No.24 Wisconsin got the win, a 41-10 drubbing of Purdue, but it's evident that Stave is still battling to find his rhythm. Stave finished with just 12 completions on 19 passes for a season-low 158 yards. He also threw an interception that led to three Purdue points, didn't throw a touchdown pass and said the passing game needs to improve over the next week before going to No.4 Ohio State.
"I thought there were a couple throws I'd like to have back," said Stave. "We were running the ball well, and when we're doing that we've got to be able to throw the ball."
Stave's third interception came in the second quarter as he was stared down tight end Brian Wozniak on an out route, but put the throw in the wrong spot to give defensive back Ricardo Allen an easy interception. He returned the pick 27 yards to set up a Boilermakers field goal.
"Miscommunication," Stave said on his interception. "They rolled the corner, and the receiver and I just saw things differently. We've just got to make sure that everyone's on the same page."
Stave also had a wide-open Jared Abbrederis late in the third quarter but under threw him, the play that has touchdown written all over it.
"I've just got to do a better job of staying loose on the sidelines," Stave said. "I sat there for about ten minutes, and I can't expect myself to come out and throw a 65-yard bomb. It was cooler than I realized and I've got to just make sure that I'm staying loose and staying ready for whatever is called."
"We need to pitch and catch it better today without a doubt," added head coach Gary Andersen. "I don't care if it's a long throw or short throw, there were some drops out there again today that we need to get rid of."
Even with the passing game struggling still, Andersen did have some positive things to say about Stave.
"I thought he threw the football sideways real well as far as the bubble screens and the underneath passes; a lot of those the out breaking routes I though he handled them really well," Andersen said. "It seems to be the unbreaking routes to be the issue in a nut shell. We missed the one slant and we missed the long one."
Andersen is confident that his young quarterback will find consistency due to Stave's work ethic.
"No one cares more about throwing the ball more than Joel," Andersen said. "He's making some really nice throws, at times, but were missing on a few. They're not necessarily lay ups. It's not that easy to throw the football 60 yards down the field and have it get caught."
With multiple players sitting out due to nagging injuries, offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig and defensive cording Dave Aranda were able to rotate players throughout the game. With receivers Kenzel Doe and Jeff Duckworth sitting out, Alex Erickson and Rob Wheelwright had a bigger role in the offense. Erickson had one catch for 12 yards and Wheelwright also had one catch for three yards, but had a drop on fourth down that would have moved the chains.
"I just went out there to play the position," McEvoy said. "I didn't get a lot of action my way but I didn't give up any big plays so that's a positive."
James Adeyanju also saw snaps at defensive end and freshman Jakarrie Washington saw time at the corner position, getting valuable reps after junior cornerback Peniel Jean left the game early with a leg injury.
"His performance was great today," Shelton said of Washington. "He stepped up to the plate obviously with Peniel Jean getting a little injury and I think Jakarrie just came out, stepped up and played as well as he could. One thing we stressed to him was just play his game. Obviously he was out there getting quality snaps in practice, his number was called and he stepped up big time today."
Besides some of the younger guys getting meaningful reps, sophomore linebacker Vince Biegel received his first career start in place of injured senior Brendan Kelly. He didn't disappoint recording his first career sack.
"This will be a great learning tool for Vince (Biegel) because he hasn't had a lot of opportunities," Andersen said. "Brendan Kelly has taken all of those reps. I'm sure there's some good and bad in there but I know this he played extremely hard. I didn't see a lot of blown assignments from him at all and he was ready for that moment. That's a credit to him and to the coaches."
Walk-on freshman kicker Andrew Endicott, who wasn't expected to kick Saturday, replaced Kyle French on kickoffs in the second quarter. The move was designed in order to take some of the burden off French.
"It was a little bit of shock but a lot of lets go do this," said Endicott. "If they trust me to do it, I have to prove them right and I have to do my job. Here's my chance lets go get it.
"The first couple of kicks were in the wind (and) a little shorter then I wanted but I can't complain. After halftime I started to get in a groove and kicked it the way I expect myself to."
In addition to Jean, Wisconsin lost Jacob Pedersen and Dallas Lewallen during the game due to injuries. Pedersen was lost early to a left knee injury while Lewallen had to leave with a leg injury in the third quarter. Andersen didn't have updates on either.
"Hopefully these kids get back and it doesn't seem to be a huge problem," said Andersen, "but there are some issues out there and will know a lot more tomorrow."
In addition to Duckworth, Doe and Kelly, Andersen also decided to hold out linebacker Derek Landisch (ankle). Landisch hasn't played since the season opener.
"He could have played if we felt like we needed him but we didn't get in that position and I felt very good about (Conor) O'Neill going in there," Andersen said. "He's done nothing but play well. It's nice to have a third guy that you can roll through there. Landisch was ready if needed but O'Neill was consistent and I thought he played well."
Extra Points: The Badgers have now won five straight Big Ten conference home openers, and 10 of their last 11 … In its past five Big Ten openers, Wisconsin has averaged 39.8 points per game, while holding opponents to 18.8 points per contest … The Badgers have still not allowed a passing touchdown this season.