Wisconsin quarterback Joel Stave did not start in the season-opening loss to LSU, and an explanation for the surprising start for Tanner McEvoy might have been due to a shoulder injury for Stave.
Ralph D. Russo of The Associated Press reported the apparent shoulder injury for Stave on Tuesday:
Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen says QB Joel Stave (shoulder) is shut down indefinitely. So that explains some things about Saturday night.— Ralph D. Russo (@ralphDrussoAP) September 2, 2014
Jim Polzin of the Wisconsin State Journal added an unusual detail:
UW QB situation gets more bizarre: Andersen says Stave isn't injured but is still out indefinitely. Stave will explain to us shortly.— Jim Polzin (@JimPolzinWSJ) September 2, 2014
Benjamin Worgull of BadgersNation.com broke down what exactly is going on:
So Joel Stave has the yips but says he could 100 percent play on Saturday against Western Illinois. You really can't make this up— Benjamin Worgull (@TheBadgerNation) September 2, 2014
Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen expanded on the issue:
GA: "Joel is at practice. As far as game prepping at this point, that's where Joel is not with us completely 100 percent all the time."— Benjamin Worgull (@TheBadgerNation) September 2, 2014
Last season, Stave compiled 2,494 passing yards, 22 touchdowns and 13 interceptions along with a 138.1 passer rating. He also led the Badgers to a 9-4 record, losing the last two games of the season to Penn State and South Carolina, the latter being the Capital One Bowl.
Brian Bennett of ESPN provides comments from coach Gary Andersen on the injury:
Andersen in statement: “Joel has been dealing with some issues with his throwing shoulder for the last couple of weeks."— Brian Bennett (@BennettESPN) September 2, 2014
While Stave certainly wasn't phenomenal for the Badgers, he provided stability under center in 2013. With the quarterback out indefinitely, McEvoy will have to step up more than he did against LSU in the opener, where he went just 8-of-24 passing for 50 yards and two interceptions in a losing effort.
The announcement also comes on the heels of a hip flexor for Melvin Gordon, per Chip Patterson of CBS Sports. It appears Gordon will still be on the field for Week 2, but will need better quarterback play moving forward to succeed.
Bill Bender of Sporting News believes the quarterback play was the difference for LSU and Wisconsin:
Tanner McEvoy, who finished 8-of-24, threw two costly interceptions in the fourth quarter. Jennings had about the same luck through the air (9-of-21), but took advantage of playmakers on the outside in Travin Dural and Diarse. That led to a 188-yard difference in passing yards.
Needless to say, the Stave injury is a crucial one for the Badgers.
Can Wisconsin still win without Stave under center?
Luckily, the schedule moving forward isn't exactly as daunting as the opener against LSU. Wisconsin now has three straight home contests against Western Illinois, Bowling Green and South Florida before traveling to take on Northwestern.
If McEvoy can settle in and Gordon can thrive in the backfield, this might still be a successful season for the Badgers. But with the timetable on Stave unknown, quarterback play will certainly be a question mark moving forward.
Follow @RCorySmith on Twitter.