After the first-team offense failed to register a touchdown for the fifth time in the last six quarters with junior Danny O'Brienunder center, Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema substituted redshirt freshman Joel Stave in the second half in hopes of sparking the unit.
"We all felt good about making the transition," said Bielema following Wisconsin's 16-14 win over Utah State. "Obviously went through some growing pains." The Badgers only managed to complete seven passes in the game. O'Brien went 5-10 for 63 yards. O'Brien, who turned the ball over twice in last week's loss at Oregon State, had an interception in the first half wiped out because of a late hit and fumbled with the Badgers inside their own 30-yard line. Stave was victimized by some drops and finished 2-for 6 for 15 yards in the game. UW rarely threw the ball with the redshirt freshman under center, but he did engineer the Badgers' only touchdown drive of the game.
"Danny was our starter throughout the week so he got the majority of the reps, so the two quarterback just doesn't get the same type of experience that the starting quarterback does," Bielema said. "I thought (Stave) handled it well. Stave didn't have any issues with a bobbled snap. I know he threw his first couple of passes looked clean. I know third down, we wish we could have picked up a couple of those. There were drops that obviously he (Stave) can't control."
Many players said it was an eye opener to see Stave take the field in the second half but Bielema said the main reason was ball security. Although Bielema hasn't made a decision on who will start next week against UTEP, he will talk about it with his coaches on Sunday.
"I just felt it was something that we needed to do at halftime to bring our guys around," Bielema said. "Obviously we got a ‘W,' and we're beginning to move."
According to Bielema, he felt like he caught Stave off guard when he told him he was going to be the starter for the second half.
"I was a little surprised but really excited," Stave said. "I was told at the beginning of the week, as with any week basically, to be ready, and if they call my number I've got to go play well."
It's safe to say that Stave will remember his college debut for a long time. A walk-on quarterback a little more than a month ago, Stave was awarded a scholarship in fall camp, and rewarded the staff with a calm performance.
"That was the most fun I've had in a long time, that was really exciting," Stave said. "I was pretty fired up taking my first couple snaps, but after a few you start to get into a rhythm. But I was just trying to do my job and not let my nerves play a factor."
This situation is way too familiar for O'Brien. O'Brien lost his job at Maryland last year due to injury and transferred this offseason to find a better offensive fit for his game. O'Brien won the job in camp with his consistency and his lack of turnovers but after committing three in the last two games, eyes will be on him to see what transpires.
"I'm going to have faith in whatever they do as a coaching staff and I am glad that we got the win because it's a team game," O'Brien said. "I was in a similar situation last year, and we will talk about it. I am staying positive."
O'Brien was surprised by the decision by Bielema but at the same time, he knew he couldn't hang his head.
"I was surprised and disappointed when I heard they were going with Joel," O'Brien said. "At the same time you got to get over it because people are looking at you to see how you handle the decision and you have to be professional and I was just trying to support Joel and help him out in the second half."
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