MADISON, Wis. - It wasn't the most exciting spring game, but Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen said he was pleased with how his team performed on Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium in what was their last practice for several months.
Wisconsin's Cardinal squad outdueled the White squad 6-0 in two quarters of action, with Jack Russell's two field goals proving to be the difference in the abbreviated scrimmage. And while Andersen and the coaches might have hoped to see a little more life out of their offense, in the end the Badgers finished the game without any major injuries.
"Overall, mission accomplished," Andersen said after the spring game. "I'm proud of the way the kids handled spring- all 15 practices. I don't think we had a bunch of ups and downs. Some days were better than others, but they always are. It was a good group. Now the challenge will be to … get the right pieces of the puzzle in the right spots."
Quarterback Tanner McEvoy completed 4-of-10 passes for 55 yards during the second half of the spring game, but he also threw a 27-yard touchdown pass to Kenzel Doe during the scripted first half of the scrimmage.
With Joel Stave on the bench to rehab his shoulder injury the Badgers were able to get an extended look at the mobile McEvoy, but Andersen said after the game that his team's quarterback battle will last until fall camp- which is no different than where they thought they would be at the start of the spring.
"I would say we're exactly where we were when we started spring," Andersen said. "I'm proud of both quarterbacks. I'm proud of Joel. Joel fought like crazy. He had an injury. We expect him to be better. He's got a great attitude- so does Tanner, and it will be a fight."
And barring a major shake-up over the summer it sounds like the Badgers have already pared-down their quarterback competition to just McEvoy and Stave, who started each of Wisconsin's 13 games last year. Bart Houston and incoming freshman D.J. Gillins got a share of the reps at times during camp, but Andersen said that right now Gillins and Houston will take a back seat to Stave and McEvoy when fall camp rolls around.
"It's just like any other position- that's the way it went," Andersen said when asked about Houston's falling behind the competition. "Bart is a tremendous young man … but he's not in the fight right now for the starting quarterback position. We'll see what that brings for the future. He's a vital part of this program and will continue to be, and he's kept a good attitude.
"Those two kids [Stave and McEvoy] are going to get most of the reps in the fall."
With spring practice in the rear-view mirror the Badgers will take an extended break until early June, when players can report for their summer workouts. They'll look for some new talent to give a few position groups a boost- most notably at wide receiver and at safety, where the Badgers are still looking for players to step up and replace their departing veterans.
Andersen was right in saying that Wisconsin's spring camp had its ups and downs. But in the end the Badgers finished spring camp pretty close to where they started: a 9-4 team in transition, looking the right pieces who can complete the puzzle and set them up to reach another level in a revamped and growing Big Ten conference.
John Veldhuis covers Wisconsin football, basketball and recruiting for BadgerBlitz.com on the Rivals.com network. Follow him on Twitter at @JohnVeldhuis.