Graham Mertz Tosses 5 TDs in 1st Career Start as No. 14 Wisconsin Routs Illinois

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorOctober 24, 2020

Wisconsin quarterback Graham Mertz throws a pass during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Illinois Friday, Oct. 23, 2020, in Madison, Wis. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
Morry Gash/Associated Press

Wisconsin redshirt freshman quarterback Graham Mertz completed his first 17 passes en route to 248 passing yards and five touchdowns as the No. 14 Badgers defeated Illinois 45-7 at Camp Randall Stadium.    

Mertz, who finished 20-of-21 passing, appeared in two games last season but made his first career start Friday. He found Jake Ferguson for three touchdowns and Danny Davis and Mason Stokke for one apiece.

Stokke grabbed the first score off a wheel route down the sideline from 10 yards out:

Davis' touchdown was the result of a 53-yard pass that ultimately gave Wisconsin a 28-7 edge:

In between, Ferguson caught five- and 14-yard touchdown passes. He snagged the last touchdown with a three-yard catch in the fourth.

Mertz's 17 straight completions tied a Wisconsin record and earned him third place on a Big Ten list, per ESPN Stats & Info:

He also achieved a first for any Wisconsin quarterback making his debut when he threw his fourth touchdown, per Wisconsin Assistant Director of Brand Communications Brian Mason:

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The fifth one tied a program record, per Jesse Temple of The Athletic:

Mertz went 9-of-10 the year before in limited action, but his final nine passes were completions, meaning he connected on 26 straight attempts from last year through Friday.

He could have finished with a perfect showing if not for a drop, per Ryan Glasspiegel of Outkick:

The Badgers also enjoyed an excellent defensive night en route to shutting out the offense. Illinois' lone score came off a fumble return for a second-quarter touchdown from Tarique Barnes.

Mertz and the Badgers will now go on the road to face the Nebraska Cornhuskers on Oct. 31 at 3:30 p.m. ET at Memorial Stadium.