Three Big Ten programs wrapped up spring ball Saturday with spring games, and we're taking a look at each one.
First up, the Wisconsin Badgers, who held their first spring game under new coach Gary Andersen at Camp Randall Stadium.
Star of the game: Quarterback Joel Stave. The redshirt sophomore ended a solid spring by completing 15 of 20 passes for 161 yards and a touchdown. Along with senior Curt Phillips, Stave already had separated himself in the competition for the starting job, and he heeded Andersen's challenge to upgrade the passing game. "Joel was poised today," Andersen said. "I thought he it wasn't perfect, but it doesn't have to be perfect."
How it went down: The defense played without six starters, held out because of injury or as a precaution, but still won the scrimmage 61-47 thanks to a scoring system that appeared to favor the defense. Wisconsin's personnel situation both on defense and with the offensive line made it tough to get an accurate gauge on the team, although several players certainly helped themselves.
Stave played very well and Phillips (8-for-13 passing, 82 yards) had a good day. With top receiver Jared Abbrederis held out, junior Kenzel Doe stepped up to record eight receptions for 93 yards. Doe, who had 16 catches last season but has been used mainly on returns, put himself in position to contend for the No. 2 receiver spot.
"Kenzel had a really good spring all around," Stave said. "He just continues to get better. He's a very athletic kid, so when he can get the ball in a space he can really make some good things happen."
Sophomore running back Melvin Gordon took the bulk of the carries with James White held out and finished with 74 rush yards and a touchdown on 17 attempts. Doe had a 9-yard rush, while fullback Derek Watt had 22 rush yards and 22 receiving yards, plus a receiving touchdown.
Linebacker Vince Biegel, who has been in and out of the first-team defense this spring, ended the session with a strong performance, recording two sacks, including a safety. Walk-on Joe Schobert completed a strong spring with seven tackles and a sack. He's also in the mix for a starting outside linebacker spot.
The secondary will continue to be a story line throughout fall camp as Wisconsin returns only one starter (safety Dezmen Southward). Cornerback Sojourn Shelton, an early enrollee who has drawn praise from the coaches all spring, recorded four tackles, including a tackle for loss, and broke up a few passes in the scrimmage. Peniel Jean and Darius Hillary, who are working as the top corners, had mixed results Saturday.
"The list is not real long with those kids," Andersen said, "but I think they have competed day in and day out, and techniques, moving to man coverage, moving to playing dog coverage, blitzing sometimes doesn't sound like a lot, but it's a lot to put on a kid's plate. They've got better every single day."