Love him, hate him or completely indifferent to him — Joel Stave will go down as one of the craziest stories at quarterback in Wisconsin Badgers football history. A win on Saturday against Alabama, and Stave may go down as a cult hero of sorts as well.
In a career that has spanned 28 starts already, Stave has been a part of almost everything and anything imaginable in a Badgers uniform. He was on the sideline as UW upset Michigan State for the first Big Ten championship game title, but he was also there throwing an untimely interception to seal a loss to Northwestern last season.
At least that’s what some in the Badger fan base will remind you when you bring up the good Stave has done as a quarterback at UW. They’ll be quick to point out all seven of Joel Stave’s losses, but not-so quick to remember the 21 victories, which currently ranks him in a tie for fifth on the all-time list.
His .750 winning percentage as a starter is currently third all-time at Wisconsin, and a 10-win season makes Stave the top dog amongst wins for a quarterback, topping Brooks Bollinger’s 30 wins (that took 48 starts to get to).
Simply put, Stave is a winner, but is he a big game winner?
The answer is no, and that’s because Stave hasn’t really won a big game for the Badgers, minus two — helping his team to a 35-6 win over then No. 19-ranked Northwestern back in 2013 and the overtime win over Auburn last season.
That’s it, of Stave’s 21 wins, just two have come against ranked opponents. In comparison, four of his seven losses have come at the hands of ranked opponents.
The fact that Stave is one of the best statistical quarterbacks is hard to believe for a quarterback who most wouldn’t think of as a big-game winner. However, he isn’t lacking for experience or knowledge of big games.
It’s that experience and knowledge that have won over his coaches and teammates, and it also allowed him to be named a starter without a second thought by first-year head coach Paul Chryst.
His teammates clearly have had his back from nearly day one on the UW campus and it showed throughout all the things he went through last season. Despite it all, Stave stands as the starter and poised to finally put it all together if you believe the coaching staff.
“I think he’s also got a poise about him that I think it’s important for our team, our offense, to know that they have got someone they can trust,” Chryst said at Monday’s news conference. “And our players do trust Joel and they know he’s in it for them, and our players know Joel is a great teammate and he’ll do anything for that group on and off the field. And I think he’s got more than enough talent to be a really good quarterback.”
Stave has been a part of two Rose Bowl teams, yet he barely played a part in either of them thanks to a coaches choice to redshirt him (2012 Rose Bowl) and a broken collar bone that wasn’t 100 percent (2013 Rose Bowl).
The Badgers also have been to three Big Ten championship games in Stave’s previous four years around the squad, winning two and losing one. Unfortunately for Stave, he was the only quarterback on the losing end, that being the 59-0 drubbing at the hands of Ohio State last season.
Point being, Stave has seen this program hit the highest of highs, yet he’s never been to the top of the mountain as the captain of the squad per-say. It’s always been one rung too high for Stave and his Badgers.
It hasn’t all been doom and gloom though, as there have been some brilliant moments.
Sure, there was the Auburn win last season in the Outback Bowl, but that was a consolation prize for a team that was on the verge of a New Year’s Six bowl game had it won a Big Ten title. There’s little doubt UW doesn’t win that game without Stave’s late fourth quarter and overtime play, but few outside of the hardcore are going to remember that in a few years time.
Instead, they are going to remember his bungled kneel-down against Arizona State in 2013, or the sack that could’ve been avoided that broke his collar bone in 2012 or the mysterious head injury that ended up blowing a game that should’ve been won against Nebraska in 2012 too.
Saturday serves as a chance to erase all of those bad memories, but most importantly it could serve as a launching point for many to potentially remember the good times when the 2015 Wisconsin Badgers beat No. 2-ranked Alabama in a fair fight on a neutral ground.
Of course, no one is saying that is what will happen on Saturday, but isn’t it a nice thought for an extremely nice guy and an extremely underrated quarterback?
Let’s just see if Stave can take advantage of the spotlight and do something great with it.