By TOM LEA
MADISON – Bret Bielema has continually gone on record as saying he likes all three of his scholarship quarterbacks so far this year.
In his eyes, freshman Joel Stave, junior Danny O’Brien and senior Curt Phillips are all capable of winning the Badgers a football game on any given Saturday.
Now that Phillips has seen time in a game, albeit just three plays on UW’s third offensive series, Bielema can say he and his offensive staff found a way to get all three quarterbacks involved in the game plan.
“We’ve been repping (that package) at least four weeks,” he said after UW’s 31-14 win over Illinois. “We’ve been trying to get it in the game. The offensive coaches and myself wanted to give Curt an opportunity to get out there and show what he’s got. It wasn’t anything against Joel, we were going to do it on the third series, and that’s what happened.
“Obviously it didn’t work successfully.”
Phillips’ three plays went like this:
Handoff to Melvin Gordon on first down for no gain, negated play due to defensive encroachment and a disastrous loss of two yards on an option run on second and five, a play where Phillips was absolutely destroyed prior to getting to the safety of the sideline.
Stave entered the game on third and seven, UW’s ensuing play, and promptly threw an interception to Illinois’ Steve Hull. The freshman signal caller said after the game that he knew Phillips was involved in the game plan and that he had no issue with coming out of the game.
“It’s something we talk about,” Stave said. “I understand that’s something we might do and it’s something we ended up going to today. That doesn’t hurt my confidence at all. That’s something we work on with Curt going in, doing some zone read stuff.
“And that’s part of our offense. I don’t mind coming out.”
Bielema decided to make the move just one week after his highly controversial decision to roll with O’Brien in a two-minute situation with his team trailing by three at Nebraska. O’Brien, who had logged just one snap prior to UW’s final drive, eventually failed to execute a designed naked bootleg on fourth and one near midfield.
Instead of rolling out to his left he handed the ball off to senior tailback Montee Ball. The only problem with that — aside from the fact Nebraska’s defensive front burst through UW’s line with the blink of an eye — was that Ball had no idea he was getting the ball. He was under the impression (like everyone else on UW’s offense) that O’Brien was going to run the naked bootleg.
So when Phillips came trotting out early in the second quarter the reaction inside Camp Randall ranged from confused to curious to downright upset. It was the senior quarterback’s first appearance in a game since he played against Purdue in 2009. He’s suffered three torn ACL’s since then.
“Curt’s a guy that’s got a lot of respect in the locker room,” Bielema said. “He’s a guy that can bring some mojo. He’s really got a good attitude and we just want to give him an opportunity to get out there.
“And it’s something that we can expand in the future.”