Stave Steals Back the Momentum

Looking to make amends for a subpar first half, Wisconsin sophomore quarterback Joel Stave achieved that goal with a 82-yard, 12-play drive at the start of the third quarter that gave all the momentum to No.16 Wisconsin.

MINNEAPOLIS - Easily the coldest game he's ever played in, quarterback Joel Stave knew he would have to ignite the passing game in order to distance Wisconsin from its desperate border rivals. He accomplished that feat in the first seven minutes of the third quarter.

Going 6-for-6 for 68 yards coming out of the locker room, Stave's two-yard touchdown pass to Jared Abbrederis capped a scoring drive that was the big momentum swing in Wisconsin's 20-7 victory over Minnesota Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium.

"That was a big drive for us offensively," said Stave. "To be able to move the ball all the way down the field and end with a touchdown, which we hadn't done in the first half, was really big for us."

Wisconsin (9-2, 5-1 Big Ten) led its border rival by six points at halftime, but the amount of missed opportunities and self-inflicted wounds the Badgers were putting on themselves made the mood feel much different.

There were the two drives that stalled inside the Minnesota 15, resulting in unsatisfying field goals, and an pick-six interception that gifted the Gophers their only points in a half where they only managed 94 yards of offense.

Playing the fourth coldest game in school history, Stave said his method for staying warm was to fill an athletic sock with hand warmers and put it in his pouch on the front of his uniforms to try to get a better grip on the ball. He eventually put his mouth guard in there, too, considering the 18 miles per hour of wind was turning his mouth guard into a rock.

"Everything is different when you are playing in 10 degrees," said Stave. "We never had the opportunity to practice in weather quite that cold."

The mercury continued dropping after halftime, but that didn't deter Wisconsin from taking the second half kickoff and scoring on the ensuing drive for the fourth time this season.

The drive of the second half was the epitome of the Badgers' offensive goals: balance and time of possession. Wisconsin ran the ball six times, threw the ball five times, drew a pass interference penalty on a third-and-9, chewed up 7:05 of clock used the threat of the running game against Minnesota's stacked box to efficiently move the ball down the field.

"If the ball is in our hands, they can't score," said center Dan Voltz. "That's what we try to do the whole game … That drive set the tone for the second half and put us in a good spot."

Stave said that he just calls the plays that are called by offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig, but didn't deny the opportunity to start throwing the ball to begin the half after finishing the first half 6-for-14 for 44 yards and an interception.

"That's the fun of being the quarterback," said Stave, "when you have the opportunity to throw the ball."

The Badgers utilized quick outs to Abbrederis behind the strength of their receiver blocking game. On a 21-yard pass to Abbrederis that got Wisconsin down to the Minnesota 28, fullback Derek Watt and tight end Jacob Pedersen were lined up wide and sealed their blockers to create room for the senior receiver.

The biggest hit of the drive came two plays later on third-and-7. Originally looking to Abbrederis on a corner route, only to see him bracketed by Minnesota secondary, Stave started to look to tight end Jacob Pedersen on a deep route before seeing tight end Brian Wozniak leak out as a safety route.

Wozniak's third catch of the year went for nine yards, and a critical first down that turned into a touchdown four plays later.

"There was nobody within 10 yards of him, so I knew he would be able to turn it up for a first down," said Stave. "That was definitely huge to keep it going. Converting third downs are huge to keep any good drive going."

Stave has thrown nine interceptions on the year, but has only had one game this season where he's thrown multiple turnovers.

"That's something I try to take a lot of pride in," said Stave. "I think coach Ludwig does a great job. I get on the headset and he says, ‘You're fine. Here we go. You've got a lot of game left.'

Stave finished with a modest 127 passing yards on 16 of 26 completions, but it was that drive that gave Wisconsin its only score of the second half and the necessary breathing room to better Minnesota yet again.

"It was good to see Joel be able to get that done," said Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen. "You make adjustments at halftime and you try to take advantage of it."

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