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April 20, 2013

Defense wins, but Stave steps up





MADISON - Even though the scoreboard flashed a 61-47 win for Wisconsin's defense on Saturday nobody really wins a spring game. The scoring is largely made up, and tweaks are thrown in to make it look more even by the end of the game.

But if anyone can "win" a spring game, Joel Stave came as close as you can get. The sophomore quarterback completed 15-of-20 passes and threw for 161 yards in the spring game, and two of his drives ended in touchdowns. It was a definite step up for Stave, who was largely locked in a position battle with Curt Phillips for most of spring camp.

"I thought it was a good day. Offensively, we were able to move the ball and score some points, so I was happy with it," Stave said after the game. "I felt like I was able to throw it well today. The first throw came out really, really poorly, so it was nice to recover really quickly and move the ball down field.

"I thought Joel was poised today," head coach Gary Andersen said in his post-game press conference. "He wasn't perfect, but he didn't have to be perfect."

However, the quarterback battle wasn't settled today and will likely draw out until the end of fall camp this August. Phillips played well too, completing 8-of-13 passes for 82 yards in the game. Andersen said Phillips and

"I think Curt had good demeanor," Andersen said. "The turnovers were down. He was poised. He had composure, like you'd expect from a cagey veteran. He got some balls down the field and did some good things.

"A positive performance, really, but I think this last week, if I look at those two, were moving in the right direction with just feeling comfortable with what's going on."

A few other Badgers caught their coach's eye during the game too. Wide receiver Kenzel Doe finished the game leading the Badgers in receptions and in receiving yards, and Andersen said he's continually impressed with the 5-foot-8 receiver.

"Kenzel's want-to, every day to compete is so impressive," Andersen said. "And it was very apparent again today. He's crafty … and I think he's continually shown solid hands throughout practices. He's hard to tackle, but his love for football brings a smile to my face every day."

The Badgers also put a large burden on running back Melvin Gordon, since James White sat out during the game. Gordon rushed 17 times for 74 yards and one touchdown, and was second on the team with 39 receiving yards. But Gordon said he was a little disappointed in his performance at the end of the spring, and is still hoping to win the starting job this fall.

"I didn't do as good as I wanted to [today]," Gordon said. "I want to put my best foot forward and I tried my best, but I wasn't happy with what I did today. I just love making explosive plays. I just didn't make as many as I wanted to today, which is on me."

The Badgers will now move in to their offseason, where they'll try to finish their academic semesters on a high note and get back into the weight room. Players will also start to organize workouts on their own, since the coaching staff can only have limited contact with their players during the summer.

But Andersen said he was pleased with where his team was at by the end of his first spring football season at Wisconsin. The players and coaches have all had to adjust to new schemes and new faces, but Andersen said he was ready to move forward into his first full season at the helm in Madison.

"We're in a good spot," Andersen said. "You're never going to get everything you want. You're never going to have it be perfect, but we wanted consistency. I think we got that. We wanted effort. I think we got that. We really rolled in a good way once we got back from spring break.

"It was a good spring. I'm excited to move forward."

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


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