John Stocco, by all means, should be nervous for Saturday. He will appear in only his third game as a Badger, his first as a starter, and shoot for his first win—not to mention head coach Barry Alvarez's 100th—against the University of Central Florida.
But just a few days before the big start, he did not appear to be nervous. In fact, he fully intends to be relaxed when he steps onto the field in front of a jam-packed Camp Randall Stadium.
"I'm not a guy that gets all pumped up for the game," Stocco said Tuesday. "I don't think that's good as a quarterback. I just try to stay relaxed so I can usually do that."
Not even in close game situations?
"I don't get hyped up," Stocco said. "That's the other guys' jobs, linemen or whoever. As a quarterback, I try not to get hyped up because I don't think I play very good when I do that."
Stocco said he has prepared for everything Central Florida could throw at him, knowing the Golden Knights could be especially tough on a quarterback in his first start.
"I'm going to be ready for everything," Stocco said. "In the quarterback position, you've got to be ready for all their blitzes. You've got to be ready for the blitz, even if they're not a big blitz team. You've got to know what they do when they do blitz so I'm going to be prepared for everything."
Even the mentality behind being a starter does not faze him. Stocco's biggest challenge in moving from third-string quarterback to backup to starter in less than a year has been the increase in reps.
"In my first two seasons, being the third guy or whatever, I wasn't getting many reps at practice. Now, like coming into fall camp, getting the majority of the reps, you know you've got to get used to that."
Last fall, Stocco was behind former Badger quarterbacks Jim Sorgi and Matt Schabert in the depth chart and he saw playing time in only three games—in Wisconsin's 56-21 trouncing of Michigan State, in the 27-21 loss to Iowa and in the 28-14 loss to Auburn at the Music City Bowl. He was 10 of 17 and amassed 123 yards but has no touchdowns to his name and has lost 13 yards rushing. Stocco took off with the starting job in spring camp and has steadily improved in his knowledge of the game and has become more fluid running the offense.
"He showed me enough in the two games he played last year that I think he's got a great demeanor on the field, he doesn't seem to get rattled," quarterbacks coach Jeff Horton said on the losses to Iowa and Auburn. "Both those situations were two really pressure-packed situations that he was in and he handled it very well."
Wisconsin's strong running game will help alleviate some of the pressure Stocco might feel and the coaches plan to implement a "60-40" run-pass ratio but know the ratio will not work in all situations.
"I think we'll probably get to run the ball a little more," Horton said. "We've got a veteran offensive line, obviously the tight ends are all back, with (Anthony Davis) and the other running backs, and John being the younger quarterback—I think with Jimmy, obviously we were, probably threw the ball a little more, especially when Anthony went down, but I think 60-40 ratio, something like that, run to pass, would be a good ratio for us."
Run-pass ratio aside, blitzes aside, starting quarterback mentality aside, Camp Randall-at-capacity aside, Stocco knows he will have good plays and not-so-good plays and is prepared to deal with the fallout that may result.
"There's going to be ups and downs, no question," Stocco said. "I'm going to throw an interception here and there. That's going to happen but you know you've just got to live for the next play.
"Coach Horton always tells us, ‘You can tell a true person, not when things are going well but when they're backed against a wall, how do they react?,'" Stocco said. "So I think that's definitely true."
Stocco's big day
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