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.
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.
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
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.
Get to know the Wisconsin Badgers' 2022 football recruiting class
Myles Burkett became the Badgers’ first Class of 2022 recruit when he announced his decision in January.
The 6-foot-1, 200-pounder from Franklin is a three-star recruit per 247Sports and Rivals, and showed great mobility and arm strength in his junior season. He battled back from a knee injury as a sophomore to throw for 1,236 and 11 touchdowns and rush for 180 yards and a score in a pandemic-shortened season.
He’s the first in-state quarterback to earn a scholarship out of high school since 2011.
As his recruiting stock started to rise, the Badgers were able to secure a commitment from Fall Rivers’ Barrett Nelson in late June.
The offensive tackle was 6-foot-6 and 255 pounds after his junior season, and his quickness off the ball has made him a load on both the offensive and defensive lines. Nelson is a three-star recruit per 247Sports and a two-star on Rivals.
He had offers from Iowa State, Northwestern, Nebraska, Purdue and others before choosing UW.
Nelson’s father, Todd, was a Badgers offensive lineman in the late 1980s, and his brother, Jack, is currently an offensive lineman for UW.
After wowing UW coaches at a pair of camps, Monroe tight end JT Seagreaves accepted a scholarship offer in late June.
Seagreaves is an intriguing prospect for the Badgers — at 6-foot-6 and 220 pounds, he has the physical frame to grow into an imposing tight end, and he possesses sprinter speeds. He’s averaged more than 21 yards per catch each of the past two seasons and was starting to gain more Power Five conference interested when he committed to UW.
Seagreaves is a three-star recruit per 247Sports and a two-star according to Rivals.
In multiple trips to UW’s campus in June, Cade Yacamelli was called “a football player” by UW coaches rather than locking him into a position. He earned a scholarship offer after an impressive camp workout and accepted it in late June.
The consensus three-star athlete was starting to earn more recruiting attention from Power Five schools when he accepted the Badgers’ offer. UW was the first Power Five offer for the 6-foot, 200-pounder. He’s played receiver, running back and defensive back in high school, but likely projects as a receiver or defensive back in college.
The Penn Trafford High School product has good quickness and change-of-direction that make him dangerous with the ball in his hands.
When A’Khoury Lyde accepted a UW scholarship offer in late June, he became the first player on the defensive side of the ball to commit in the 2022 class.
Lyde (5-foot-11, 170 pounds), a consensus three-star recruit, has strong ball skills and a willingness to hit that separates him from other cornerbacks.
The Wayne, New Jersey, native is the eighth-ranked player in his state, per Rivals.
The Badgers landed a tall, speedy receiver when Tommy McIntosh committed in late June.
The DeWitt, Michigan, native stands 6-foot-5 and weighs 200 pounds. He uses his body to shield off defenders at the point of the catch and does well catching the ball away from his body. His Hudl page lists a 4.47-second 40-yard dash time, and he has breakaway speed when he gets in the open field and can use his long strides.
A consensus three-star wide receiver chose the Badgers over offers from Cincinnati, Indiana, Iowa, Vanderbilt and Wake Forest.
UW beefed up its defensive front by landing defensive tackle Curtis Neal.
Neal — a 6-foot-2, 310-pounder — had more than 25 scholarship offers, and reportedly was deciding between UW and Ohio State at the end of his recruiting process. Neal is a product of William Amos Hough High School in Cornelius, North Carolina, where the Badgers found receiver Devin Chandler in the 2020 cycle.
Neal, with his size and strength, likely fits best as a nose tackle in the Badgers’ 3-4 scheme.
Jim Leonhard may have found another rangy, smart cornerback to add to his secondary in Avyonne Jones, who committed in to UW in late June.
Jones — who hails from Southlake, Texas — was on campus the weekend of June 18 for an official visit and had narrowed an extensive offer list to UW and California. The 5-foot-11, 180-pound defensive back was previously committed to Oklahoma State, but retracted that commitment in late May.
With good recovery speed and a good feel for getting his hands between a receiver’s at the point of the catch, the consensus three-star prospect is a good fit for what UW cornerbacks coach Hank Poteat said he wants from his position group.
The Badgers landed the top-ranked player in Wisconsin for the sixth consecutive recruiting class when Joe Brunner committed the last week of June.
Brunner — a 6-foot-6, 300-pound prospect from Milwaukee who attends Whitefish Bay High School — is a consensus four-star recruit and a top-10 offensive tackle in the nation.
He held at least 16 Power Five scholarship offers, including ones from a majority of the Big Ten Conference, LSU, Notre Dame, Oregon and Tennessee.
VINNY ANTHONY II
Receiver Vinny Anthony II — a consensus three-star receiver prospect from Louisville, Kentucky — joined UW's class on June 30.
Possessing a good burst of speed and long arms that extend his catch radius, the 6-foot-1, 170-pound Anthony has a chance to play across the formation as a receiver.
Anthony chose UW over Cincinnati and Duke.
Austin Brown — who hails from Johnston City, Illinois, a small town outside of Carbondale — was considering offers from Boston College, Illinois, Michigan and Northwestern before choosing UW. The consensus three-star safety prospect had 21 known scholarship offers.
Brown committed to UW on the Fourth of July.
At 6-foot-1 and 195 pounds, he has a good frame already and his high school film shows a willingness to lay big hits and attack blockers. He also plays quarterback for Johnston City.
After much discussion and thought, Tristan has changed his commitment and will be accepting a football scholarship offer from the University of Wisconsin. He has the utmost respect and admiration for the University of Arizona but this is an opportunity he cannot ignore. pic.twitter.com/hqf8GGqZwp— Tim Monday (@pappamonday) November 16, 2021
UW added an athletic defensive line prospect in mid-November when Tristan Monday flipped his commitment from Arizona to the Badgers.
UW was interested in Monday since he arrived in high school, but his size then didn't lend itself to a natural position fit in the Badgers' defense. Now standing 6-foot-4 and weighing 240 pounds, he'll start his career as a defensive end. UW offered him a scholarship in early November and he accepted it after visiting campus Nov. 12-14.
Monday is a consensus three-star recruit from Scottsdale, Arizona, who had offers from Arizona, Baylor, Colorado, Florida State and Iowa State.
Vaughan, a 6-foot-4 linebacker from Wixom, Michigan, committed to UW in late November, choosing the Badgers over offers from programs like Colorado, Florida State, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota and others.
Vaughan is rated as a three-star recruit by 247Sports and Rivals.
Vaughan has been a late-riser on the recruiting trail, with all of his Power Five offers coming since October, but he has potential to be an inside or outside linebacker for the Badgers. He could fill the big-bodied outside ‘backer role that C.J. Goetz currently has for UW or could be a hybrid type of linebacker like UW pulled in with Jake Ratzlaff in the 2021 cycle.