MADISON, Wis. — One day after saying Joel Stave would be involved at the quarterback position as the season progressed, Badgers coach Gary Andersen announced that Stave has been shut down indefinitely because of an injury to his throwing shoulder.
Andersen said the issue had affected Stave "for the last couple of weeks."
"We have come to a decision, after talking with Joel, that the best thing for him right now is to shut it down and give him some rest," Andersen said in a release. "It was a tough decision because Joel is a great competitor and has a tremendous desire to help this team. We will continue to monitor his progress, but we’re not putting a timetable on his return at this time."
The announcement makes Wisconsin’s recent quarterback decision more clear. Tanner McEvoy earned the starting job for the season opener despite Stave having shown more consistency in the passing game early in fall camp. It was presumed McEvoy won out because of his ability to extend plays with his legs, though Stave’s injury calls that assumption into question.
Some wondered why Stave did not enter the game during Saturday night’s 28-24 loss to LSU when McEvoy struggled. McEvoy finished the game 8-for-24 passing for 50 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions.
Andersen said Tuesday on the Big Ten coaches teleconference that he didn’t find it necessary to announce Stave’s injury before the LSU game.
"I think that one is pretty simple because we were in a position to do whatever we can to win the football game and having your No. 2 quarterback be out, this has been lingering for a period of time," Andersen said. "But as you went into two weeks before the game and the week before the game, that’s not the right proper time to make that announcement, in my opinion."
Even during Andersen’s Monday news conference with local media, however, he suggested Stave would be used at quarterback because the Badgers needed both Stave and McEvoy in order to succeed.
Andersen said Tuesday that the decision to shut down Stave "was still completely unclear" one day earlier.
"As soon as media walks around and sees him not throwing all of practice, it’s going to raise eyebrows of what’s going on?" Andersen said. "So at that point we decided to say, ‘Let’s just make an announcement, ease it off of Joel, ease it off of the program and everybody knows exactly the direction we’re headed.’ So that’s why we announced it today, not yesterday or a week or two ago when we were in camp."
Andersen noted Stave’s shoulder injury took place "early in camp" and went as far back to the team’s Aug. 18 scrimmage, which was largely closed to the media. It is unclear if it is the result of lingering effects from an injury Stave sustained to his throwing shoulder during Wisconsin’s Jan. 1 bowl game against South Carolina, which caused Stave to miss the final week of spring camp.
"Joel didn’t feel completely comfortable," Andersen said. "It just has kind of deteriorated to the point that I think it’s important that we put Joel first in this situation and not put the University of Wisconsin first."
Stave put together one of the more impressive individual seasons by a Wisconsin quarterback a year ago. He threw for 2,494 yards with 22 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. The 22 touchdown passes represented the second-most in program history, behind only Russell Wilson’s 33 in 2011. Despite the statistics, however, coaches opened up the starting competition between he and McEvoy, a more mobile threat.
Wisconsin’s depth chart at quarterback now has McEvoy as the starter, with Bart Houston the backup quarterback and true freshman DJ Gillins as the No. 3 quarterback moving up from the scout team. Wisconsin plays host to FCS foe Western Illinois at 11 a.m. CT Saturday in Camp Randall Stadium.
"Bart has a strong arm," Andersen said. "He’s waited for his time to get in this position. I’m sure he’ll be very excited about the opportunity to get in there and take some reps with the one or two offense. He’ll get himself prepared to go."