been doing it since midway through his freshman year of high school, and missing two starts because of a separated shoulder didn't sit well with the senior.

"It was real tough," Stocco said. "I've never missed a game before, so to sit there and watch my teammates go out there was very tough to deal with, something I hadn't really dealt with before."

Stocco had started 35 straight games for the No. 6 Badgers -- winning 28 of them -- until a separated shoulder on his right (throwing) arm forced him to sit out back-to-back wins over Iowa and Buffalo.

But the 6-foot-2, 204-pound senior has no intentions of ending his impressive run as Wisconsin's quarterback by missing three straight games. He plans to be ready by the time the Badgers face No. 12 Arkansas (10-3) in the Capital One Bowl in Orlando on Jan. 1.

"No, I don't have any doubt," Stocco said earlier this week when asked whether he'd be healthy enough to face the Razorbacks.

Last Friday, Stocco went through his first extended practice since injuring his shoulder in the fourth quarter of a 13-3 win over Penn State on Nov. 4. The senior was accurate with his passes, and he said the shoulder didn't give him any problems. But he didn't attempt any long throws as a precaution.

Afterward, Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "I should tell him he should bang his shoulder around more often."

Like Arkansas, Wisconsin runs an offense based around its bruising running back. Redshirt freshman P.J. Hill has rushed for 1,533 yards, only 25 yards less than Darren McFadden, Arkansas' Heisman Trophy runner-up.

As a result, Stocco isn't asked to do too much for the Badgers. But when it's time to throw the football, the three-year starter has been efficient.

He's thrown for 15 touchdowns and only four interceptions, and he ranks second in the Big Ten with a 150.3 passing efficiency. The only conference quarterback better than Stocco in that category? Ohio State's Troy Smith, who beat out McFadden for the Heisman.

"I see (Stocco) has all the intangibles of what you need to win at quarterback," Arkansas defensive coordinator Reggie Herring said. "He has a solid arm, he's smart, he makes the right decisions, he gets them in the right play and he doesn't make many mistakes.

"He's a very heady, smart, competitive quarterback that puts the ball where it's supposed to be and makes good decisions. That's why they're 11-1."

Stocco is 28-7 as a starter, and if it weren't for missing the last two games with the shoulder injury, the senior would have tied Brooks Bollinger as the winningest quarterback in Wisconsin history with 30 victories.

Stocco separated his shoulder when he was hit from behind by Penn State All-America linebacker Paul Posluszny. The 2005 Butkus Award winner hit Stocco as the quarterback was rolling to his right, driving his shoulder into the ground. Stocco tried to stay the game, but couldn't.

"If I played any other position, I might have been playing a week or two later," Stocco said. "But because you put your arm in that (throwing) position, you just can't do it for a while and that was very frustrating, too."

Stocco's streak of consecutive starts at Wisconsin came to end. In fact, he had started every game dating back to his days as a quarterback at Academy of Holy Angels in Richfield, Minn.

Stocco took over the starting job midway through his freshman season, and aside from missing one game with a concussion, he was a constant under center.

"The streak of games is something that I've been proud of. I kind of take pride in the fact that I never have to come off the field," Stocco said. "That's another part of why it was very tough to watch those two games from the sideline, because I have not really had to do that before."

And he likely won't against Arkansas.

John Stocco

Age: 23

Class: Senior

Height: 6-foot-2

Weight: 204 pounds

Hometown: Richfield, Minn.

Notable: As a three-year starter, Stocco has moved toward the top of Wisconsin's record book. The senior ranks second in pass completions (520), pass attempts (900), touchdowns (45), yards (7,021) and passing efficiency (135.4). He's 28-7 as a starter, putting him two wins shy of school leader Brooks Bollinger. This season, Stocco has completed 144-of-234 passes for 1,979 yards with 15 touchdowns and four interceptions.

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