The Wisconsin Badgers easily defeated the Illinois State Red Birds 38-0 on Saturday night. In their first game of the 2022 season, Wisconsin shook off some early rust on defense to dominate Illinois State. There were several school records broken in the contest, giving Badgers fans some high hopes and expectations for the season. Here, I highlight the three best and three worst performances from Wisconsin’s explosive performance.
Braelon Allen may not be 17 years old anymore, but that doesn’t mean what he is doing is any less impressive. The sophomore running back ran the ball 14 times for 148 yards and two touchdowns. The two scores gave him 14 touchdowns in his Wisconsin career. He has appeared in 13 games.
The biggest play in Allen’s night came early in the second quarter. After Wisconsin was backed up to their own four yard line due to a penalty, Allen took the handoff on the next play 96 yards for his first score. The 96-yard run broke Wisconsin’s school record. James White had previously held the record with a 93-yard touchdown run. White congratulated Allen on Twitter after the play:
— James White (@SweetFeet_White) September 4, 2022
For all the struggles that Graham Mertz has had in the past, he sure looked like the hyped up quarterback prospect that originally committed to Wisconsin. Unlike in pervious seasons, Mertz was crisp with his throws, patient as plays developed, and took what he could get when receivers were covered downfield.
Mertz finished the night completing 14 of 16 passes for 219 yards and a touchdown. He did not throw his first touchdown pass of 2021 until the Badgers’ third game. On this night, he threw it in the third quarter. Additionally, Mertz connected with Chimere Dike for a 74-yard completion. It was Mertz’s longest completion and Dike’s longest reception in their respective careers.
The Wisconsin Badgers are known for their running game and defense. Defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard played safety at Wisconsin and in the NFL, and is regarded as one of the best defensive coaches in all the NCAA. On this night, several of his players showcased why Wisconsin is known as one of the best defensive programs in the country. Perhaps none showed out more than safety John Torchio.
As Illinois State drove down the field, thanks in part to two dumb penalties by Wisconsin defenders, it appeared as if the Badgers would be playing from behind. However, Torchio intercepted a pass in the end zone and ran it back 100 yards for a pick six. The interception completely deflated the Red Birds, who had been gaining momentum. Illinois State would not come that close to scoring for the rest of the game.
— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) September 3, 2022
When there is a win as complete and as dominant as the one the Badgers enjoyed tonight, it is difficult to highlight duds without getting nitpicky, so nitpicky I shall be.
As Wisconsin’s punt returner, Dean Engram sure had his fair share of opportunities against Illinois State. He ended up fielding two punts for -1 yards.
There were a few players who made some pretty bad mental mistakes in the first quarter. Prior to the Torchio interception, Wisconsin was whistled for roughing the passer and for a late hit on a receiver out of bounds. They cleaned up their mistakes later, but that was still concerning to see them come out like that.
Okay, I know they aren’t Badgers broadcasters, but they deserve to have some mud slung at them. First, they said Braelon Allen would be a Heisman candidate if he lost some weight. Come on, really? Then, they referred to Allen as Braelon Edwards. Despite not scoring at all, Illinois State had a better night than the FS1 broadcasting crew.
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