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Rapid replay: QB Graham Mertz injured as Wisconsin football drops to 1-3 for the first time since 1990
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Rapid replay: QB Graham Mertz injured as Wisconsin football drops to 1-3 for the first time since 1990

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The University of Wisconsin wide receiver speaks to the media after the Badgers' 38-17 loss to No. 14 Michigan on Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium.

The University of Wisconsin football team didn’t start well against visiting No. 14 Michigan, but it had life in the second quarter after scoring on back-to-back possessions and pulling within a field goal.

That hope was dashed quickly in the second half when quarterback Graham Mertz was injured on the first drive of the third quarter, and Michigan got some revenge after two years of lopsided losses to the Badgers, pulling away with a 38-17 win.

UW dropped its eighth consecutive game to AP Top 25 opponents and dropped to 1-3 for the first time since 1990. That 1990 season was the first with coach Barry Alvarez, who was honored during halftime for his time at UW as coach and athletic director.

Junior Chase Wolf replaced Mertz, who was hit in the chest and ribs and didn’t return after three plays of the second half. Wolf replicated Mertz’s struggle with turning the ball over, giving away a fumble and an interception in UW territory on back-to-back possessions. UW finished with 210 yards on 55 plays (3.8 per play) and 3 of 14 on third down.

University of Wisconsin receiver Chimere Dike talks to the media after a 38-17 loss to Michigan on Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021.

WHAT’S NEXT

A loss to the Wolverines extends the Badgers’ losing streak against AP Top 25 opponents to eight games and will more than likely knock the Badgers completely out of the national polls after they received votes last week. Perhaps more concerning is the Badgers’ confidence in tight games against good opponents looks to be shot, something a veteran team should be able to control.

UW’s season gets a bit easier from here with the toughest stretch of the schedule now behind it. The Badgers face off with their old coach Bret Bielema and Illinois on the road next week before their final non-conference matchup of the season against Army at home on Oct. 15.

GAME BALL

Daxton Hill

The Michigan cornerback had six tackles, was credited for half a sack for his hit on Mertz, an interception, a pass breakup and a quarterback hit. He was all over the field against a UW offense that looked overmatched

Honorable mention: Cornelius Johnson, Michigan WR

The University of Wisconsin senior speaks to the media Saturday after the Badgers fell to the 14th-ranked Michigan Wolverines 38-17 at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison.

THREE KEY PLAYS

1. Hill blasts Mertz

Mertz was under fire all day as Michigan did its best to overwhelm the Badgers’ offensive line. Michigan was bringing cornerbacks on blitzes often to take advantage of holes created once UW linemen had gone for their assignments.

That was the case on the third play of the second half, arguably the single-most consequential play of the game. Hill came on a blitz and wasn’t touched before blasting Mertz in the chest and ribs for a sack. Mertz was on the field for about 2 minutes before walking to the sideline medical tent.

Mertz went back to the locker room after a few minutes in the tent and was ruled out with a chest injury.

UW trailed 13-10 at that point and the offense didn’t threaten to score the rest of the half.

2. Wilson’s big catch

The Badgers’ defense was attempting to get a third-down stop on the drive after Mertz’s injury, getting the Wolverines into third-and-10 near midfield. UW brought safety Collin Wilder down toward the line to show blitz, but only ended up rushing three.

Senior cornerback Caesar Williams bit on a double-move from Michigan receiver Roman Wilson, who faked like he was breaking off his route near the first-down marker. Wilson ran by Williams and then made a catch on an underthrown ball around Williams as he tried to recover.

The gain of 38 yards put Michigan into a first-and-goal from UW’s 10, which the Wolverines punched in for a touchdown four plays later.

With Mertz and tight end Jake Ferguson hurt, the 20-10 lead was essentially insurmountable.

3. Flea-flicker to Johnson

Michigan got on the board in the first half after hitting a trick play against the Badgers’ aggressive defense.

The Wolverines converted a fourth-and-2 to keep the drive alive on a sprint-out pass. The next play, they executed a flea-flicker for a 34-yard touchdown to Cornelius Johnson. Johnson got behind two defensive backs who had their eyes in the backfield after the handoff and once the ball was pitched back to Cade McNamara, Michigan’s quarterback had basically the left half of the field to throw it up for Johnson.

The Wolverines took advantage of UW’s aggressive play in the secondary multiple times, and Johnson won a battle for a fourth-quarter TD catch to extend Michigan’s lead.

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