- Brian Bennett, ESPN Staff Writer
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Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema sent Russell Wilson a text message Sunday night when he heard Wilson had won his first game as the starting quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks. If Bielema was tempted to text Wilson an "SOS," you couldn't really blame him.
The Badgers' offense has multiple problems right now, which is why the team shockingly ranks 113th nationally in scoring offense. And now the quarterback situation is becoming an issue, after Bielema pulled starter Danny O'Brien at halftime of Saturday's 16-14 win over Utah State.
Wisconsin fans have discovered that they can get another ACC transfer under center, but Wilson was one of a kind. O'Brien hasn't been terrible -- he's completing 62 percent of his passes for 454 yards this season, with three touchdowns -- but in his last three halves he's committed the unforgivable sin in Bielema's system: turning the ball over.
O'Brien had a costly turnover at Oregon State and then then threw a pick and fumbled in the first half Saturday, as Utah State took a 14-3 lead into intermission. He would have been thrown another interception but it was wiped out by penalty.
"I told Danny the number one reason he earned the starting job was because of the way he took care of the football," Bielema said Monday. "Ball security is at a premium. That's a big, big point."
Bielema switched to redshirt freshman Joel Stave in the second half, but poor field position meant that Stave didn't do a whole lot. He completed two of six passes for 15 yards. Bielema also said that Curt Phillips would have played at Oregon State if he'd made a change because Phillips has more experience.
So what now? Bielema is being secretive about his quarterback plans for this week against UTEP. O'Brien and Stave are listed as co-starters on the depth chart, but Bielema said at various points on Monday that the starting nod would depend on "how the week goes" and "how we handle this week." But he also said it's "not really a competition" and the coaches had a plan and the players know now who will start on Saturday.
"They already know what's going on," he said. "But you won't talk to them."
O'Brien would seem likely to retain the role, but Bielema said that Stave "might have the best arm out of all of them" and that he's extremely dependable in executing the offense. Wisconsin needs to get better in the passing game -- it currently ranks dead last in the Big Ten in passing offense -- because teams are loading up against a much less efficient running game. That's not all on the quarterbacks.
"We've got to have some guys who can catch it," Bielema said.
Getting star receiver Jared Abbrederis back would be a huge boost in that regard. Bielema said Abbrederis, who hasn't played since the first half of the Oregon State game, remains day to day and would have to pass concussion tests to play this week.
There are more questions than answers right now when it comes to the Badgers offense.
16hJosh Moyer and Mitch Sherman