Badgers football: Bielema won’t say who’s starting QB against UTEP
By: By Tom Mulhern, The Wisconsin State Journal, Superior Telegram
MADISON — Let the guessing game begin.
Will junior Danny O’Brien be back at quarterback for the University of Wisconsin football team against UTEP on Saturday after getting yanked at halftime of the last game?
Or will redshirt freshman Joel Stave, who played the entire second half of the 16-14 victory over Utah State, get his first start?
UW coach Bret Bielema has made a decision, but he’s not telling. He also said at his Monday news conference he will not make the quarterbacks available for interviews this week.
O’Brien was benched after fumbling in the second quarter, his third turnover in two games. He had an interception on overturned by a roughing-the-passer penalty and another fumble that he recovered.
“I told him on Sunday that the Number 1 reason he got the job to begin with was because of the way he took care of the football,” Bielema said.
Had a change needed to be made in the first two games, Bielema said senior Curt Phillips would have went in the game.
“I said when that (quarterback) decision was made we had three guys we felt could win football games,” Bielema said. “That hasn’t changed.”
It doesn’t seem like O’Brien has done enough to lose the job, but Bielema has spoken highly of Stave since preseason camp.
“I think any of the quarterbacks ... would admit that Joel has the best arm out of all of them, strength-wise (and) ability to throw the football,” Bielema said. “He’s got great composure.
“I think the one thing you can count on with Joel is what you called and what you expect to see, the reactions ... whether it’s pre-snap reads (or) whether it’s reads within the play.
“Joel’s pretty educated. Now, obviously, he’s only got one half under his belt ... so that’s the part that’s the unknown.”
Stave wasn’t asked to do much, completing only 2 of 6 passes for 15 yards. He had great field position his first two series, but his first drive, starting at midfield, was sabotaged by a holding call on first down.
The next series started at the Utah State 42 and consisted of six straight runs by Montee Ball, resulting in a touchdown.
The four series in the fourth quarter were all backed up, starting at UW’s 20 or worse, including one at the 5.
“When the field flipped in the fourth quarter, it just seems like we were always playing out of our end zone ... and we were trying to get first downs by running the football,” Bielema said. “It wasn’t a realistic picture of what maybe Joel’s strengths are.”
Bielema praised O’Brien for staying involved on the sideline in the second half.
“I remember distinctly in the fourth quarter where we had a timeout or there was a break in the action on the field and Danny was communicating with Joel as much as anybody out there on the field through (offensive coordinator) Matt (Canada) on the headset,” Bielema said.
Changing of the guard
Bielema said he didn’t consult any of the coaches prior to making a change on the depth chart at right guard. That seemed apparent after listening to Bielema and offensive line coach Bart Miller talk about junior Zac Matthias, who has started the first three games.
This week, Matthias and sophomore Kyle Costigan are both listed on the top line of the depth chart. Bielema seems to want to make a point about penalties, since Matthias was called for a false start and holding last week.
However, Matthias wasn’t the only double offender in the line, with junior center Travis Frederick getting called for the same two infractions. Junior left guard Ryan Groy also was called for a false start.
But Miller indicated on Sunday that Matthias has made progress and has solidified his spot.
“I think Zac played really well for the most part,” Miller said. “He’s got some things to clean up like everybody, but he played physically, had 11 knockdowns. That’s what I was looking for, if he could come out and play physical.
“We’ve got to clean up a little bit of his footwork, but those things are teachable. As long as the effort is there and the desire is there, he’s eliminated mental mistakes, which is key.”
Miller said he strongly felt he was playing the top five linemen and said he feels good about seven players, including Costigan and backup senior right tackle Robert Burge.
“Every year, Wisconsin has needed at least six or seven guys to play,” Miller said. “I feel like we have seven guys that can easily play and help us win. I’m very comfortable with where we are personnel-wise.”
Junior wide receiver Jared Abbrederis, who missed the last game with a concussion, remains day-to-day and still has not been cleared to return. ... Even if Abbrederis plays, sophomore Kenzel Doe will return punts. Doe had an 82-yard return for a touchdown last week that came on just his second career return. ... Junior defensive end Pat Muldoon will miss a second straight game after suffering a broken left hand in practice last week and undergoing surgery. There’s a chance he could return next week against Nebraska, wearing a wrap to protect the cast.
Copyright (c) 2012 The Wisconsin State Journal/Distributed by MCT Information Services
Wisconsin 16, Utah State 14
Utah St. 7 7 0 0 — 14
Wisconsin 0 3 13 0 — 16
USU—K.Williams 39 pass from Keeton (J.Thompson kick), 9:17.
Wis—FG French 19, 14:16.
USU—Austin 11 pass from Keeton (J.Thompson kick), :29.
Wis—Doe 82 punt return (French kick), 7:06.
Wis—M.Ball 17 run (kick blocked), 3:06.
First downs 13 12
Rushes-yards 35-127 45-156
Passing 181 78
Comp-Att-Int 18-35-0 7-16-0
Return Yards 21 82
Punts-Avg. 11-37.5 9-41.4
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 2-1
Penalties-Yards 7-70 6-40
Time of Possession 26:55 33:05
RUSHING—Utah St., Keeton 15-75, K.Williams 16-43, Marshall 2-5, Hill 1-3, B.Larsen 1-1. Wisconsin, M.Ball 37-139, Gordon 2-18, White 3-11, Team 1-(minus 1), O'Brien 2-(minus 11).
PASSING—Utah St., Keeton 18-34-0-181, Team 0-1-0-0. Wisconsin, O'Brien 5-10-0-63, Stave 2-6-0-15.
RECEIVING—Utah St., K.Williams 6-78, Jacobs 6-41, Webb 3-41, Austin 2-16, Bartlett 1-5. Wisconsin, Wozniak 2-24, White 2-17, Love 1-19, Fredrick 1-17, Pedersen 1-1.