True freshman quarterback Graham Mertz made his debut in the University of Wisconsin's 61-0 rout of Central Michigan on Saturday, completing 4 of 5 passes for 35 yards and leading a scoring drive during his only series.
“It was great,” Mertz said. “I couldn’t ask for a better experience. I was just glad to get my first snaps at home, too. It was a blast.”
But it might be one of the few times this season that Badgers fans see the highest-rated quarterback recruit ever to come to Wisconsin, as Mertz acknowledged after the game that he’ll likely redshirt this season. He’s allowed to play in four games without losing a season of eligibility.
“They said that really to use those four would be pretty sweet,” Mertz said. “I am redshirting. It’s more just getting my opportunity in those four games.”
Later, Mertz said he hasn’t had a formal discussion with the coaching staff about redshirting. Still, that seems like a likely scenario considering how well Coan has played through the first two weeks of the season.
“If the circumstances were right, we wanted to get him in, and fortunately they were,” Chryst said. “First snaps, first pass, all those things are good to get, and I thought he did some good stuff with it, and it's important.”
Chryst called a pass on Mertz’s first play and the highly touted prospect nearly tripped before underthrowing intended receiver Jack Dunn. But Mertz bounced back two plays later by finding Aron Cruikshank over the middle for 19 yards to convert on third-and-13.
By the time his lone series was over, Mertz had helped UW go 75 yards in 14 plays.
“Honestly, I thought I was going to be (nervous), but it just felt like another ballgame,” Mertz said. “It was fun. I feel like you have fun with it, there’s no need to get nervous.”
Redshirt freshman Chase Wolf finished off the game for the Badgers. He also played last week at South Florida.
“I think it’s more of just a dual backup thing,” Mertz said. “It’s more getting us experience.”