Joel Stave certainly turned some heads with his first-half performance in Lincoln on Saturday night. Sure, some of his deep balls were under-thrown, but for the most part he looked sharp on his passes. Wisconsin successfully ran over the Huskers in the first half, so offensive coordinator Matt Canada even had the confidence in Stave to make big throws off play-action fakes.
And then the second half happened.
The offensive line lost its edge, Taylor Martinez drove the ball through the heart of the Badgers' defense and Stave didn't perform as well as he had in the first half. But with all that transpired, Stave never lost his composure or became rattled. The box score still reflected a 200-yard performance through the air, along with a gem of a touchdown pass to Jared Abbrederis in the second quarter.
When Bielema chose Danny O'Brien over Stave to run the two minute offense, I assumed Stave was unable to play after the shot he took on the previous drive. However, Bielema and his coaching staff had predetermined that O'Brien would be the guy in a two-minute drill scenario. Bielema acknowledged Stave's injury was also a factor, but that does not seem to be the primary reason for the change.
This begs the question: What the heck is Bielema thinking? How many successful teams have one quarterback play the first 58 minutes and then have the backup finish the game in crunch time? It simply doesn't work that way. If you want Stave to build confidence in himself, you need to give him a chance there. When Bielema named Stave as his starter going forward, that means it's his job to lose — and obviously his play did not merit such a move.
We are now well past the days of non-conference play or "preseason games." The Badgers can't have their quarterbacks constantly looking over their shoulders, wondering the next time they'll be pulled. There will certainly be some growing pains, but Wisconsin needs one quarterback moving ahead for the sake of the signal callers and the rest of the team. Personally, I believe Stave has shown enough to be 'the guy' until he indicates otherwise. Regardless of who plays behind center, Bielema needs to chose one quarterback moving forward in conference play.
Jeff Potrykus of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel also believes Stave should have finished the game Saturday.
At his weekly press conference, Bielema talked about getting Melvin Gordon and James White more integrated in the offense.
The issues at kicker continued against the Huskers. Kyle French and Jack Russell will split duties this week, with French taking over field goals and PAT's, while Russell will stick to just kickoffs for now.
This surely isn't the first time the Badgers have started 0-1 in conference play under Bielema.
A panel discusses if Wisconsin is stronger after the loss to Nebraska.
David Gilbert admits he felt additional pressure to perform well against the Huskers after he made critical comments of Taylor Martinez last week.
Tom Dienhart comes out with his most recent B1G bowl game predictions.
Wisconsin stills ranks No. 8 in the conference, according to ESPN.com's Big Ten Rankings.