Stocco striving for "steady"

Badger quarterback still focused on incremental improvement

EAST LANSING, Mich.—University of Wisconsin quarterbacks coach Jeff Horton can point to only one half of one game when his prized student, sophomore John Stocco, regressed. That was in the Big Ten opener against Penn State, when Stocco threw two interceptions in the second half.

Separate that game, and the signal caller's progress has been according to plan.

"This is the biggest thing I always tell John," Horton said. "With a new quarterback, let's try to get good and let's try to be steady, before we try to be great."

So where is Stocco in that continuum?

"We're trying to be steady," Horton said. "We're just becoming where, you know, we've been good for a few weeks but it's all about consistency."

Minnesota might disagree. Stocco looked pretty steady in throwing for 297 yards on 16 of 26 throwing last week.

"We left plays out there," Horton said. "He played an outstanding game…We'd take that performance every week but there will be other games where he might not throw for as many yards but they might be better games.

"The season is a marathon. We need to just stay steady and keep improving and every week I've emphasized to him, ‘let's get better this week.' He's done those things."

Stocco has played progressively better this season. In his first five games, he completed just 55 of 115 passes for 660 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions. In the past four games, he is 61-for-103 for 846 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions.

"I think I've gotten better at reading defenses and anticipating is the big thing," Stocco said. "I've been able to anticipate what the defense is going to do a little bit more and where my throws will be.

"That's something that older quarterbacks always talk about, the point where the game slows down for them. I'm just trying to get there.

"There were a few throws that I anticipated [against Minnesota] that I might have hesitated on early in the season."

Take Stocco's touchdown toss to Jonathan Orr last week, a beautifully placed 17-yard pass to the corner of the end zone.

"The touchdown to Jonathan was basically the same as the play we ran against Penn State when I threw the pick and I waited too long," Stocco said. "It was a different formation but pretty much the same play."

Stocco and the Badgers continue to intimate that they are pushing forward towards the next play, the next game. But success has a habit of feeding off itself.

"Obviously it gives you confidence," Horton said. "From the Ohio State game on, he's made some big plays, put together some big drives. Just like anything else the more success you have, the more confidence you are going to have."

Despite his success, Stocco remains focused on incremental improvement.

"I'm just trying to get a little better each week," he said. "I think I've done that. I still need to get a lot better, there are still a lot of things I need to improve on."

"He knows he's got a long way to go. I know he's got a long way to go," Horton said. "We are just touching the tip of the iceberg. He's got so much more football in front of him and he has to get so much better and he knows that and he works at it."

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