Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema confirmed redshirt freshman Joel Stave will start at quarterback against Texas-El Paso at his press conference Thursday.
Stave landed the first game experience of his career in the second half of a 16-14 win over Utah State Saturday, connecting on two of the six passes he threw for a total of 15 yards. The Greenfield, Wis., walk-on entered the game after Bielema benched Danny O’Brien, in his first year suiting up for Wisconsin after transferring from Maryland earlier this summer.
Bielema said the move was largely based on his confidence that Stave will avoid costly turnovers.
“I think the fact that Joel responded so well, didn’t have any issues — no fumbled snap exchanges, there wasn’t any incorrect balls or anything that really was his fault,” the head coach said. “Didn’t show me any reason not to stay with him.”
While naming the redshirt freshman the starter this weekend, Bielema said he is still most comfortable with O’Brien in the two-minute offense — which could be a factor in close, late-game situations — and that “all three (quarterbacks) might bet a shot.”
Also factoring into the decision was Stave’s confidence and poise, something Bielema said he showed after failing to complete a third down pass Saturday when the targeted receiver wasn’t open.
Though most expected O’Brien — who, with 17 starts coming in, held by far the most collegiate experience of any quarterback on the Badgers’ roster — to hold onto the starting role, a lost fumble and called-back interception left him watching the second half from the sideline. On a team that puts such high value on protecting the football, UW’s head coach made it clear the turnovers led to the redshirt junior’s benching.
In three games, O’Brien completed 62 percent of his passes for 454 yards, but under his command the offense struggled to put together consistent scoring drives.
Wisconsin’s head coach said Stave’s lack of experience won’t limit the gameplan, but he didn’t rule out someone else stepping in later this year.
“I make every move with the idea that it’s going to be long-term,” Bielema said. “But on the same account, you understand we have a number of guys [who may play].”