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September 7, 2013

Notes: Stave bounces back





MADISON, Wis. - Joel Stave has one interception in each of his first two games after beating out Curt Phillips this fall to be Wisconsin's starting quarterback, but Gary Andersen isn't mad.

He wasn't particularly happy when Stave tried to thread the needle and had his pass picked off by Tennessee Tech linebacker Austin Tallant, but Andersen said he was more impressed with how Stave responded to his bad decision from early in the second quarter.

"You're going to throw a pick, you're going to make a bad decision. It's part of the process," Andersen said after Wisconsin's 48-0 win over the Golden Eagles. "You just can't use the youth card. You cant just say 'Well, he's young so that's ok,' because it's not. But for him to bounce back and let it roll off his back … for him to be able to stand up and do that is a big moment."

Stave completed all 13 of his next 13 passes after the interception, with most of them coming on an 11-play, 94-yard drive at the end of the first half. Stave completed 10-of-10 passes in Wisconsin's 2-minute offense, and capped the drive with a 6-yard touchdown pass to tight end Brian Wozniak.

"I didn't even know that," Stave said of his completion streak after the game. "That's kind of how you want to play. You want to take those interceptions away, but as an offense we've done a good job of responding to turnovers and the defense hasn't given up any points after the turnovers."

But even more impressive than the actual streak was how Stave drove the Badgers down the field after his interception. Stave originally targeted Jared Abbrederis on his interception, but the Golden Eagles started to double-cover him and he was forced to look elsewhere. Stave then completed passes to six other eligible receivers, including Kenzel Doe, Jordan Fredrick, Jacob Pedersen and James White.

It wasn't a lot. But for a team that's been desperately looking for other receivers to step up and take pressure off of Abbrederis, it was a good start.

Kickers struggle with consistency

Wisconsin's kickers weren't really tested with any high-stakes kicks against Tennessee Tech, but both Kyle French and Jack Russell struggled at times against the Golden Eagles. French missed an extra point after James White scored a 2-yard touchdown early in the third quarter, and Jack Russell missed a 31-yard field goal at the end of the fourth quarter when the ball bounced off the front of the goalpost.

But Andersen said it's not the kickers fault and it's not any of the other coaches' faults. It's up to him to find a way to help both French and Russell hit the ball more consistently.

"It just wasn't clean," Andersen said. "We've got to continue to improve. It all starts with me- I'm not pointing to any kid, I'm not pointing a finger at any coaches. I've got to find a way to help them get where they need to be. We've got to get better. We'll be in a position where we've got to make those kicks."


Defense still an unknown commodity

The Badgers shut out two teams in a row for the first time since the 1958 season, when the Badgers shut out Miami (Fla.) and Marquette in back-to-back weeks to open their season. But with a high-powered Arizona State offense up next on Wisconsin's schedule, it's hard to say just how good Wisconsin's new 3-4 defense.

"They've prepared great both times," Andersen said. "It's going to get tougher, we all know that. But you can only play the team that's in front of you. It's hard to shut people out."

The Badgers have allowed just 325 total yard of offense between their two games this season, and held UMass and Tennessee Tech to just 2.4 yards per carry on the ground. But senior inside linebacker Chris Borland said that keeping opponents out of the endzone doesn't mean they've played two perfect games.

"Zero points doesn't mean perfection," Borland said after the game. "There's a lot of things we have to clean up. There are some plays where they hit us today that we need to fix."

Tennessee Tech's longest play was a 14-yard pass from Darian Stone to Eric Belew, but they'll be challenged next week when they go on the road to play Arizona State. The Sun Devils had long passing plays of 26, 24, 57, 33, and 41-yards this week against Sacramento State in a 55-0 win, but Wisconsin safety Dezmen Southward said he and the other defensive backs are ready for the Sun Devils to test them.

"I can't wait," Southward said. "Any team that's going to put it in the air or on the ground, you can't wait for it because you like to see how you stack up against some of the better teams in the nation. It'll be a fun deal. I'm sure I'll see exactly what I'm expecting- a bunch of fast guys throwing the ball around. We'll be prepared for them."

For more Wisconsin Badgers news, notes and discussion, follow John on Twitter.



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