Mertz Nearly Perfect as Badgers Roll Past Illini in 2020 Opener

FINAL SCORE: Wisconsin 45, Illinois 7

Graham Mertz completed 20 of 21 passes for 248 yards and five touchdowns as the Badgers opened the 2020 season with a bang by cruising past Illinois at Camp Randall Stadium Friday night. 

Mertz, making his first start for Wisconsin in place of the injured Jack Coan, was a perfect 14-for-14 in the first half with four touchdown passes as the Badgers built a 28-7 lead at the break. Mertz would complete his first 17 passes on the night, before his first – and only – incompletion.  That streak of 17 straight completions to start a game tied a school record set by Tanner McEvoy in a 2014 game against Western Illinois. 

Three of Mertz’ five touchdowns went to tight end Jake Ferguson, two of which came in the second quarter. Mertz would connect with Mason Stokke and Danny Davis for his other two scores on the night.  

The Badger defense did its part, too – holding the Illini offense to just 218 total yards and zero points. Illinois’ only score came with 3:22 left in the first half on a 39 yard fumble return by Tarique Barnes. That defensive touchdown made the score 14-7 at the time, but the Badgers would score 31 unanswered points to create the final margin. 

The Badgers hit the road for their next contest, as they travel to Nebraska for a showdown with the Cornhuskers next Saturday. Nebraska plays at Ohio State this week.

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