MADISON - Gary Andersen's public relations disaster continues to get worse, and the bizarre stories continue at the University of Wisconsin.
After appearing to practice without any limitations throughout fall camp, it was announced Tuesday morning that junior quarterback Joel Stave was being shutdown indefinitely to rest his ailing throwing shoulder.
“It’s a tough deal for Joel,” Andersen said during the Big Ten teleconference. “He’s very, very frustrated … We’re going to keep going with Joel, hope to get him back in a position where he can be ready to go and help this football team. We’re all looking forward to that day as we move forward, but it’s very frustrating for that young man today.
“It’s important that we put Joel first in the situation and not put the University of Wisconsin first. We’ve got to put Joel first and that’s exactly what we are doing. It came to a point where we had to make a decision.”
Later Tuesday, Andersen was backpedaling, saying Stave was in fact not injured at all and that the word "injured" was a poor word choice. Instead, Andersen said Stave is still throwing and involved with the team, but is not involved with the team from a game planning perspective.
"In practice, Joel is at practice, he's at meetings, he's in all scenarios as far as that stuff goes," Andersen said. "As far as game prepping at this point, that's where Joel is not with us completely 100 percent all the time. He's at practice all the time. I don't want anybody to say he's not practicing, he's not with us, because that's not the case. When Joel feels that he can do that, Joel will be right back in that process."
When addressing reporters (after originally being unavailable), Stave said he's been overthinking during the pass week, which ironically coincides with him not winning the starting quarterback job."
"Structurally it feels good," said Stave, who reports no pain with his shoulder, only to say that his arm is not working the way he wants it to. "I've thrown how many thousands of balls in my lifetime. I know when it hurts and when it doesn't. I don't know what it is."
Stave also said he hasn't been shut down in his opinion, and he continues to throw passes to wide receivers in individual drills and 7-on-7s.
"I know I can throw the ball," said Stave. "Since I've been a kid I've been good at throwing things ... It's not a lack of confidence. It's not a lack of preparation or anything like that. It's just a matter of getting back to feeling comfortable and feeling like the ball is coming out like a should."
Stave was shut down for most of spring practices after suffering the injury in the second half of the Capital One Bowl when he failed to slide to avoid a hit. He was cleared for summer conditioning and engaged in a spirited camp battle with junior quarterback Tanner McEvoy, who eventually was named the starter.
In his first career FBS start, McEvoy finished 8-for-24 for 50 yards, no touchdowns and two fourth-quarter interceptions in Wisconsin's 28-24 loss to the Tigers.
Andersen said he started seeing signs of Stave struggling a couple weeks into camp, especially during Wisconsin’s scrimmage on Aug.18 that was closed to the media. The decision was made days before the opener that Stave would not play, but was not announced to the media.
“We were in position to do everything we can to win the football game,” said Andersen. “To have your No.2 quarterback be out, this had been lingering for a period of time. As you went into two weeks before the game and a week before the game, that’s not the right time to make that announcement, in my opinion.”
The announcement comes a day after Andersen clarified during his Monday press conference that Melvin Gordon didn’t play the majority of second half because of a hip flexor injury sustained in the second quarter. Gordon finished with 140 yards, the 10th time in the last 16 games he’s reached that mark, but only carried three times in the second half.
Andersen originally said nothing of the injury post game, while Gordon said he was fine, a miscommunication that was not warming received.
Andersen also expressed optimism during that same press conference that both quarterbacks will have opportunities to play, but saying he didn’t view the quarterback competition as open.
“Joel's going to be involved,” he said. “It's just the right time, the right situation, of making sure everything is where it needs to be, for him to be able to be part of the offense and be involved in the offense. And we need two quarterbacks. Sooner or later you'll have to have them both.”
“Tanner is the starter today, but Joel's going to fight like crazy to get some reps.”
Andersen said Tuesday that Stave’s condition was still unclear when he made that statement and the coaching staff, Stave and the medical staff were still determining how they wanted to proceed. Stave’s time frame for return is unknown, but Andersen didn’t rule getting him back in the bye week.
Heading into the home opener against Western Illinois Saturday (11 a.m., Big Ten Network), sophomore quarterback Bart Houston will be the backup. True freshman quarterback D.J. Gillins will also be taken off the scout team and work as the No.3 quarterback until Stave returns.
“Bart has a strong arm,” said Andersen. “He’s waited for his time to get into this position. I am sure he’ll be very excited to get in there, take some reps with the one or two offense and he’ll get himself prepared to go.”
Stave said the decision when to return is up to him, but added he would be ready to go if he felt good the next could days and Wisconsin needed him.
"100 percent," he said.