Happy Monday, friends. Hopefully you all had a chance to decompress following Saturday's misery. I skipped the Nebraska-Michigan State nightcap to go so see Gone Girl, a pretty sweet movie based on a book I never read. I recommend it (how's that for a film review?).
We hit on a few emotional threads in the aftermath of the loss to Northwestern: Where do the Badgers go from here? Should we just stop worrying and ride with Joel Stave?
For Monday's Badger Bits, let's dive into what the beat reporters in Evanston heard after the game. You can also watch Gary Andersen's full post-game press conference above. One last reminder: Madison.com has a nice YouTube page and always uploads a ton of post-game interviews. Here's McEvoy:
The key question: why exactly did Andersen decide to go with Stave?
"I just felt like we needed to find a spark on offense," Andersen said of his decision to pull McEvoy after four first-half series. "Again...this was the week I felt like he (Stave) was ready to go and I believed it.
"And so I felt like we needed to find a spark....So it wasn't necessarily just the quarterback production. It was the offense as a whole."
Can't argue there, with the lack of offensive production as a whole being, well, offensive. But what now? All indications are that Andersen's open to a two-quarterback system moving forward. "Hey, isn't that what we expected going into the opener vs. LSU?" Yep, I sure thought so.
"It could very well move in that direction if it's best for us because we have not proven to be effective enough to be what I would call a stable offense," he said. "I don't care about yards. I don't care about all the other stuff. Just a functioning offense that allows us to win Big Ten games. The game changes when you walk into the Big Ten. We all know that and we understand that.
"So if that means we have to adapt the offensive system and the scheme this year to help ourselves, as a football team, to have both of those schemes I'm talking about...because we are different than a year ago. We've got to get better at it."
It remains to be seen how much Andersen and Andy Ludwig will "adapt" UW's schemes. Things change every season, good or bad, whether due to injury, a surprise contributor or a given matchup that forces a hand. On one hand, that's a fairly standard quote from the head coach after a painful loss like this. On the other, fans reading that might take it as a lack of faith in the versatile, spread looks that had this staff favoring a mobile quarterback like McEvoy.
And on that note, before anyone else asks: No, D.J. Gillins won't be starting anytime soon. He likely won't play at all this season, outside of an inconceivable string of injuries. He's traveling with the Badgers and leading the scout team so that he can learn this offense faster, and hopefully pick up on the mistakes those ahead of him are making. But no make mistake: this is Stave and McEvoy's mess to clean up. If one of them really falters -- or again, gets injured -- Bart Houston's up next.
In some ways, the University of Wisconsin football team's offense is right back to where it was on Aug. 4.
I'd say "in pretty much every way," but yeah. You know what happened by now: with McEvoy utterly incapable of moving the Badgers down the field, Andersen and Ludwig pulled him for Stave, who had been inactive for all of September while dealing with "the yips." McEvoy was 4-of-10 for 24 yards and an interception; Stave was slightly more productive in going 8-of-19 for 114 yards and a touchdown, though he also tossed three picks.
We'll hear more Monday at 12 p.m., at Andersen's weekly press conference in Madison. For now, McEvoy has the latest update on the quarterbacks.
"Just kind of like fall camp was," McEvoy said. "You've just got to go out there each day and just compete and just do what the coaches ask and let them figure it out."
Pitiful results aside, I still wouldn't expect any locker room in-fighting from a Wisconsin football team, especially in public. Of course, there was none of that. Rob Havenstein, who's become the most vocal leader on this team alongside Melvin Gordon, "chaffed" at any talk of Wisconsin being a "good team with the potential to be great." Same for Michael Caputo, one of the few players who's been consistently excellent through five games.
Jeff Potrykus of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel got Stave's thoughts on a potential quarterback partnership with McEvoy, and though it's unlikely Stave would've cast anything other than a positive attitude after the game, he was open to it.
"I think me and Tanner both do (different) things very well," he said. "As you've seen we're different quarterbacks. I think there are things we can do to help this offense.
"If we can find a way to balance it - some spread stuff, some play-action stuff, whatever it is - I think we can be a very effective offense."
One thing that can't fall on Stave or McEvoy: the offensive line play.
The line didn't adequately protect McEvoy or Stave on Saturday. McEvoy was hit as he threw on his lone interception. Stave's arm was hit on the first of his three interceptions. The wide receivers continued to struggle to make big plays and both quarterbacks missed throws they could have made.
"We've got some things to figure out as a team," tight end Sam Arneson said. "I know we will. I know the staff will.
"That wasn't the product we want to put on the field and we know we're better than that. This team will work to improve and I know we will."
A few more main bullets from the JS' recap:
- Stave said his his final interception, with UW down 20-7 yet having a 1st-and-goal from the 3, was just a case of him "trying to do too much, trying to force it."
- Andersen credited Northwestern's punter, Chris Gradone, for consistently giving Wisconsin a long field to worth it. Gradone landed four of his seven punts inside UW's 20-yard line.
- Again with the thread of hope, confidence: Gordon said "The Big Ten championship is still there."