Hawkeyes could face double trouble with Wisconsin quarterbacks

Andrew Logue
Wisconsin quarterback Joel Stave was the starter a year ago, completing 61.2 percent of his passes while helping the Badgers average 34.8 points. Now he splits time with Tanner McEvoy.

IOWA CITY, Ia. – Joel Stave is a quarterback known for courage as much as spirals.

"Joel can stand in there and take a shot with any of them," Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen said, "from those big defensive linemen or linebackers, whoever it may be."

You'd think a guy like that would get a little more respect.

Instead, Stave and Tanner McEvoy are listed as co-starters heading into Saturday's 2:30 p.m. game at Iowa.

"Typically, their quarterbacks have been guys who maybe aren't in the spotlight as much," Hawkeye coach Kirk Ferentz said. "But they've done a good job of running the offense. It's all about scoring points."

Stave, a 6-foot-5, 220-pound native of Greenfield, Wis., helped the Badgers average 34.8 points per game last season while completing 61.2 percent of his passes.

Most of the credit, however, went to running backs James White and Melvin Gordon.

It was McEvoy, a 6-6, 222-pound junior from New Jersey, who emerged as the starter after a series of subpar workouts by Stave.

It was as if Stave suffered from the yips.

"I just haven't thrown the ball the way I'd like to," he told reporters at the time. "I'm working through it, I guess."

The Badgers, 8-2 overall and 5-1 in the Big Ten, adopted a quarterback rotation and opponents began to scramble.

"One guy (Stave) is not really much of a runner, but a more prolific thrower," Ferentz said. "And the other guy (McEvoy) runs the read option, or whatever you want to call it, with great proficiency.

"So it's one more thing you have to get ready for."

McEvoy is averaging 9.4 yards on 53 rushing attempts, just slightly ahead of Gordon's pace (8.6 on 223 carries).

"It's obviously two highly competitive kids who have a huge care factor, have the ability at times to take a step back and think about their team rather than just think about themselves," Andersen said.

Stave eventually regained his swagger, and a spot in the lineup.

He's connecting on a so-so 54.8 percent of his passes, but owns a career record of 18-6 as a starter (a .750 winning percentage that places him third on Wisconsin's all-time list).

"It does put a smile on your face when you see Joel go out there and do what he did in the last (few) games," Andersen said. "I know we didn't throw the ball a lot (against Nebraska), but again, we didn't really need to."

Gordon's 408 rushing yards was the catalyst for a 59-24 win over the Cornhuskers, and he'll be a focal point of Iowa's defense this weekend.

Could Stave be an X-factor?

"He's a guy who's played, and they've won with him," Ferentz said. "A lot of different ways to skin a cat and move the football, and they've got a way they've embraced for a long time."