Grimyser: A Move that Had to Be Made

After going 2-for-10 with no touchdown passes and one interception, drawing the boos from the Badger Nation, Wisconsin's Bret Bielema finally pulls the trigger, putting in Dustin Sherer for the game's final 18 minutes.

MADISON - Did Allan Evridge kill the Badger's chances to contend in the Big Ten?

To be fair, he's had a difficult journey this year. His receivers are inexperienced, his tight ends have been hurt and the offense is now using its third quarterback in three years. Not an ideal situation for a player in his first full year as a starter.

Still, is this season entirely his fault?

"It's not all on Allan, I never said that or never will say that," said head coach Bret Bielema.

That sounds like a company line, which is to be expected from the organization. The players or coaches will never suggest that Evridge caused this disappointing season, but that doesn't mean it's not true.

Last week against Ohio State certainly didn't help Evridge. With the Badgers desperately needing a positive drive with minutes remaining, Evridge threw a lazy bailout pass that was picked off. It sealed the loss for Wisconsin and was a crucial mistake in the clutch.

This week the Badgers hosted sixth-ranked Penn State, an even bigger task. The opening possessions against the Nittany Lions didn't start out promising. On the first three series, the coaching staff called only two passing plays. He was tackled from behind on one play and sacked on the other.

"Obviously, we didn't have success in the first half," said Bielema. "It seemed like he was short on some passes."

The real killer happened when Evridge threw his first pick of the day.

"When things aren't going right its tough, you just gotta throw and get in a rhythm," said Evridge. "It wasn't a very good game and we just got stomped across the field."

During the next series, Bielema put in Dustin Sherer at quarterback. This change was a choice that Bielema is was either a) giving his backup some needed reps or b) he was seeing if Sherer could give the Badgers a spark the rest of the season.

Bielema later replied to a question about Evridge as "whoever is the starting quarterback." If Evridge were still the leader of this team, Bielema would have made that clear.

"As a quarterback, you gotta be able to move from key one to key two to key three, we just didn't feel that that was happening," said Bielema. "We felt like we really needed to make a change."

The interception wasn't the only blunder by Evridge. He fumbled on a scramble when he should have ducked down, twice threw a laser directly into the line of scrimmage and occasionally locked onto one receiver without looking at the entire field.

This downward trend in his play has become more noticeable with improved competition. In his four toughest games of the year, he has completed around 50 percent of his passes with just three touchdowns and four picks.

It got so bad against Penn State that the crowd started to boo Evridge.

"You try not to listen to those [boos], but we didn't really give the fans anything to cheer about," said Evridge. "It's not fun and there's a lot of pain."

This is even more surprising given Evridge's limited amount of responsibilities. This isn't a pass-happy offense with a gunslinger quarterback. Instead, Wisconsin runs a ball control offense that asks its quarterback to handoff, control the clock and limit mistakes. In fact, Wisconsin has the fewest passing attempts in the Big Ten by a large margin.

The aerial attack became even more limited against Penn State because of how poorly Evridge was playing.

"The way Allan was throwing the ball had an effect on why he wasn't throwing the ball too," said Bielema. "I think the quarterback has to play a lot better in certain situations."

The worst part about this situation is the coach's lack of confidence in him. At the end of the first half, the Badgers had only attempted eight passes while being down by 17 points.

That wasn't the first time something like that happened. The Badgers are last in completions and completion percentage in their conference.

The impression given off by coaches choose is they choose not to pass because they don't believe in Evridge. An offense without belief in its quarterback is an offense without a quarterback.

This is all a harsh judgment on Evridge, but at some point it has to be accepted that the quarterback is the person most responsible for the outcome of every game. If Evridge were at least serviceable Wisconsin might be undefeated. For this reason, he was benched in the heart of the schedule.

"What we're trying to do is establish momentum. We have to stick to our gameplan," said Bielema.

This move should have been made earlier, regardless of the gameplan. As of right now, a season has been wasted at least partially because of the faulty play of the quarterback.


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