Wisconsin 45, Illinois 7: 5 Thoughts, Instant Reaction, Graham Mertz Debut

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Wisconsin 45, Illinois 7: 5 Thoughts, Instant Reaction, Graham Mertz Debut

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Wisconsin 45, Illinois 7: 5 Thoughts, Instant Reaction, Graham Mertz Debut

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The instant reaction, thoughts, and and what matters after the huge performance by Graham Mertz in the 45-7 win over Illinois.


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5. The Badger running game needs some work

Nitpicking time in a blowout win in the Big Ten debut …

The Wisconsin running game will need to be a bit more Wisconsin-like.

The offensive line was fine overall, and the ground attack got better as the game went on and everything started to slip away, but the 54 carries for 182 yards and a score wasn’t dominant enough for this program.

There’s no Jonathan Taylor, and there might not be a superstar in the backfield until freshman Jalen Berger gets his shot, but the running back by committee thing worked well enough.

And if the offense has to rely on the new superstar quarterback, that’s fine until the ground game can become a killer again.

4. Illinois needs to sink or swim with one of the younger quarterback

Who’s your star going forward, Illinois?

Brandon Peters is the senior quarterback for a veteran team, but he only completed 8-of-19 passes for 87 yards. His biggest contributions were a few big dashes to make him the team’s leading rusher. While he’s the easy veteran call going forward, Isaiah Williams was the star recruit of last year who needs to be the one to develop. At the very least, he needs to be a bigger part of the rotation – Peters still deserves to lead the team forward.

Granted, almost everyone will look awful against the Badger D, but the Illini failed to score an offensive point, there wasn’t any creativity to the passing game, and the team needs a star to build around. Illinois needs to know over the course of this abbreviated season if Williams is it.

3. Yeah, Graham Mertz was amazing, but …

The Badger quarterback had a whole lot of time to work behind an offensive line that needed a little while to get into a lather, but held at bay a dangerous veteran Illinois defensive line that’s going to be great at getting to the quarterback as the year goes on.

There were a whole lot of mistakes by the Illinois secondary, but the receivers found their way open, Mertz was firing to a whole lot of targets in space, and the rest of the parts of the offensive puzzle helped him out.

The defensive front was phenomenal, the team held on to the ball for over 43 minutes, and …

NEXT: Yeah, Graham Mertz was AMAZING, and what’s next for Wisconsin and Illinois?

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