Stave injury opens up quarterback competition
Oct 29, 2012 at 2:56p ET
Unfortunately, Stave never got to finish. Now, he is likely out of action for the rest of the season.
Bielema announced Monday that Stave suffered a broken left collarbone and would miss the next eight weeks. The injury won't require surgery, and although he could return in time for a bowl game, it's doubtful Stave would rush back to play.
"Everything, if it goes to plan, he should be 100 percent ready to go for spring ball," Bielema said during his weekly news conference.
Stave was injured on the first play of the third quarter when he was sacked for a 3-yard loss by Spartans defensive end William Gholston. The hit drove Stave's left shoulder into the ground, and he clutched it as he walked off the field. Stave finished the game 9 for 11 with 127 yards passing, one touchdown and no interceptions.
Without him, the Badgers took a nosedive, gaining just 43 yards of total offense the rest of the way in a 16-13 overtime loss at Camp Randall Stadium.
"Joel was very upset," Bielema said. "I don't think it was so much that he was in pain. I think it was just upset that he knew something was severely wrong and that he was going to miss some time. More importantly, he wasn't going to be able to finish off that game.
"I think he wanted to put a signature on that one, to be quite honest. He really prepares well. He listens. Statistically, he'd gotten better every week. It's a shame because I think we were on a path that was very, very good."
Bielema said he wasn't concerned about the broken collarbone being a persistent problem, even though Stave has a history with the injury. He said Stave weighed 10 1/2 pounds at birth, and doctors broke the bone to safely deliver him. He also broke his collarbone diving during a baseball game in fourth grade. Stave, a redshirt freshman, will have three years of eligibility remaining.
Danny O'Brien and Curt Phillips will compete for the Badgers' starting quarterback job in practice this week. The team has its only bye on Saturday but returns to action Nov. 10 against Indiana in a game that could seal Wisconsin's trip to Indianapolis for the Big Ten championship as Leaders Division winner. Wisconsin is 3-2 in conference play, while Indiana is 1-3. Both Purdue and Illinois stand 0-4, and Wisconsin already has beaten both of those teams. (Ohio State and Penn State are ineligible.)
O'Brien, who transferred from Maryland, began the season as Wisconsin's starter. He played well in the season opener against Northern Iowa, completing 19 of 23 passes for 219 yards and two touchdowns. But the offense stalled the following week against Oregon State and then during the first half against Utah State. Over those six quarters, Wisconsin scored just 10 points, prompting Bielema to make the change to Stave at halftime of the Utah State game.
At the time, Wisconsin trailed Utah State 14-3. Although Stave threw just six times and handed off 19 times in the second half, it was enough to lead Wisconsin back for a 16-14 victory. He started the next six games.
During Stave's five starts before the Michigan State game, Wisconsin averaged 34.2 points. On the season, Stave has completed 70 of 118 passes (59.3 percent) for 1,104 yards with six touchdowns and three interceptions.
This season, O'Brien has completed 52 of 86 passes (60.5 percent) for 523 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. He relieved Stave against Michigan State and completed 5 of 11 passes for 44 yards.
O'Brien spoke after Saturday's game as though he would be the team's starter moving forward.
"You certainly don't want it to come like this," O'Brien said. "But it is what it is. You've got to be the same guy. The same guy I was when I started, when I was the backup and now back to the starter. Be a leader on the field. Obviously, I'm going to get a little more reps with the ones."
Phillips competed for the starting quarterback job in 2009 but has suffered three ACL tears since that time. He made an appearance for one series this season against Illinois and also played in mop-up duty against Minnesota. Otherwise, he has not seen much of the field.
Bielema said Badgers offensive coordinator Matt Canada was interested in what Phillips could offer at the position.
"Our kids love him," Bielema said. "I think our coaches like him. Matt has been intrigued with Curt ever since day one. He's got that 'it' factor that quarterbacks need to have. It'll be fun to see him really compete this week. When he gets his opportunity, I expect him to have a little bit of success."
Which direction will Bielema go? Although O'Brien possesses more playing experience during the season, at this point, it's anybody's guess.
"It's going to be a little bit of a juggling act," Bielema said, "but it's something that I think our coaches and players will invest in and be good with."
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