MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Joel Stave won the Wisconsin quarterback job. Runner-up Curt Phillips won his new coach's respect.
The veteran Phillips yielded snaps in a game to a freshman who needed the experience, a selfless act that Gary Andersen hopes is a defining moment for his 21st-ranked Badgers.
It's no big deal, Phillips said. The 45-0 win over Massachusetts last weekend was well in hand by the time Andersen started thinking about pulling his starters in the second half. Phillips, a senior, didn't exactly need the work. Redshirt freshman Bart Houston did.
"I was in the same position when I was younger," Phillips said after a recent practice. "I felt it was the right thing to do. I was excited to get to watch him play."
He'll keep watching another younger player from the sideline. There's no longer any public mystery over the starter going into this weekend's game against Tennessee Tech — sophomore Stave is the guy after winning what was billed as the close training camp competition with Phillips.
Though Andersen decided not to make a fuss over publicly naming a starter, Stave had a clue. It's not going to change how he gets ready for the Golden Eagles, an FCS program.
"No not at all, I knew I was going to start going into last week, so I prepared like I was going to start," Stave said. "I've got to continue to prepare the same way."
He could use more consistency. Stave struggled in the first half before finding his groove with two long touchdown passes to Jared Abbrederis in the second half.
"I thought there were a lot of areas in the first half that we can improve. We've got to get better in the red zone when we get down there," Stave said. "We've got to make sure we convert third downs and finish drives with touchdown."
Stave was likely referring to one first-half drive in which he tried to scramble up the middle for a touchdown a split second too late to get stopped at the 3. The Badgers settled for a field goal.
"He's a smart kid. He's mentally tough," offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig said. "That's a great cornerstone to build on."
Phillips could be described as tough, too. He missed the entire 2010 and 2011 seasons, and has had three surgeries to repair the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.
So many missed opportunities. It may explain why Andersen, in Phillips' recollection, had a look of first shock, and then excitement, when his backup quarterback told him to give Houston the series last weekend.
If anyone can remind the Badgers not to overlook an opportunity to play against what figures to be another overmatched opponent, it's Phillips.
"You respect everybody who comes in here," he said. "It's not something where you can be lackadaisical in the beginning and can expect things to come together in my hyped games. That's not how it works."