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Wisconsin QB Joel Stave isn't hurt, he's just not mentally ready to play

Graham Watson
Dr. Saturday
Badgers QB Stave working through throwing issues

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FILE - In this OCT. 13, 2013, file photo, Wisconsin quarterback Joel Stave throws against Northwestern during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Madison, Wis. The Badgers appear to have settled on dual-threat junior Tanner McEvoy as the starter, though coach Gary Andersen will not officially name one. Andersen has said both McEvoy and last year's starter, Stave, will be ready no matter what. (AP Photo/Andy Manis, File)

Wisconsin quarterback Joel Stave isn’t hurt.

Forget the statement the school issued Tuesday that said Stave would miss time due to an injury to his throwing shoulder. Coach Gary Andersen and Stave insist an injury isn’t the issue; Stave is the issue.

Stave is dealing with confidence issues that are causing him to second-guess even the simplest of throws. He doesn’t know what caused this mental issue and he’s not exactly sure how to get rid of it. All he knows is that it’s affecting his play, and Andersen thought it was best for him to step away for awhile.

One reporter even asked Stave if he thought he had the “yips,” which is defined as a loss of fine motor skills without any explanation.

"Maybe on some level," Stave said of the suggestion. "I've heard of that, too. The yips, a golfer who can't hit it straight and stuff like that. I know I can throw the ball. That's something that since I've been a kid, not even just football, I've been good at throwing things. I could throw a baseball. Give me a volleyball, I can chuck it across a gym.

"I've just been good at throwing things since I've been young. It's not a lack of confidence. It's not a lack of preparation or anything like that. It's just a matter of getting back to feeling comfortable and feeling like the ball's coming out the way it should."

Added Stave: "I'll be throwing it good, throwing it good and then all of a sudden I feel like I hang on to it too long. One will sail, one will slip and then you start thinking, 'Oh, I've got to hang on to it longer.' That's what happens when you start thinking too much.”

Stave's overthinking could have started when Andersen decided to open up the quarterback competition despite Stave having a pretty decent season a year ago. He threw for 2,494 yards and his 22 touchdowns were second-most in school history behind Russell Wilson. However, he did struggle with inconsistency, and Andersen wasn’t pleased about his 13 interceptions.

Andersen said on the Big Ten teleconference that he started noticing the issues during the Badgers’ second scrimmage on Aug. 18. Before that, Stave was leading the competition to be the team’s starter against LSU. However, his mental hangup more or less forced Wisconsin to go with Tanner McEvoy, a player who demonstrated against LSU that he was not ready to lead the team against a big-time opponent.

Stave has not missed practice and is still attending meetings. However, he has not participated in team drills, only individual work.

So, until Stave works through the mental side of the game, Wisconsin is going to have to lean on McEvoy to at least manage the team through Saturday’s game against Western Illinois and perhaps through the rest of the nonconference schedule, which includes Bowling Green and South Florida.

Perhaps there’s some silver lining in that it’s not a structural injury because Stave did injure his AC joint during the Badgers’ bowl game against South Carolina. But on the flip side, getting over this kind of mental hurdle might prove far more challenging.

And until Andersen can see Stave is ready to be the quarterback he was, he’s not going to play him.

"All I can do is look at Joel and try to help a kid through the process of where he goes and how he's practicing," Andersen said. "But in Joel, we've just got to get him back where he needs to be. So my timeline doesn't really matter, by performance or any timeline I'm sitting at. I'm looking right now to say, 'How do we get Joel to say I'm ready to go?' That's the timeline I'm looking for right now that's important to me."

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