MADISON – Joel Stave has never had a concussion and doesn’t know if his ding to the head he received early in the first quarter Saturday could be classified as one.
All he knows is that something was different after taking a sack on the team’s second drive, a sack that caused everything to move a little bit slower.
“I felt OK, I just wasn’t as sharp as you like to be to play at a high level,” Stave said Tuesday. “At that point, I figured, before I do more damage, I should probably get this figured out.”
That’s the point where he are Wisconsin are at this week, as the Badgers (6-2, 3-1 Big Ten) prepare to host Rutgers (3-4, 1-3) Saturday. The senior is still going through the concussion protocol that had him riding a bike on Monday, getting limited practice work on Tuesday and slowing increasing his activity prior to kickoff.
“I guess you can never say anything for sure, but I’m pretty optimistic,” offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph said. “I think he’ll be fine.”
Wisconsin’s offensive line put Stave under constant duress early in the Badgers’ 24-13 win over Illinois, as he hurried twice and sacked once on his first four dropbacks. The sack caused him to stay on the turf and struggle to get to his knees, forcing the trainers to come out and assist. Helped to the sidelines, Stave was put through a number of tests to determine if he had a concussion.
“They give you words to remember and I remembered them all,” Stave said. “And they ask you the date and stuff like that. I remembered everything … I made it through the initial test.”
Stave returned to the field the following drive, moving UW 50 yards on five plays, including a 35-yard catch and run by Dare Ogunbowale. But as the drive progressed, Stave struggled interpreting the signals given to him with the backup quarterbacks and matching that up with the personnel in the huddle.
Eventually Wisconsin had to call timeout and the decision was made to put Bart Houston back under center. Stave went to the locker room at the end of the first quarter for most tests and was eventually ruled out.
Stave was limited in practice Tuesday, doing 7-on-7 work and throwing routes but not being involved in any of the team drills, abnormal for what his usual workload is four days before a game.
“I was out there being able to watch and learn like you need to be able to,” said Stave.
From the sidelines, Stave said Houston go 22 of 33 for 232 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions in his first substantial game action. While the message boards stirred the pot by saying Houston earned himself another start, head coach Paul Chryst put that “controversy” to bed by setting Tuesday that Stave would start if he’s healthy.
“That’s reassuring knowing that,” said Stave. “Obviously disappointed not to be able to play that game, but I know this staff has confidence in me. I have confidence in myself that when I’m healthy and ready to go, I’ll be able to get the job done.”