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Wisconsin quarterback Joel Stave threw a pass during the first half against Nebraska on Saturday.

Nati Harnik, Associated Press

QB Stave fared well in road debut for Wisconsin

  • Associated Press
  • October 1, 2012 - 6:06 PM

MADISON, Wis. - Joel Stave fared well in his road debut at quarterback for Wisconsin, and coach Bret Bielema has been pleased with the redshirt freshman's poise in two starts.

Stave completed 12 of 23 passes for 214 yards and a touchdown in the 30-27 loss at Nebraska on Saturday night.

"He arrows up in all categories," Bielema said Monday of Stave, who was sacked three times by the Huskers. "I think he plays better in games than he does in practice. To me, that's something you've got to learn about your quarterback. He took some real shots on Saturday from really big people and obviously handled that and didn't miss a beat. He's truly competitive."

Junior Danny O'Brien was inserted at quarterback late in the fourth quarter after Stave struggled to get back on his feet after a sack. Wisconsin offensive coordinator Matt Canada planned to run a naked bootleg with 2:55 left, but when O'Brien saw a cornerback and safety line up differently for Nebraska, he changed the play. It resulted in a fumble off a botched handoff to senior running back Montee Ball.

Based on practice heading into the Nebraska game, it was the coaches' intent to use O'Brien for 2-minute situations. If faced with a similar scenario Saturday at home against Illinois, Bielema isn't sure which quarterback would be called to duty.

"As far as how we handle this Saturday, it's all about what we see this week (in practice)," Bielema said.

Stave was the top quarterback in spring practice, but O'Brien - a transfer out of Maryland - earned the starter slot in fall camp ahead of Stave and Curt Phillips. Stave replaced O'Brien in the second half of Wisconsin's 37-26 victory against UTEP on Sept. 15 after turnovers by O'Brien.

Bielema then made a switch and gave Stave the starting job. He said the 6-foot-5, 219-pounder benefited from watching standout former Wisconsin quarterbacks, including Russell Wilson, now a rookie starter with the Seattle Seahawks.

"To have the ability to watch a guy like Russell Wilson, a guy that is competitive as he is and kind of learn that (was valuable)," Bielema said. "Just talking with people around Joel before he came here, I know he's very competitive and all that goes into it, but you learn a lot by watching players who are in front of you. I think that and seeing the film and being around a little bit of Scott Tolzien, that's really helped him to get to where he is probably at an early age."

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