Stave isn’t inured. To break it down simply, he’s just not comfortable throwing a football. He’s overthinking things, second guessing himself, and suffering from such a bad mental block he’s unable to play . This is a quarterback who started all 13 games for Wisconsin last season, and threw for nearly 2,500 yards and 22 touchdowns. Nonetheless, Wisconsin had to move on.
The attention around Stave has died down a bit now that the focus is on his replacement, Tanner McEvoy. The 6-foot-6, 222-pound redshirt junior played safety for the Badgers last season, and gives Wisconsin good size and more mobility under center. He struggled in his debut at quarterback though, completing just 8-of-24 passes for 50 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions. Wisconsin fell 28-24 to BR-11 LSU and dropped to BR-23 in our rankings.
His performance opened the door to criticism and questions. Would the Badgers make a move to sophomore Bart Houston or freshman DJ Gillins?
They decided to stick with McEvoy.
Though it was against an FCS opponent, McEvoy looked like a completely different quarterback in the Badgers’ 37-3 win over Western Illinois on Saturday. He threw for 283 yards and three touchdowns on 23-of-28 passing, and added nine carries for 55 yards and a score.
“Well, I think it’s huge,” Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen said. “We’ll see as we move forward. But Tanner did what we thought he could do. He did some nice things with his legs. He had good command of the offense. He threw the ball very, very well. He seemed to be pretty poised. When there wasn’t something there, he got out of it, which was good to see.”
Western Illinois stacked the box to contain Wisconsin’s ground game, so McEvoy proved he has the arm to complement his exceptional running ability. During one stretch, McEvoy completed 17-straight passes. He also completed passes to seven different receivers over the course of the game.
“Offensively, we needed a game like this,” McEvoy said. “We know what we can do on offense. We know we can pass the ball. Their defense was making us pass the ball and making us throw it. That’s what we have to do when teams do that to us and we have to show that we can do it.”
It was a solid bounce-back after a dismal performance against LSU for McEvoy. He proved he can throw the ball and give the Badgers a passing attack. He has confidence now.
Meanwhile, Stave is taking part in team meetings, working out individually during practice, and hopes to come back sooner than later. Until then – whether with his arms or legs – McEvoy is ready to lead Wisconsin. He showed that Saturday.