Mertz Exceeds Expectations In Badgers Opener

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Wisconsin Dominates Illinois 45-7

All eyes were on Madison, Wisconsin Friday evening as the Wisconsin Badgers opened up the Big Ten season at home against Illinois. Hoping to avenge last years upset, the Badgers did just that with a new twist. The run game was not what dominated the game, but the incredible performance from red shirt freshman QB Graham Mertz. Everyone understood the hype of the incoming four star recruit, but a near perfect game blew away what was expected.

The stat line looks almost unheard of for a freshman’s first start. Going 20-21 (tying the school record for most completed pass attempts in a row at 17) for 248 yards and 5 touchdowns. The numbers speak volumes, but watching the game, you saw Mertz with patience and poise you expect from a seasoned player. The good news is that can only grow as the season continues.

Defense Holds Its Own

Friday night began with no surprise, a great defensive play. On the 2nd play of the night, Badgers forced a fumble and recovered the ball leading to Mertz first touchdown of the night. Holding Illinois to only 87 passing yards the whole game. There were some big holes to fill defensively and it seems that Jim Leonard has not skipped a beat.

Offensive Weapons Galore

It is no surprise that with Mertz’s big night, other players joined in and contributed to the high scoring game. TE Jake Ferguson who was the clear favorite of the young QB had 7 receptions, with 3 touchdowns and a total of 72 yards. An early fumble lost by Ferguson seem to put a fire under him and he clearly made up for the early turnover. Even though Quintez Cephus is gone, Danny Davis and Kendrick Pryor remain valuable weapons down field, especially Davis who snatched a 53 yard touchdown catch at the end of the 2nd quarter.

Additionally, with Jonathan Taylor gone as well, the running game was to be looked at with a close eye. It has been a long time since Wisconsin’s running game has not had a nation’s best behind the QB. In fashion though, the Badgers still racked up a total of 182 rushing yards behind Garrett Groshek’s 70 yards and Nakia Watson’s 62. Not what Badger fans are used to, but it seems they still can pack a punch running wise.

Looking Ahead

With game one in the books, Wisconsin looks to focus their attention to Nebraska. A team that has been trying to find their footing the past few seasons. If the Badgers proved anything it is that they are still the team to fear in the Big Ten West and they plan on keeping it that way. Currently ranked 14th in the nation, it will be no surprise if the Badgers find their way into the top 10 much sooner than later.

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