The University of Wisconsin is still in the drivers’ seat to win the Big Ten’s Leaders Division and return to the conference title game, but the Badgers will have to do so without starting QB Joel Stave.
Stave, a redshirt freshman, will miss the remainder of the season after breaking his left collarbone against Michigan State Saturday. Stave went down less than 10 seconds into the third quarter when 6-foot-7, 278-pound Michigan State defensive end William Gholston sacked the Badgers’ quarterback with a powerful hit that drove him into the ground. Stave briefly regained his footing before falling to his knees, when the UW medical staff came onto the field to attend to him.
He remained on the field for several minutes, wincing in pain as the medical staff took him to the locker room for further evaluation.
Stave later reappeared on the sideline but did not re-enter the game. He had been effective against the Spartans’ defense up to that point, completing nine of his 11 passing attempts for 127 yards and a touchdown pass to tight end Jacob Pedersen.
He was replaced by Danny O’Brien, who started Wisconsin’s first two games before being yanked at halftime against Utah State. Stave entered with the Badgers trailing 14-3 and guided them to a 16-14 victory. Stave made his first career start the next week in Wisconsin’s victory over Texas-El Paso.
Notably, Wisconsin lost the only other game during that stretch which Stave didn’t finish, a 30-27 setback at Nebraska in which O’Brien was unable to direct a comeback on the final drive after Stave left the game with an unspecified injury.
Against MSU, O’Brien was 5 of 11, but 0 of 2 in overtime, when Wisconsin was forced to settle for Kyle French’s 43-yard field goal. Five plays later, Andrew Maxwell threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Bennie Fowler to give Michigan State the victory.
Wisconsin (6-3, 3-2 Big Ten) trails Ohio State and Penn State in the Leaders Division after a 16-13 overtime loss to Michigan State. But neither the Buckeyes nor the Nittany Lions are eligible for the postseason, and the Badgers have a two-game lead on Indiana.
The Badgers play at Indiana on Nov. 10, then finish the season with games against Ohio State and Penn State. Indiana plays at Iowa next weekend, then finishes with home games against Penn State and in-state rival Purdue.