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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Tuesday, March 28, 2023
Jack Baer

Column: Stave remains Badgers’ best option under center

Let’s clear something up: Joel Stave is a better passer than Tanner McEvoy by a chasmic margin. There seems to be a false equivalency in the minds of some Wisconsin fans that McEvoy and Stave are both bad passers, but at least McEvoy can run. Stop it.

Literally any meaningful passing stat from Stave’s 2013 season is better than what McEvoy has done this year. Better completion percentage, better yards per attempt, better touchdown-to-interception ratio, better passer rating, better QBR, on track for more touchdowns and passing yards, and fewer interceptions. It’s not even close.

You can say “Jack, you moron, Stave had Jared Abbrederis,” and that second part is indeed correct. First one too, maybe. I’m not perfect.

However, you also have to note how defenses have begun to play Wisconsin with McEvoy under center, stacking the boxes knowing that McEvoy does not have the long-range accuracy to punish them.

We saw it with Northwestern all game. McEvoy might not have Abbrederis, but he is being given more and more opportunities to make plays amid light pass coverage and he seems unable to take advantage of them.

Tanner McEvoy is not a Wisconsin quarterback. The role of the Wisconsin quarterback basically has three properties: low usage, few mistakes and being able to throw a play-action pass that doesn’t cause opposing fans to burst out laughing.

Gary Andersen has been adamant that he wants a running quarterback who’s able to run option plays. If this can be accomplished, Wisconsin’s offense becomes even more lethal. It might be overkill, because in what world do you need a rushing quarterback when you have Melvin Gordon and the Wisconsin offensive line?

Yet, Wisconsin’s offensive playcalling is beginning to abandon quarterback runs with McEvoy under center, with only two rush attempts in as many games. If they aren’t going to use McEvoy as a runner, where his supposed benefits lie, why keep him around as a passer?

Stave hasn’t looked good passing the ball this season, there’s no debating that. A 45.5 completion percentage and 5.7 yards per attempt is brutally bad. But let’s run through what Joel Stave’s 2014 has been like.

Starting New Year’s Day, he puts up three strong quarters in the Capital One Bowl, going 9-for-13 for 80 yards and giving Wisconsin a chance to win. He then sustains a shoulder injury and has to watch the Badgers lose as Curt Phillips is unable to make the passes necessary to lead a comeback drive. That shoulder injury nags Stave for the better part of eight months, limiting him in both spring and fall practice.

Then, the yips hit. If you are not familiar with what the yips can do to an athlete, Google Rick Ankiel. It’s a minor miracle Stave is not third on the depth chart right now.

Northwestern was supposed to be Stave’s rehab game, but he was instead thrown into the second half and tasked with restarting a stagnant offense. Stave’s performance this year so far is not representative of his true ability going forward, because injuries heal and confidence can come back.

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I get that we’ve accepted Stave is at best a mediocre quarterback in the landscape of major college football programs. But to put him in the same league as McEvoy passing wise is unfair.

Stave brings more to the table in the passing game, and if the coaching staff isn’t going to regularly use McEvoy’s legs, the Badgers’ best quarterback is Joel Stave, as it has been for the last two years. Maybe D.J. Gillins or Austin Kafentzis can be the dual-threat Andersen seems to crave, but not McEvoy. Dual threat means you can run and pass.

Would you rather have Stave or McEvoy? Email to discuss.

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