Graham Mertz tied a school record by completing his first 17 passes Friday night as No. 14 Wisconsin routed Illinois 45-7 in the Big Ten conference football opener at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wis.
A redshirt freshman making his first career start, Mertz finished 20 of 21 for 248 yards and five touchdowns. His only incompletion occurred with 6:02 left in the third quarter on a third-and-long that saw the Badgers flagged for holding.
Mertz hit all 14 of his passes in the first half for 190 yards in a performance so crisp that it even drew raves on Twitter from NFL Most Valuable Player Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs.
Prior to this game, Mertz’s only action came at the end of two blowout nonconference wins last year in which he connected on 9 of 10 passes. Mertz was scheduled to back up returning starter Jack Coan until Coan suffered a foot injury two weeks ago.
Mertz set one Wisconsin (1-0) single-game record by completing 95.2 percent of his passes, and tied another with his five touchdown passes.
Mertz initiated scoring just 3:23 into the game when he found fullback Mason Stokke for a 10-yard touchdown pass, six plays after an Illinois fumble. Mertz took advantage of the first of multiple coverage busts by the Fighting Illini (0-1) and hit Stokke in the right flat.