MADISON -- What started as a day with an unexpected announcement ended with many lingering questions and confusion. Around 11 a.m. CT, Wisconsin's athletic communications department released a statement explaining that both Joel Stave and T.J. Watt would miss time due to "injuries". It explained that Watt would miss an extended period of time due to surgery. The release also stated that Stave, over the last few weeks, has been dealing with "issues with his throwing shoulder".
"We have come to a decision, after talking with Joel, that the best thing for him right now is to shut it down and give him some rest," read a statement from head coach Gary Andersen.
The decision to "shut down" Stave meant that redshirt sophomore Bart Houston would then move into the backup quarterback role. The story starts to get more interesting with the comments made by Andersen after practice Wednesday.
Andersen, in a previously unscheduled appearance in front of media, started the interview by saying that he needed to explain some information provided in the press release from earlier in the day. The second-year coach clarified that he should not have used the words "shut it down" and "injury" when referencing Stave's situation.
Stave is at practice and in meetings with the team, but he is not participating in game preparation "with us completely, 100 percent of the time," as Andersen said.
"I want to make it real clear, there has been no reinjury for Joel whatsoever," Andersen said. "When he gets himself to the point to where he is ready to play, he will be ready to play."
Andersen added that "injury" in the press release from earlier in the day was a bad choice of wording. He said that Stave is not injured, but "not ready to play." Andersen alluded to the fact that Stave could be ready as soon as this week, but he hopes to have him be ready after the bye week headed into the game against Bowling Green.
While Andersen had mentioned that he has no timeline for Stave to come back, he is looking for Stave to come to the coaching staff and tell him he is ready. Andersen also revealed that Stave did not come to him and tell him he was not fit to play against LSU last weekend. Andersen stated that this situation isn't related to what happened in the spring, when Stave sat out the majority of practices.
"I don't think it is anything like that," Andersen said. "I think it's a bad term used again by me, ‘injury.' It's not an injury as far as him feeling like he rehurt it, or he is struggling, or it's a shoulder scenario. It's him just working through getting into a position to get into the game and playing a game for us."
Andersen further explained that Stave is extremely frustrated and that the team and coaching staff's No. 1 goal is to support him during this time. The head coach said that he knew in the middle of last week that Stave would not be the backup for the Badgers against LSU. He confirmed that had Tanner McEvoy gone down Saturday night, the incoming quarterback during that game would have been Bart Houston.
"We were doing some things with Bart to get him in the position to go, but we were hopeful that as Joel continued to progress that he would be in that spot," Andersen said, "He is still throwing."
Houston said that he feels more game-ready than last year. He didn't exactly verbalize that he knew he would be the backup quarterback, but that he prepares like he can go into the game.
Offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig said that he is not focusing so much on getting Houston more reps with the No. 2 offense as he is focusing on McEvoy and his reps in practice. Ludwig said that he would feel comfortable with Houston in the game if something unforeseen happened this Saturday against Western Illinois.
"Bart has been a great understudy now for a couple years," Ludwig said. "He's got a good grasp of the offense and he can really throw the football."
Ludwig went on to say that Stave had not been himself as of late, but did say the team needs him back. While Ludwig didn't say that Stave's situation had an effect on the decision at starting quarterback, he believes that there was a correlation between Stave's underperforming and the final outcome of the competition.
All eyes turned then to Stave as he was available to reporters after practice. Stave mentioned that while he hasn't had any tests done on his shoulder, he felt a pain in there last season which he is not feeling this year.
"I am not hurt. Structurally, everything is good in my shoulder." Stave said, "Right now, my arm is just not working the way I want it to. That's just the way it is."
Stave said that he is still participating in all drills and throwing during practice, and that he hasn't been "shut down" as was stated previously in the day. He told a group of reporters that over the past week, he hasn't thrown the way he expects to. He has said the struggles are not due to a lack of confidence or preparation.
"Physically, nothing is wrong right now," Stave said. "I just haven't thrown the ball like I'd like to. I'm working through it.
"I've heard of [the yips], too. I know I can throw the ball."
Stave did mention that he didn't warm up well against LSU and bounced a few balls in pre-game, to which the ESPN broadcast team alluded to at the beginning of its telecast.
"I'll be throwing it good, throwing it good, and then all of the sudden I will feel like I held onto it too long," Stave said. "One will sail. One will slip, and then you start thinking."
Stave said that he feels ready for whenever he is given the next opportunity, whether it is tomorrow or further down the road. While he is only participating in individual drills for the time being, Stave said the decision of when to return is up to him.