Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Stocco shines against Gophers

[media-credit name=’AJ Maclean’ align=’alignnone’ width=’648′]Stocco_AM_400[/media-credit]The list of Badger liabilities for the stretch run of a perfect season bid went something like this:

– Inexperience at starting quarterback

– Inaccuracy at starting quarterback


– Immobility at starting quarterback

Saturday at Camp Randall, John Stocco threw that list away. Completing 73 percent of his passes for 297 yards, running for 27 more yards and putting the ball in the end zone three times, Stocco made converts of his harshest detractors.

“He’s starting to see things slower,” head coach Barry Alvarez explained. “It’s not a blur anymore. He knows where to go with the ball. I think he understands things much better. He’s never lost confidence. He hasn’t had a game where he’s been sloppy with the ball and hasn’t lost confidence. So, consequently, he’s built confidence.”

Stocco has been resolute in his determination all season and has seen his play steadily improve.

In the first five games of the season, Stocco completed better than half of his passes just once and didn’t manage a single 200-yard game. In the past four, he has thrown at a .621 clip and averaged 211.5 yards. Against Minnesota, he passed for more yards in each of the first two quarters than he did in an entire game against Illinois.

“I think it’s just experience,” Stocco said. “Coming into the year, I didn’t have a whole lot of game experience. You can practice all you want, but it’s not the same as the game. I think just getting more experience … is only going to help me and make me better.”

Tailback Anthony Davis (who returned from injury, coincidentally or not, a game before Stocco’s turnaround) said that he’s noticed significant progress in Stocco as the season has advanced.

“I saw him take another huge leap [Saturday],” Davis said. “He was decisive out there. He was making plays — throwing the ball, running the ball. He was moving around the pocket, buying time, finding the open guy. He played a big-time game.”

Left guard Dan Buenning agreed.

“I think he’s complete in his game [now],” he said. “He’s making the right decisions with the ball and running well with the ball. There’s nothing more that we could ask from a quarterback.”

Stocco was rewarded for his career performance with his first collegiate game ball.

“I gave John the game ball,” Alvarez said. “I know playing against your home state school is meaningful and he had one of the better quarterback performances that we’ve had in a long time. He certainly deserved it.”

For his part, Stocco tried to deflect the praise to his teammates.

“Our receivers made some outstanding plays throughout the game,” Stocco said. “All I really did was throw it up to them and they just made outstanding plays for us. The line blocked their asses off for us — it was just a team effort; it was awesome.”

“I just try to throw it up there and let those guys go make plays,” Stocco continued. “That’s why they’re out there.”

But Stocco’s top receiver in the game, Brandon Williams, was slow to take any credit away from his battery mate.

“He willed his way to first downs — throwing, running, whatever he had to do,” Williams said.

James still limping: Star defensive end Erasmus James didn’t quite make the comeback that Badger fans were hoping to see Saturday.

After playing only five snaps in the first half, James came out of the locker room at the beginning of the second half in street clothes. James said after the game that his limited playing time was a precaution and not the result of any aggravation to the ankle he injured against Purdue.

“There was no re-injury at all,” he said. “It feels good; I’ve got a special brace on it and that’s helping me. I’m pushing off and the straight-forward movement is great.”

Assistant head coach and defensive line coach John Palermo approached James at halftime and suggested that he take it easy in the second half.

“I wouldn’t say that I was close to a hundred percent, but effort-wise I was 100 percent [in the first half],” James said. “I thought I was pretty effective when I first got out there, but as the points went up [coach Palermo] said that he really didn’t think I should play anymore — that I should probably just stop and get a week’s worth of rest again.”

Asked if he expected to be back to 100 percent by next week, James responded, “Definitely. I can’t wait to come back next week.”

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