Stocco comes up big in win

Sophomore quarterback has career day

MADISON—Playing against his home state Minnesota Golden Gophers, Wisconsin sophomore quarterback John Stocco came up with the best performance of his young career and proved to be the main catalyst in the Badgers' recapture of Paul Bunyan's Axe.

"It's unbelievable," Stocco said. "It's a great tradition and…that's where I'm from, that's where I'm close to, that's where I grew up. So, obviously every game is important, but playing Minnesota is a little special for me."

The Richfield, Minn., native capped UW's opening drive of the game with a one-yard sneak, the first of a pair of rushing touchdowns. However, it was Stocco's right arm that caused the Golden Gopher defense fits.

The sophomore signal caller directed scoring drives on Wisconsin's first five possessions of the contest, including four touchdowns. In UW's 31-point first half, Stocco completed 14 of 18 passes for 241 yards and a 17-yard highlight reel touchdown to receiver Jonathan Orr, who hauled in three passes for 68 yards in the win.

"I don't think you can ever say that you see something like the first half coming, but I know that we've been improving and getting better, and particularly our quarterback," offensive coordinator Brian White said. "Did he play well, just made a lot of great throws. I mean, really big time throws, and the receivers made catches. It's always a game of plays, and players making plays, and we made a bunch of them in the first half."

Brandon Williams led a plethora of receivers with five receptions for 87 yards, to go along with 26 yards on the ground. Stocco spread the wealth around, with nine different Badgers catching passes.

"Me, Darrin [Charles], [Jonathan Orr], and [Brandon] White, we all put ample time in practice, and when the game comes around, we all want to get the ball," Williams said. "Whoever he throws it to, we've got the confidence that that guy's going to make the play."

For Stocco, that meant hanging in the pocket and going through his progressions.

"He's seeing things really well, and he's getting to secondary and even third targets, which is impressive," White said.

Stocco made the most of his chances throwing downfield, completing passes to Orr and Williams for more than 40 yards, and four other passes that spanned at least 20.

"I'm just going to do anything I can to help this team win, and I try not to force the ball, and if they give me an opportunity to hit it deep, I'm going to try to do that," Stocco said. "Other than that, just trying to move the chains, and be good on third down. We were excellent today on third down. That's something that we've talked about all year and we just kept the chains moving."

Wisconsin converted 11 of 17 third-down opportunities, and Stocco in particular excelled under the pressure, completing 10 of 11 passes on third down. In addition, he scored his second rushing touchdown on third and goal off of a naked bootleg.

"John was excellent on third down," White said. "The key to playing well on offense is staying normal, which we did, and then putting yourself in manageable third down situations and converting. John did a fantastic job, the receivers made plays, that's how you stay on the field."

Even after Saturday's 38-point outburst, Stocco knows he and the offense still have to get better.

"I think we all know we did some good things today, but we still have a lot to improve on," Stocco said. "But, it's nice to do some good things and finally get some points on the board."

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