Going into the game on Saturday night with the Ohio State Buckeyes, all the talk about the Wiconsin Badgers was about the running back duo of James White and Melvin Gordon, and rightfully so, given their lofty stats.
After Saturday night, all the talk in the 31-24 loss to the Buckeyes was about the performance of quarterback Joel Stave, at least if you were looking for a silver lining in yet another bitter defeat for Wisconsin.
Stave's performance also served to quiet most of the critics calling for him to take a backseat to sixth-year senior Curt Phillips.
Two of the areas that appeared the most in need of work for Wisconsin were Stave's pass game and his on-field relationship with star receiver Jared Abbrederis.
However, following the game those doubts appear to be put to rest, at least for fellow teammate and senior leader Chris Borland (h/t Jeff Potrykus of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel): "He is very poised. He is developing into a really good quarterback, and he's got a lot of potential. Everybody is behind him and he is playing well."
Hooking up 10 times for 207 of Stave's 295 yards sure makes it seem like all is right in the Badger passing game, to say the least.
What was most important about that performance wasn't just the collegiate-best yardage or the targeting of Abbrederis, it was the fact that Stave was able to do those things against what many consider the best secondary in the Big Ten.
It also proved to the coaches and future opponents that stacking nine guys in the box and daring Stave to try you with his arm may not be the best of strategies.
Sure, the Badgers lost, but it wasn't for a lack of Stave trying or performing.
People also seem to forget that that was just Stave's 11th start of his career. They also seem to forget that he has a habit of showing up big in games where his team needs him.
In his first-ever Big Ten game, on the road to Nebraska, Stave finished with 214 yards and a touchdown—nearly leading his team to victory had it not been for a hit to the head late in the game and with the Badgers driving.
Just a few weeks later, he completed 81.1 percent of his passes for 127 yards and a touchdown in the first half against Michigan State. All of that before going out on the first drive of the second half with a broken collarbone that ended his regular season.
Add Saturday's performance to the list and you get the picture that Stave isn't afraid of the big stage or the better defenses he faces. Instead, it suggests he becomes even more confident with the spotlight squarely on his shoulders.
Unfortunately, the Badgers have lost all three of those games and, until Saturday, one could argue that had Stave been able to finish those games the Badgers would've won.
On Saturday, Stave showed once again that he's capable of putting this team on his back and helping instead of being just a guy to hand the ball off to his teammates. Going down the stretch, that film and that confidence could be key to success in the future for himself and his team.
*Andy Coppens is the Big Ten Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter for more coverage of the B1G.
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