When I approached Wisconsin quarterback Joel Stave at media day and asked him to make the case for being named the team's starter, he pulled off the difficult trick of projecting confidence without sounding arrogant.
"I think I'm a pretty good natural athlete," the Greenfield native said. "I can make all the throws. I need to be more consistent, but I'm smart. And with my natural athleticism, I'm able to make plays and extend plays."
Badgers fans hope that confidence remains intact Saturday against Illinois after Stave was yanked near the end of last weekend's 30-27 loss at Nebraska so Danny O'Brien, the Maryland transfer whose lackluster play at starter led to Stave taking over in the second half against Utah State, could attempt to engineer a comeback with just under three minutes left.
After the game, Badgers head coach Bret Bielema insisted that O'Brien has excelled at the two-minute drill since training camp. But on Monday, Bielema named Stave as one of the team's two offensive MVPs and said O'Brien screwed up by attempting to hand off to Montee Ball on fourth and one with just over a minute left on a play that called for a fake handoff and a bootleg run by the quarterback. The ensuing fumble sealed the win for Nebraska.
"Montee didn't expect the ball, wasn't supposed to get the ball, didn't have the football at any time," Bielema told the media, while refusing to speculate on whether he would make the same move should Wisconsin face another two-minute situation in the future. "As a coach you can't rethink that way."
One quarterback is yanked from the game at a crucial moment and the other is called out publicly by the coach. Neither move seems to be a prudent strategy for a team still looking to establish consistency in week six of the season.