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Joel Stave’s strange journey ends with him being Badgers ultimate winner

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Joel Stave’s collegiate football career can only be described as strange. He’s seen Big Ten championships, three different head coaches, two transfer quarterbacks put ahead of him and still found himself as one of the best career quarterbacks in a Wisconsin Badgers uniform.

Many a quarterback has seen change and failed — even inside the Big Ten. Christian Hackenberg, a one-time 5-star prodigy, has been ruined by coaching change and its resulting horrid offensive line at Penn State, for the most recent example.

However, the former in-state walk-on conquered all of the adversity put in front of him during a four-year journey few would have survived, let alone thrived in.

It was only fitting then, that the ultimate fighter would become the ultimate winner in a Badgers uniform. As the clocked ticked away on Wisconsin’s 23-21 Holiday Bowl victory, it was also victory No. 31 for Stave as a starter — a feat no other quarterback in UW history had obtained.

He’ll be etched in the record books as the No. 1 quarterback in terms of career wins, yet he also may be the most maligned quarterback in UW history as well.

Maybe the only thing more fitting than going out a winner was the fact that it was Stave surviving a strange set of circumstances within the Holiday Bowl that got him win No. 31.

Stave and the Badgers weren’t expected to outduel USC’s high-powered passing attack, but that’s exactly what happened when it mattered most. Before a final drive flurry, Stave was outdueling Kessler on the stat sheet in a major way.

As it was, Stave finished the game completing 64 percent of his passes for 183 yards and a touchdown.

Not eye-popping numbers, but efficient and important at opportune times. Stave was a perfect complement to a defense that was holding the Trojans down for the majority of the game.

Kessler would ultimately finish with 221 yards, but completed just 56 percent of his passes and had a touchdown to go with an interception.

However, the biggest difference came in Stave’s ability to be clutch in the face of immense pressure. This time the pressure came in the form of a crazy situation for his team and a crazy individual situation.

As the Badgers tried to come back from a 21-20 deficit in the middle of the fourth quarter, Stave took a hit and was inadvertently stepped on by a USC defender, appearing to take a foot to the face.

Stave was bloodied and perhaps suffered from a broken nose.

Instead of just allowing Bart Houston to take over for more than was necessary, Stave toughed it up and put some tape across his nose once the bleeding was under control and stuffed a cotton swab up his nose and went right back out there.

What resulted was classic Joel Stave, as he led the Badgers on a 7-play, 42-yard drive to put UW in a position to kick a potential game-winning field goal. As sophomore kicker Rafael Gaglianone’s kick went through the uprights with just 2:27 to go, Stave’s job was complete.

He had done it again — bringing the Badgers back from the brink of defeat and putting the rest of his team in position to win it.

It was just the final twist in what would be a hugely successful, but also controversial career. Stave didn’t do it alone either, another hallmark of his historic career.

The defense came through, as Jack Cichy capped off a fearsome second half (game-high 9 tackles, 3.0 sacks) with a tip of Kessler’s third down pass right in to the arms of a waiting Sojourn Shelton.

Shelton’s interception was the lone one of the game, and while UW didn’t get a first down on the ensuing possession, the time off the clock forced USC’s hand right back in to the strength of the Badgers defense — pass rushing.

Wisconsin’s defense force a 4-and-out and it was all over but the trophy presentation. Stave not only hoisted a second-straight bowl game title trophy, he also raised a MVP trophy for himself in this one.

However, the story begins some five seasons ago when Stave was a little freshman that no one knew. The Wisconsin Badgers quarterback went from little known quantity to intriguing prospect following an impressive 2011 spring football game. Many in observance saw him as the best option amongst a wholly unimpressive group around him.

Scholarship names like Joe Brennan, Jon Budmayr and Curt Phillips all failed to impress or were injured in spring ball. That’s where Stave stepped in, showing a glimmer of hope on a dreary day in terms of the weather and the performance of quarterbacks around him.

However, Stave was just a walk-on freshman that entered college a semester early. Bret Bielema pulled one of the biggest recruiting jobs of his career in the early summer, getting former N.C. State quarterback Russell Wilson to transfer for his final season after UW lost long time starters Scott Tolzien to the NFL.

Stave would sit that season and redshirt, but still many doubted if he would be an answer ever in his career at Wisconsin.

Wilson would go on to set all sorts of single-season records and become one of the most beloved Badgers of the last decade. It didn’t hurt he did it with style, flair and a fun-loving attitude while also being ultra-competitive.

Stave? Well, he’s about the exact opposite of Wilson in terms of persona and personality. From day one to the very end of it all, Stave wasn’t exactly easy in front of the cameras or reporters.

Having been there for his first go-round with the media and during his final go-round, Stave never got used to the bright lights — it simply wasn’t and isn’t who he is.

He’d rather wear a college hoodie and play the piano than deal with questions from throngs of media and live in the spotlight that being a starting quarterback at a major university brings.

Still, Stave and Wilson had one major thing in common — an undeniable craving for competition and winning.

Wilson would go 11-2 during his one year in Madison, while Stave would finish 31-10 for the fourth-best winning percentage of any quarterback in UW history.

The next season, Stave still wasn’t thought of as the ultimate option and Wisconsin looked to Maryland transfer Danny O’Brien to be the one-and-done option to continue UW’s streak of Big Ten championships.

O’Brien turned in two-and-a-half lackluster (and that’s being nice) performances before Stave got the call. He would lead the Badgers to a comeback victory over Utah State, and he never looked back as the starter again in 2012.

Stave would go on to finish his first campaign of action with 1,104 yards and six touchdowns to three interceptions in just eight total games. It was a promising start, but before he could get comfortable change was about to come in waves.

With original offensive coordinator Paul Chryst already off to the head coaching gig at Pitt in 2011, Stave would take in a new head coach the following year as Bielema left for Arkansas and AD Barry Alvarez went on to hire Gary Andersen of Utah State.

Andersen opened up the QB competition in 2013 and again in 2014, with Stave responding well the first time around. He competed in 13 games and passed for 2,494 yards and a career-high 22 touchdowns to 13 interceptions.

Even as late as the 2014 season, Stave still was fighting for his starting job. Head coach Gary Andersen wanted a running option at quarterback and shoved Tanner McEvoy down the throat of offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig at the end of fall camp.

What ensued was an offense so one-dimensional that it barely escaped non-conference play with less than the opening loss to LSU. Stave also was suffering from the famous case of the “yips” and only came on after a disastrous start by McEvoy in the Big Ten opener against Northwestern.

Stave clearly wasn’t al the way back from those yips, and was unable to complete the comeback he had done so many times before — throwing a key interception as Wisconsin was pushing for a go-ahead drive.

However, he was clearly sparking a moribund offense and took over as the full-time starter after that game.  Stave would finish his junior season with 1,350 yards and nine touchdowns to 10 interceptions. He also completed a career-low 53 percent of his passes.

The quarterback who survived all comers, all critics and his own mental issues after getting knocked down would still face one more larger hurdle.

Andersen took off following the 2014 season, leaving Alvarez to hire a familiar face in Paul Chryst. Nearly immediately, Chryst canned any talk of a quarterback competition and named Stave his starter.

It all led to another 10-win season for the Badgers and a ton of career records for Stave as well.

To be sure, he didn’t earn all of the 31 wins on his own. He certainly had help from the likes of Melvin Gordon, James White and Corey Clement at running back and multiple NFL draft picks ahead of him on the offensive line.

He also had some consistent wide receiver named Alex Erickson, who was two receptions (77) shy of breaking the school record for single-season receptions (78) currently held by Jared Abbrederis from the 2013 season.

Not to forget about a defense that has grown from very good to one of the most feared in all of college football.

Still, Stave finishes tops in wins (31), had the most 200-yard passing games in a career (18), the most attempts, second in career passing yards (7,635), career touchdowns (48) and holds many more individual season records as well.

All of that for a walk-on that was passed over twice and faced with plenty of adversity, competition and injuries throughout his career.

Not too bad for a guy few loved and most enjoyed hating on over the last five years in a Badgers uniform. Perhaps some distance will make Badger fans remember just how good the times were with Joel Stave behind center, directing this team and getting positive results in the face of so many obstacles.

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What the Badgers need to work on in the bye week

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Two games, two victories, two shutouts and two record-setting performance. It would be easy to think the 2-0 Wisconsin Badgers football team is riding high in to its early bye week.

But, with the challenge of the Michigan Wolverines just around the corner things are not exactly going to go as planned.

So, with a week off to prepare what are some of the areas of concentration and concern heading in to the matchup with the Wolverines?

Get Healthy

I feel like this is a mantra of any team on a bye week, but after only two games it shouldn’t be that bad. But, guess what, Wisconsin is two games in to the season and the injury gods have not been kind to this team.

On Sunday, we learned that starting safety Scott Nelson will miss the rest of the season with a leg injury.

Late last week we knew that five other players were going to miss the Central Michigan game, with two of those being starters on defense in Bryson Williams and Izayah Green-May.

Now luckily, the depth of this team showed up as true freshman Keeanu Benton (1 TFL) played well in place of Williams and Noah Burks (2 tackles, 1 TFL and 1 pass break up) made it seem like there was nothing missing at outside linebacker.

But, there’s no question that playing with a full group of players against Michigan will be advantageous. Let’s see if the Badgers can get Williams and Green-May healthy and my guess is that they will be able to do just that with nearly three weeks of treatment and testing.

Stay Hungry

One of the things that has been clear so far about this team is that they have been playing with a lot of emotion and edge to them. It’s almost as if they spent an entire offseason stewing over a less-than-stellar performance in 2018 and are bound and determined to not let that happen again.

Whatever was bottled up in the offseason was certainly unleashed in the first two weeks of the season. Can UW find a way to continue to play with that edge and fire now that they have no game this week?

Sometimes the bye week can mess with a team, especially one that is rolling like the Badgers are. But, I have a distinct feeling that motivation and focus are not going to waver at all with this coaching staff in place.

Wisconsin also has the advantage of being the underdog in the matchup with Michigan (at least on paper it will) and has a ton of hungry young players looking to make a name for themselves.

What better way to do that than against Michigan with the whole college football world watching you?

This idea of staying hungry doesn’t worry me in the least, but it would be something to watch coming out of the gate against Michigan. If the Badgers look flat or out of sorts, I’d be worried. If not, then look for Michigan to be in some serious trouble on Sept. 21.

New Wrinkles?

Early on this season, we’ve already seen a lot of Jonathan Taylor the running back, but we’ve also seen a lot of JT23 the receiving back and it has produced glorious results.

Even better is the fact that the Badgers coaching staff hasn’t had to get exotic with the play calling early on this season either. There’s been few sightings of Aron Cruickshank end arounds or double running back sets or anything crazy.

Wisconsin has lined up, punched the opposing defense in the mouth up front and done the basics needed to put points on the board.

It will be interesting to see what wrinkles will be added with the extra time and the opponent at hand. Will the Badgers break out a few things that Michigan won’t be ready for or will they stick to the tried and true and just see what happens?

Pass Protection

If there’s one thing we know about Michigan’s defense is that it is nearly the Badgers equal in aggressiveness. Through two games the Badgers have allowed four sacks on the quarterback.

It may not seem alarming, but last season, UW allowed a total of 24 through 13 games for an average of 1.85 per game and that was a bit of a problem in bigger games. Furthermore, 12 of the 24 sacks came in Wisconsin’s five losses last year.

The good news seems to be that UW is going to get some help for the quarterback spot in avoiding some of those sacks this year. Jack Coan may not be a world-record sprinter, but he has shown to be more comfortable stepping up in the pocket and taking off if needed.

But, the Badgers were not really tested so far in terms of overall talent and did give up three sacks against USF in the opener. On the flip side, the offensive line looked much better against CMU and only one sack happened on the day.

Does that indicate improvement or just how bad the Chippewas were? With an extra week to work on things, lets see how the Badgers offensive line works through any potential issues and any adjustments that may be needed.

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Sunday Morning Hangover: What to make of Coan’s confident start

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By now, Jack Coan isn’t a total newcomer to the starting quarterback role for the Wisconsin Badgers. But, on Saturday he was making his first career start inside Camp Randall Stadium.

All five of his previous starts would come on the road or in a bowl game.

So, how did Coan handle the home crowd and it being a season opener at Camp Randall nonetheless? Judging by his record-setting numbers it was safe to say it was home, sweet home for the junior quarterback.

After passing for over 200 yards for the first time in his career last week against USF, Coan set personal records for passing attempts, completions, yards and touchdown passes in a single game.

It’s hard to get much better than that.

On the day, Coan would go 26 of 33 for 363 yards and 3 touchdowns. Those numbers were the catalyst to the Badgers 61-0 blanking of the visiting Central Michigan Chippewas.

His 363 yards were the fifth best in a single game by any Badgers quarterback. Coan also became just the 11th Badgers QB to throw for 300 or more yards in a game.

Additionally, his 276 yards in the first half were the most ever by any Badgers quarterback in a single half.

That’s some historic territory for anyone to reach.

However, after sleeping on it, I am still left wondering if this is a sign of things to come or a blip on the radar and we’ll never see this again.

Maybe it’s because I can still remember being there in person to witness Coan fumble and bumble his way to a loss at Northwestern last year.

Maybe that’s the Hornibrook affect in me too? After all, we got totally burned by thinking Hornibrook had turned a corner with his great performance in the bowl win over Miami two years ago.

Instead, Hornibrook reverted right back to the inconsistent and at times terrible version that his more extensive body of work told us was likely who he was.

But, here’s why I think we aren’t seeing a blip on the radar with Coan. It’s his confidence and the fact that we’ve seen him go out and do better each and every week he’s been a starter.

We are seeing progress, which we never really did with Hornibrook under center. If you can’t see that Coan is improving, then you aren’t paying attention.

Last week, despite the first ever 200-yard day for Coan, a lot of attention was paid to the missed wide open receivers on vertical routes. What did Coan do about it? He went out this week and showed he could confidently and accurately hit those deep balls.

“I think it’s important, and certainly we’ve got to be able to — we thought coming into the year we’ve got to do a better job of attacking the whole field, and so when you can do that, it’s good, but I think guys have had confidence in it,” said head coach Paul Chryst after the CMU win.

“I know last week we were 0-2 for those “chunk” plays, but he wouldn’t have cut ’em loose today if he didn’t have confidence in it. So I don’t know that doing it in a game makes you more confident, but it was good to see. It’s nice to be able to hit a couple of those, obviously.”

Additionally, Coan’s relationship early on this season with Quintez Cephus has been something special to watch. With virtually no playing time and no extensive practice time together, the duo has seemed totally in sync to start the season.

Cephus has nine receptions for 169 yards and two touchdowns through two games. He also is averaging 84.5 yards per game, good for fifth in the Big Ten in this early season.

Just to put the difference between Coan and Honribrook in to some perspective for you. Through two games last year, the Badgers had just 26 receptions as a team. This year, UW already has 50.

Wisconsin also has a total of 16 passes for 15 or more yards on the season. That is a quarter of what the Badgers had (64) all of last year and we’re only two games in to the season.

A.J. Taylor (8), Danny Davis (6), Kendric Pryor (6) and Jake Ferguson (6) have all had major impacts in the pass game too.

It means a diverse and talented group is producing quickly this season.

Of course, the challenge of Michigan’s defense awaits the Badgers offense and it certainly will be a step up in competition from the likes of USF and Central Michigan.

However, the Wolverines also won’t be seeing the same old Wisconsin offense they did for the past few years either.

What Coan has brought to the table through two weeks of play should make Michigan think twice about stacking the box against the run all game long.

Wisconsin finally has an outwardly confident quarterback and it feels so very good.

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WATCH: Recap of Badgers 61-0 victory over Central Michigan

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If you were to draw up a perfect game, well, it would be hard to top what the Wisconsin Badgers put on film on Saturday against the Central Michigan Chippewas.

UW ran, passed and dominated on defense en route to a 61-0 win. What should we take away from this game? What were the highlight moments?

Well of course, Jonathan Taylor scoring four touchdowns in back-to-back games was impressive. But, let our Publisher, Andrew Coppens, get in to the detail in this week’s talkinBadgers recap.

Don’t forget to subscribe to the YouTube page, so you don’t miss any of our video work as the season goes on!

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Wisconsin Badgers vs. Central Michigan Chippewas: Preview, Predictions and Prognostications

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We’re back with more in our video work for the Badgers 2019 season. As per usual, our Publisher, Andrew Coppens, is here to give you the lowdown on the matchup between the Wisconsin Badgers and Central Michigan Chippewas.

That means, key players to watch, key stats to keep an eye on and the weekly prediction.

He is 1-0 after nearly nailing the full score last week, so what does this matchup look like?

Let’s get in to the video.

Don’t forget to subscribe to the YouTube channel so you don’t miss a single prediction or post-game reaction for your pleasure.

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