If the fans at Camp Randall Stadium were stunned to see University of Wisconsin redshirt freshman quarterback Joel Stave trot out to the huddle to start the second half on Saturday night, imagine how senior tailback Montee Ball felt.

UW coach Bret Bielema said he told the players at halftime he was pulling starter Danny O'Brien for Stave, but the messaged apparently didn't reach everyone.

"I had no idea about it until I was out on the field," Ball said. "None of us did until Stave ran out there."

Sophomore wide receiver Kenzel Doe said he saw Stave warming up on the sideline prior to the second half and that's when he realized the change was going to be made.

"I was, 'OK, Stave's going to be out there We've still got to go out and run the same routes, still got to block, still got to catch the ball when it comes to us,' " Doe said.

Stave was surprised as anybody when Bielema gave him the news.

"He was sitting in the back," Bielema said. "I think I kind of caught him off guard."

O'Brien was pulled with the Badgers trailing 14-3, after a fumble led to Utah State's second touchdown.

"I was told at the beginning of the week, as any week, basically be ready," Stave said. "If they call my number, I've got to go in and play well."

It was Stave's first playing time and he was understandably a little pumped up when he got in the huddle.

"I really liked Stave's demeanor," sophomore right tackle Rob Havenstein said. "He was focused, you could tell he was a little excited. The ref hadn't given us the go, there were still about 30 seconds left until the (end of) the timeout and he starts calling the play.

"We kind of told him, 'Easy, easy.' He even said, 'OK, guys, I am a little excited right now.' "

That helped break the tension a little bit, although Stave still had to perform.

"It's definitely different than taking a snap in practice," he said. "Just trying, I guess, to do my job and not let the nerves play a factor."

Stave completed only two of six passes for 15 yards. His only touchdown drive consisted of six running plays for 42 yards.

He had to overcome a 10-yard holding penalty by junior center Travis Frederick on Stave's first play. That preceded Stave's first completion, of one yard, to tight end Jacob Pedersen.

The best chance Stave had of getting some rhythm came on his fourth series, which included a 14-yard completion to tight end Brian Wozniak. That was Stave's only other completion.

But Doe dropped a third-down pass on third-and-4 for what would have been a first down.

"It was a big play," offensive coordinator Matt Canada said. "(If) we get going, we move forward. Those things (needed to get) us headed in the right direction.

"We're not doing that. Our drives are stalling out, for what reason? We've got to figure that out. It's got to be better. There will be improvement again next week, I have the utmost faith in that. That was a play, but there are a few of them in every game."

Stave said he got more comfortable as the half went along, but it remains to be seen if he did enough to warrant more playing time. At least he helped the Badgers get a much-needed 16-14 win.

"Really excited," he said afterward of the emotion he was feeling. "We needed a win. It doesn't really matter how it happens, we got the win."