Publish date:

Sherer officially Wisconsin's QB


MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- In the middle of a four-game losing streak, everything gets questioned.

But Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema wants Dustin Sherer to know that at least against Illinois on Saturday, he is the team's starter. Sherer is listed at the top of the depth chart for the first time this season, with former starter Allan Evridge listed as co-backup along with Scott Tolzien.

Bielema said he liked some of what he saw from Sherer in the 38-16 loss to Iowa, even though the junior threw two interceptions and no touchdowns in his first start of the season. He was 17-of-34 for 161 yards.

"Dustin didn't play a clean game or by any means set the world on fire," Bielema said at his weekly news conference Monday. But the third-year coach said he liked the energy Sherer brought to preparation for the game and his ability to scramble in some situations and keep the play alive.

Bielema said he wanted to see how Sherer develops in practice during the week. Making Sherer tops in the depth chart means he will get more reps in practice, as will Tolzien.

Tolzien, a sophomore, went 4-of-7 for 90 yards and one interception in the fourth quarter against Iowa, his first game of the season. Evridge, a senior transfer from Kansas State, didn't play. He had started the previous six games.

Bielema said Sherer will be the starter for the game against Illinois, but there are no guarantees after that.

"He definitely knows for this week he has an opportunity to go out there and prepare and get him right for the game on Saturday," Bielema said.

Affirming the change at quarterback comes as Wisconsin (3-4, 0-4 Big Ten) is struggling for answers to stem the tide of its current losing streak.

Losing brings out questions about programs that don't come in the midst of winning streaks. On Monday Bielema addressed everything from whether he should stop wearing his signature Wisconsin wind breaker on the sideline during games to whether he's feeling heat to win from Barry Alvarez, who as athletic director hand-picked Bielema to be his successor.

Bielema said Alvarez remains deeply involved with the program offering advice and frequently attends team practices. Alvarez, as he normally does, watched Bielema's news conference from the back of the room.

SI Recommends

"Coach wants to win," Bielema said of Alvarez. "I want to win. ... Obviously I know his name is going to be tied in with mine and vice versa."

Alvarez hired Bielema as defensive coordinator in 2004 and he was his hand-picked successor in 2006 when Alvarez retired as coach and took over as athletic director.

In his first two years as head coach Bielema's teams finished 12-1 and 9-4. Going back to his years as an assistant coach, Bielema hasn't been with a program that ended the season under .500 since the 3-9 Iowa team from 2000. Bielema was linebacker coach for that team.

Wisconsin has been reeling since it was up 19-0 at halftime against Michigan on Sept. 27. The Wolverines came back to win that game and the Badgers have fallen from No. 8 in the country to being unranked and fighting just to win three out of their last five games in order to become bowl eligible.

The losing streak included defeats at home against No. 3 Penn State and No. 10 Ohio State, in addition to Michigan and Iowa.

"Everybody is disappointed in the results of the last four weeks," Bielema said. "The only thing that's going to cure that is winning."

The 0-4 start to the Big Ten season is Wisconsin's worst since 1996. They've been outscored 86-23 in the past two games and 131-65 over the past four.

The 38 points given up in Saturday's loss to Iowa (5-3, 2-2) was the most Wisconsin has allowed any Hawkeyes team to score since 1978.

It won't be getting any easier for the beleaguered Wisconsin against Illinois (4-3, 2-2).

The Fighting Illini is averaging 36 points a game behind quarterback Juice Williams who is leading the conference in passing efficiency (158.7), passing yards (278.3) and total offense (346.1).

Adding to the difficulty for Wisconsin is that star tailback P.J. Hill may not play. Hill re-injured his foot in the Iowa game and did not practice on Sunday. Hill missed 13 of the final 15 quarters of the regular season due to injury last year.

The injury is the same that caused him to sit out last season, Bielema said. Whether Hill is well enough to play against Illinois is up to him, Bielema said.