The Wisconsin Badgers and Illinois Fighting Illini opened up the Big Ten football season tonight at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wisconsin.
Wisconsin absolutely dominated the Fighting Illini, 45-7, avenging the stunning loss in Champaign in 2019.
The Kansas Kannon, redshirt freshman Graham Mertz, was making his first collegiate start after appearing in two games in 2019.
Mertz was nothing short of phenomenal in his starting debut. He completed 20-of-21 passes, including 17 consecutive completions, for 248 yards and threw for 5 touchdowns.
The 17-consecutive completions and 5 touchdown passes tied program single game records and Mertz set a program record in single game completion percentage (95.2%).
Mertz is also only the third FBS player over the last 25 seasons to throw for 5 touchdowns and have a 95% (or better) completion percentage in a game. He joins Gunner Kiel and Matt Barkley.
Jimmy Leonard’s defense was outstanding. Illinois’ only score came from their defense on a fumble recovery returned for a touchdown.
Rachad Wildgoose Jr. played really well while defending Josh Imatorbhebhe, Illinois’ best receiver.
The running game got going in the second half. The Badgers ran for 182 yards on the night, but 120 of them were in the final 30 minutes.
Garrett Groshek, Nakia Watson and Isaac Guerendo were the three running backs in the committee approach.
The Badgers didn’t really find any answers regarding their running backs. Having said that, Groshek was the best of the group tonight and was the best in the base package.
Groshek ran for 70 yards on 13 carries. Watson had 62 yards on 12 carries. Guerendo had 36 yards on 13 carries.
Paul Chrsyt opened the press conference with fire saying “Graham was really good in his first start.”
I wonder if Illinois Head Coach Lovie Smith still thinks the Illini have “caught Wisconsin” as he stated after the shocking win last year. Pretty laughable since Chryst’s “worst” year at UW (8-5 in 2018) is better than Smith’s best year in Champaign (6-7 in 2019).
After this game tonight, I think Smith’s theory was put to bed.
As Aaron Rodgers says….”Pour an extra finger of scotch tonight” and enjoy it Badger Nation!
Wisconsin will travel to Lincoln, Nebraska next week and play the Cornhuskers on Halloween Day (October 31). Kickoff is set for 2:30 PM (CT) and will be aired on FS1.