Auburn Football: Five Wisconsin Badgers to Watch in the Outback Bowl

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Nov 29, 2014; Madison, WI, USA; Wisconsin Badgers quarterback Joel Stave (2) throws a touchdown pass during the second quarter against the Minnesota Golden Gophers at Camp Randall Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Wisconsin Badgers Quarterback Joel Stave

Joel Stave didn’t play in the first four games of the 2014 season for Wisconsin, and watched Tanner McEvoy lead the team as the starting quarterback for the first five contests: three wins and two losses.

Despite starting 19 games across the previous two years, Stave, a junior, lost the job to McEvoy in fall camp.

“I was pretty upset,” Stave said of when he heard the news. “I was surprised, so I just nodded and walked out.”

Upset is probably an understatement. Head coach Gary Andersen’s decision to start McEvoy rocked Stave to the point he contracted a case of “the yips” in practices, and fell farther down the depth chart.

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  • “It was pretty bad,” star running back Melvin Gordon said. “His confidence was gone.”

    However, the 6-foot-5, 225-pound signal caller didn’t give up, and eventually worked himself back onto the field. He earned his starting job back in the sixth game of the season and led the Badgers on a seven-game winning streak.

    This year, Stave has 53.6% of his passes, completed 96 of 179 attempts, for 1,229 yards and eight touchdowns. He’s been intercepted seven times, but just once during the win streak. Over that span, he threw for 928 yards with seven TDs and completed 60.7% of his passes.

    But, like many of his teammates, that good fortune came to a screeching halt in Indianapolis. Stave was 17-for-43 against Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship for 187 yards and three interceptions.

    Not long after the loss to the Buckeyes, Andersen took the vacant position at Oregon State.

    “All the distractions since that game have almost maybe been a good thing, kind of getting that out of our mind,” Stave said recently. “All that kind of commotion and distraction helped people forget about Ohio State.”

    Stave, who ranks in the top ten in Badgers history in passing yards (4,827) and touchdown passes (36), probably didn’t mind seeing Andersen – the man that benched him – leave. Now, he can concentrate on the Auburn Tigers, and building some momentum heading into his senior season.

    Next: Wisconsin Safety Michael Caputo