MADISON, Wis. (AP) While uncertainty remains with injured starting tailback Corey Clement, Wisconsin is getting a big boost on offense with an improved and diverse passing game.
Under coach Paul Chryst, the 22nd-ranked Badgers (2-1) are making more use of the tight ends and running backs.
Senior quarterback Joel Stave has been at his best when the Badgers cross midfield. Inside the opponents’ 40-yard line, Stave has gone 19 of 27 for 227 yards, with six touchdowns and no interceptions in three games. That adds up to a stellar pass efficiency rating of 214.3.
There’s one last nonconference tuneup on Saturday against Hawaii before Big Ten play begins in a couple weeks against Iowa.
”We’ve done a good job at pushing the chains a little bit and get bigger runs on first down,” Stave said Monday. ”In doing that you open up your playbook.”
That, in turn, opens up more options on second and third downs, including play-action.
Blossoming senior tight end Austin Traylor has also played a key role. He caught two passes for 39 yards and a touchdown in the Badgers’ 28-3 victory over Troy on Saturday.
Traylor is second on the team in receiving with six catches for 98 yards and two touchdowns. He said he doubled his efforts during the offseason to earn an increased role in the offense.
”What they gave me was 100 catches a day so I did that throughout the offseason and spring ball and the summer,” he said. ”It’s paying dividends now.”
Still, the offense remains a work in progress without Clement, who rushed for 949 yards and nine touchdowns last season, playing a major role.
The offense that Wisconsin is running may not resemble what the Badgers use in the heat of conference play, when the running game might be more suitable for colder weather.
But Stave isn’t concerned about the junior tailback’s readiness for Big Ten play.
”With the way we practice, we practice physical,” Stave said. ”He’ll get an opportunity to run against a real defense for a couple days in practice for whenever he does come back. When he does, it will be because he’s healthy and ready to go.”
Chryst was limited in the season-opening loss against Alabama with a sore groin before missing the next two games against Miami (Ohio) and Troy.
”We’ll see how this week goes with him,” Chryst said when asked about Clement’s availability for the Hawaii game.