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  Graham Mertz threw five touchdown passes to match the Wisconsin record in a commanding first career start and the No. 14 Badgers beat Illinois 45-7 on Friday night to open the pandemic-delayed Big Ten football season. Mertz set a school record for completion percentage on 20-of-21 passing, finishing with 248 yards. The lone incompletion was a pass that running back Garrett Groshek dropped midway through the third quarter. The redshirt freshman quarterback delivered a buzzworthy performance during the Big Ten’s long-awaited opening night. The Big Ten announced Aug. 11 that it would postpone all fall sports until the spring due to the coronavirus pandemic, then reversed itself Sept. 16 by saying it would begin the season in mid-October.

While most other conferences began playing last month in front of partially filled stadiums, Wisconsin had cutouts in the stands and piped-in crowd noise Friday as it began its nine-game schedule. But his prime-time outburst still earned raves on social media from a wide range of players including Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and former Wisconsin star J.J. Watt. Mertz became the first-team quarterback after returning starter Jack Coan underwent foot surgery on Oct. 7, leaving him out indefinitely. He wasted no time making the most of his opportunity. The only previous Wisconsin quarterbacks to throw five touchdown passes in a game are Darrell Bevell against Nevada in 1993 and Jim Sorgi against Michigan State in 2003. Mertz was 14 of 14 for 190 yards and four touchdowns in the first half alone as Wisconsin built a 28-7 halftime lead. Three of his five touchdown passes went to tight end Jake Ferguson, who had seven catches for 72 yards. - AP College/Wisconsin Football


(DS#4 QB) rFr/2024 QB Graham MertzWisconsin
News Source: AP College/Wisconsin Football


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