The Wisconsin Badgers have a clear identity on the football field thanks to one of the most talented backfields in the country: Run the ball. But that wasn’t quite enough for the Badgers to take the Big Ten last season and it will be even tougher for them to rely solely on the running game again in 2014 as the competition for the conference title gets tougher. The team has to get more from quarterback Joel Stave and the passing attack or risk coming up short again this season.
For many Wisconsin fans, Stave has started to wear out his welcome as the team’s starting quarterback due to the junior’s inconsistency in big moments. While his number overall were pretty good last season, completing 61.9 percent of his passes for 2,494 yards with 22 touchdowns, he disappeared in key moments and made too many mistakes, including a league-high 13 interceptions.
In the Badgers’ three regular season losses against the Arizona State Sun Devils, Ohio State Buckeyes, and Penn State Nittany Lions, Stave completed just 54.7 percent of his passes and threw four interceptions, including three costly ones against Penn State. Those games also happened to be three of his four highest pass attempt games of the season, meaning when given the opportunity to lead his team, Stave came up short.
Improving on that in 2014 will be tough for Stave as Wisconsin loses their top four pass-catchers from 2013, including 1,000-yard receiver Jared Abbrederis. The receiving corps will be young and inexperienced, looking to the veteran Stave to give them direction and leadership when things get tough.
Wisconsin has the running game to be a Big Ten contender this season but must get more from their passing attack to get over the top in 2014. Is Stave up to the challenge of leading the Badgers’ aerial attack this fall?