Pittsburgh head football coach Pat Narduzzi at the 89th Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl against UCLA, Friday, Dec. 30, 2022, at the Sun Bowl Stadium in El Paso, Texas.

Ucla V Pitt Sun Bowl

Pitt, Wisconsin to open 2027 season in Dublin

Pitt and Wisconsin will play in the 2027 edition of the Aer Lingus College Football Classic at Aviva Stadium in Dublin, Ireland.

The programs on Tuesday jointly announced the game, scheduled for Aug. 28, 2027.

The series began under this branding when Georgia Tech beat Boston College 17-14 in Dublin in 2016.

Northwestern beat Nebraska 31-28 in their 2022 season opener in Dublin, and Notre Dame beat Navy 42-3 there to kick off the current season. Georgia Tech will face Florida State in Dublin in their 2024 season opener.

The Panthers will serve as the home team. Pitt has played on the Emerald Isle once before, beating Rutgers 46-29 in December 1989.

“What an honor it is for our Panthers to receive an invitation to play in the Aer Lingus College Football Classic in Dublin,” Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi said in a statement. “As a coach, you want the young men in your program to have impactful personal experiences, on and off the field.

“I am grateful our team will have the opportunity to play in this special game against a great opponent like Wisconsin.”

Meanwhile, it will be Wisconsin’s first time playing in Ireland. The Badgers’ only game outside the U.S. came in 1993 in Tokyo, a 41-20 win over Michigan State.

–Field Level Media

Oct 14, 2023; Madison, Wisconsin, USA;  Wisconsin Badgers running back Jackson Acker (34) during the game against the Iowa Hawkeyes at Camp Randall Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Banged-up Wisconsin tries to keep up in division race, faces Indiana

Already hampered by injuries on offense, Wisconsin might be missing two more key pieces when it travels to Bloomington, Ind., to face Indiana on Saturday with hopes of remaining in the Big Ten West race.

Wisconsin (5-3, 3-2 Big Ten) is coming off a 24-10 home loss to third-ranked Ohio State that dropped the Badgers into a four-way tie atop the West division with Iowa, Minnesota and Nebraska.

Indiana (2-6, 0-5) lost 33-24 to then-No. 10 Penn State after being tied at 24 with just under three minutes to play. The Hoosiers have to win their last four games to become bowl-eligible.

Already without starting quarterback Tanner Mordecai and running back Chez Mellusi, the Badgers suffered two more key injuries vs. the Buckeyes. Leading rusher Braelon Allen suffered a leg injury just before the half and returned to the sideline in a walking boot. Senior wideout Chimere Dike, also the team’s leading punt and kickoff returner, also left with a leg injury.

“Don’t know a whole lot,” Wisconsin coach Luke Fickell said. “They were out at practice on Sunday. Didn’t do a whole lot, but it’s only Monday. We’ll have to find some things out during the week.”

Redshirt freshman Braedyn Locke, in his second career start, completed 18 of 39 passes for 165 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions against Ohio State. Redshirt sophomore Jackson Acker had nine carries for 34 yards after Allen went out.

Wisconsin, which was tied 10-10 early in the third quarter against the Buckeyes, managed just 259 yards of total offense.

Indiana outgained the Nittany Lions 349-342 with redshirt freshman Brendan Sorsby passing for 269 yards. Sorsby, in his third career start, tossed three touchdown passes, including a 90-yarder and another for 69 yards.

Sorsby, who replaced Tennessee transfer Tayven Jackson as the starter, is 58-of-108 passing for 689 yards with six touchdowns and one pick in six games.

“You just want to see whoever takes over to take it and then just start growing, and take the position and run with it,” Indiana coach Tom Allen said Monday. “And I think we’ve seen the last few weeks the growth with Brendan.”

Indiana averages 316.4 yards per game while allowing 363.1. The Hoosiers average 18.6 points per game, while giving up 29.8, each ranking 13th in the 14-team conference.

Indiana won the last meeting between the teams 14-6 at Wisconsin in 2020, snapping the Badgers’ 10-game winning streak vs. the Hoosiers. Wisconsin leads the all-time series 41-19-2.

–Field Level Media

Oct 21, 2023; Champaign, Illinois, USA;  Illinois Fighting Illini running back Kaden Feagin (3) runs the ball against Wisconsin Badgers cornerback Alexander Smith (11) during the first half at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Big fourth quarter vaults Wisconsin over Illinois

Redshirt freshman Braedyn Locke, in his first collegiate start, hit lineman Nolan Rucci with a 3-yard touchdown pass with 27 seconds remaining as the Wisconsin Badgers rallied to beat Illinois 25-21 in a Big Ten West matchup Saturday in Champaign, Ill.

Locke, a transfer from Mississippi State but never played there, started in place of injured Tanner Mordecai, who broke his throwing hand in last week’s loss to Iowa. The Badgers scored 18 points in the fourth quarter.

Wisconsin (5-2, 3-1 Big Ten), which trailed 21-7 after three quarters, pulled within 21-18 with scores on consecutive drives in the fourth quarter. Nathanial Vakos kicked a 41-yard field goal with 14:13 left to play, and Locke hit Will Pauling on a 20-yard touchdown reception, plus the two-point conversion.

The Badgers forced a punt and took over on their own 17-yard line with 3:24 remaining. Locke hit Skyler Bell deep up the left side for 30 yards and a first down on the Illinois 5 with 1:06 remaining. Two running plays picked up two yards, and Locke then found Rucci uncovered in the left side of the end zone.

Wisconsin moved back atop the Big Ten West with Iowa’s 12-10 loss to Minnesota on Saturday, but the Badgers host third-ranked Ohio State on Oct. 28.

Locke completed 21 of 41 passes for 240 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. Braelon Allen ran for 145 yards and one score on 29 carries.

Luke Altmyer, a sophomore transfer from Ole Miss, completed 13 of 21 passes for 100 yards, including touchdowns of 1 and 3 yards to stake Illinois (3-5, 1-4) to a 14-0 lead. He also ran for 100 yards.

Kaden Faegin’s 12-yard touchdown run around the right end put the Illini up 21-7 with 4:30 left in the third quarter.

The Badgers threatened midway through the second quarter, but botched a 28-yard field goal attempt. Illinois responded with a 12-play, 82-yard scoring drive, capped by Altmyer’s 3-yard pass to Tip Reiman to make it 14-0.

Wisconsin answered with a 73-yard drive, pulling within 14-7 on Allen’s 4-yard run with 31 seconds remaining in the half. Locke completed 4 of 6 passes for 66 yards on the drive.

Illinois capitalized on a fumble by Locke for its first score. Altmyer hit Tanner Arkin wide open in the right flat for a 1-yard touchdown pass to cap the 54-yard drive.

–Field Level Media

Oct 22, 2022; Dallas, Texas, USA; Southern Methodist Mustangs quarterback Tanner Mordecai (8) throws downfield during the first half against the Cincinnati Bearcats at Gerald J. Ford Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Raymond Carlin III-USA TODAY Sports

Reports: SMU QB Tanner Mordecai to transfer to Wisconsin

After two successful seasons at SMU, quarterback Tanner Mordecai entered the transfer portal on Thursday and is heading to Wisconsin, according to multiple reports.

Mordecai amassed 7,152 passing yards, 72 touchdowns and 22 interceptions in two seasons as the Mustangs’ starter, including 3,524 yards, 33 TDs and 10 picks in 2022. He was a semifinalist for the Davey O’Brien Award, awarded to the best college quarterback, in the past two seasons.

Before arriving at SMU, he was a backup at Oklahoma for three seasons.

Wisconsin hired Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell to take over the program after firing Paul Chryst in late September. Graham Mertz, the Badgers’ starting quarterback for the past three seasons, transferred to Florida earlier this month.

Fickell has already landed two quarterbacks through the portal, the first being former Oklahoma backup Nick Evers, who was a four-star prospect in the Class of 2022.

Class of 2024 four-star quarterback Mabrey Mettauer also committed to Fickell and the Badgers this month.

–Field Level Media

Nov 26, 2022; Madison, Wisconsin, USA;  Wisconsin Badgers quarterback Graham Mertz (5) during the game against the Minnesota Golden Gophers at Camp Randall Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Wisconsin QB Graham Mertz entering transfer portal

After starting at quarterback for Wisconsin for the past three seasons, Graham Mertz announced Sunday he is entering the transfer portal.

Mertz has two years of NCAA eligibility remaining, counting the extra year given to athletes who played amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mertz was one of the highest-ranked quarterback recruits in the Class of 2019. He took over as the Badgers’ starter in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season and has started 32 straight games for the program since.

He leaves Wisconsin having completed 59.5 percent of his passes for 5,405 yards, 38 touchdowns and 26 interceptions in his career.

Wisconsin fired coach Paul Chryst on Oct. 2 and hired former Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell as his replacement in late November. The Badgers (6-6, 4-5 Big Ten) were selected Sunday to play in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl in Phoenix against Oklahoma State.

–Field Level Media

Oct 22, 2022; Madison, Wisconsin, USA;  Wisconsin Badgers head coach Jim Leonhard during warmups prior to the game against the Purdue Boilermakers at Camp Randall Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Wisconsin close to removing Jim Leonhard’s interim tag

Jim Leonhard is on the verge of being named the permanent football could at Wisconsin, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Friday.

The university fired Paul Chryst on Oct. 2 and replaced him with Leonhard. He has guided the Badgers to a 4-2 mark after a 2-3 start under Chryst, who was 67-26 in eight seasons as head coach.

Wisconsin (6-5, 4-4 Big Ten) is bowl eligible. The Badgers’ regular-season finale is Saturday at home against Minnesota.

The official deadline to apply for the head coaching position, according to the university’s job listing, is Saturday. The Journal Sentinel reported a quick hiring — as soon as Sunday or Monday — is expected.

“They want to get moving as soon as they can,” a source told the newspaper.

Leonhard, 40, is a native of Tony, Wis., and a Wisconsin football legend. He was inducted into the school’s athletic Hall of Fame in 2015.

An undersized safety, he walked on to the team in 2001. After four seasons, he was a three-time, first-team All-American. In his career in Madison, he intercepted 21 passes — tying for the most in school history — and broke up 50 others. His 11 interceptions in 2002 are a school mark.

He wasn’t selected in the NFL draft but played 10 years (2005-14) in the league with the Buffalo Bills, Baltimore Ravens, New York Jets, Denver Broncos and Cleveland Browns. In 142 career games, he made 14 career interceptions.

Leonhard joined the Wisconsin coaching staff as secondary coach in 2016 and was promoted to defensive coordinator in 2017 — the role he held until he was named interim coach.

He said earlier this week he was focused on finishing the season and not a promotion.

“I don’t really want to get into much of that right now,” he said, per the Journal Sentinel. “This week to me is about this season, this group of players. … I don’t want that attention for our guys. …

“Going to have some conversations this week and hopefully it leads in the direction I want it to go.”

–Field Level Media

Oct 1, 2022; Madison, Wisconsin, USA;  Illinois Fighting Illini head coach Bret Bielema and Wisconsin Badgers head coach Paul Chryst talk on the field prior to the game at Camp Randall Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Wisconsin to pay Paul Chryst reduced $11M buyout

Wisconsin plans to pay fired coach Paul Chryst a buyout of $11 million, well short of the $20 million remaining on his contract.

Chryst agreed to a reduced payment, Wisconsin athletic director Chris McIntosh said, but he did not confirm the dollar figure as reported by multiple media outlets.

The Badgers (2-3, 0-2 Big Ten) are coming off a 34-10 loss to Illinois and former coach Bret Bielema, with a visit to Northwestern up next.

“It’s a grim reminder of the world we live in. I’ve been in that rodeo,” Bielema said Monday.

Wisconsin also fell to Ohio State and Washington State earlier in the season.

“After a heartfelt and authentic conversation with Coach Chryst about what is in the long-term best interest of our football program, I have concluded that now is the time for a change in leadership,” McIntosh said in a statement. “Paul is a man of integrity who loves his players. I have great respect and admiration for Paul and the legacy of him and his family at the University of Wisconsin.”

Chryst, 56, was in his eighth season at Wisconsin. He led the Badgers to a 67-26 record, including a 43-18 mark in Big Ten play. Wisconsin also finished as champion or co-champion in the conference three times (2016, 2017, 2019) under Chryst.

He helped the Badgers win 10 or more games on four occasions, but was just 15-10 since the start of the 2020 season.

Defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard was named interim head coach.

–Field Level Media

Sep 17, 2022; Madison, Wisconsin, USA;  Wisconsin Badgers wide receiver Chimere Dike (13) reacts after catching a pass during the third quarter against the New Mexico State Aggies at Camp Randall Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Wisconsin bounces back from disappointing loss, blows out New Mexico State

Braelon Allen ran for three touchdowns and Graham Mertz passed for three more as Wisconsin bounced back from an upset loss with a 66-7 rout of New Mexico State in a nonconference game on Saturday in Madison, Wis.

Allen scored on first-half runs of 39, 1 and 2 yards as Wisconsin rolled to a 35-0 halftime lead. Allen finished with 86 yards on 15 carries.

Isaac Guerendo added 74 yards on 12 carries, including second-half touchdown runs of 3 and 30 yards as the Badgers (2-1) pushed the lead to 63-0.

Graham Mertz completed 12 of 15 passes for 251 yards, including touchdowns of 18, 49 and 18 yards, with one interception.

New Mexico State (0-4) got its only touchdown on a 1-yard run by Ahmonte Watkins with 8:10 remaining.

Wisconsin, which dropped out of the Top 25 this week after losing 17-14 at home to Washington State, opens Big Ten play next Saturday at No. 3 Ohio State.

Guerendo returned the opening kickoff 50 yards to set up Wisconsin’s first score. Allen carried three consecutive times, culminating with a 39-yard touchdown run.

After punting on their next two possessions, the Badgers put together a seven-play, 63-yard scoring drive. Chez Mellusi scored from 2 yards out on the first play of the second quarter to put Wisconsin up 14-0.

The Badgers made it 21-0 on their next series when Mertz hit Keontez Lewis with an 18-yard touchdown pass.

On the Aggies’ next possession, Maema Njongmeta picked off Gavin Frakes and returned it 6 yards to the New Mexico State 2. Allen’s 1-yard touchdown plunge extended the lead to 28-0.

New Mexico State moved from its own 6 to the Wisconsin 12, but Ethan Albertson’s 29-yard field goal attempt was wide right with four seconds left in the half.

Mertz had touchdown passes of 49 yards and 18 yards on Wisconsin’s first two series of the second half to push the lead to 49-0.

–Field Level Media

Nov 20, 2021; Madison, Wisconsin, USA;  Wisconsin Badgers quarterback Graham Mertz (5) throws a pass during the third quarter against the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Camp Randall Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Resurgent No. 14 Wisconsin tries to lock up Big Ten West vs. Minnesota

As unlikely as it seemed one month into the season, Wisconsin can clinch a berth in the Big Ten title game when the Badgers travel to face archrival Minnesota on Saturday in Minneapolis in the battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe.

Wisconsin (8-3, 6-2 Big Ten), ranked No. 14 in the College Football Playoff poll, would win the Big Ten West with a victory over the Gophers (7-4, 5-3). The Badgers have won seven straight since opening the season 1-3, including two conference losses, with each defeat to a ranked team.

Wisconsin enters tied with Iowa atop the West, but holds the tiebreaker by virtue of its 27-7 victory over the Hawkeyes. Minnesota could still win the division with a win over Wisconsin, but also would need Nebraska to beat Iowa and Purdue to defeat Indiana.

The bordering state rivals have met 130 times. The Badgers have won the last two meetings, including 20-17 in overtime last season, and 16 of the last 17. The Gophers’ only win in that span was 37-15 at Madison in 2018.

“The game has always meant a lot,” Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst said. “I know the times I’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of it, and I know every one of our guys, you get a chance to play in this game, it’s the longest rivalry in college football and to be a part of that is special. And certainly, we know it’s against a very good football team.”

Wisconsin is coming off a 35-28 home victory over Nebraska in which the Cornhuskers shredded the nation’s top-ranked defense for 452 total yards, including 351 through the air. Nebraska drove to Wisconsin’s 11-yard line in the final minute before being stopped on fourth down.

Freshman Braelon Allen continues to power the resurgent Wisconsin ground game, especially with the loss of then-leading rusher Chez Mellusi to a season-ending leg injury three weeks ago. After just 12 carries through the first four games, the 238-pound Allen has topped 100 yards seven consecutive games, including a season-high 228 yards with three touchdowns against Nebraska.

Wisconsin leads the nation in rushing defense (64.3 yards per game), is second in total defense (237.7 ypg) and fifth in scoring defense (15.8 ppg). The Badgers have 19 takeaways during their seven-game win streak.

When asked what jumps out at him about the Badgers defense under coordinator Jim Leonhard, Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck said, “Everything. All of it.”

“They are maybe one of the best defenses we played against in our time here of any opponent,” Fleck said.

After consecutive losses to Illinois and Iowa, Minnesota bounced back last week with a 35-14 win at Indiana.

Quarterback Tanner Morgan completed 14 of 20 passes for 196 yards and two touchdowns, including 5-for-5 on third down with for four first downs and a touchdown. Morgan has completed 58.8 percent of his passes for 1,736 yards and nine touchdowns, with seven interceptions.

“They’ve got an identity and they’re good at what they do,” Chryst said. “We’ve played against their quarterback a number of times and he’s a really good football player. … They’re physical, they play hard, they’ve got guys than can make plays, skill players that can make plays.”

After injuries to preseason All-American Mohamed Ibrahim in the opener, and then Trey Potts midway into the season, redshirt freshman Ky Thomas has become the top ball carrier with 625 yards, topping 100 yards in four of the last five games. Freshman Mar’Keise Irving has rushed for 531 yards.

–Field Level Media

Purdue cornerback Dedrick Mackey (1) and Purdue safety Cam Allen (10) stop Wisconsin running back Chez Mellusi (6) during the first quarter of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 23, 2021 at Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette.

Cfb Purdue Vs Wisconsin

Wisconsin trounces No. 25 Purdue for third straight win

Chez Mellusi had 149 rushing yards and a touchdown, Braelon Allen added 140 rushing yards and a pair of scores, and Wisconsin raced to a 30-13 win over No. 25 Purdue in Big Ten play on Saturday afternoon in West Lafayette, Ind.

Linebacker Leo Chenal registered 3 1/2 sacks for Wisconsin (4-3, 2-2 Big Ten), which posted its third victory in a row. The Badgers won despite an underwhelming effort from quarterback Graham Mertz, who completed five of eight passes for 52 yards and lost a fumble that was returned for a touchdown.

Payne Durham had nine catches for 112 yards and a touchdown to lead Purdue (4-3, 2-2). Linebacker George Karlaftis scored a 56-yard touchdown on a fumble recovery, and quarterback Aidan O’Connell completed 24 of 32 passes for 200 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions.

Wisconsin outgained Purdue 342-206. The Badgers finished with 290 yards on the ground, while Purdue totaled minus-13 rushing yards because of a half-dozen sacks.

The score was tied at halftime, but the Badgers pulled away with a pair of touchdowns in the second half.

Mellusi put Wisconsin on top 20-13 with a 20-yard rushing touchdown with 6:06 to go in the third quarter. That capped an explosive three-play, 94-yard drive that started with a 70-yard run by Allen.

The Badgers made it 27-13 with 10:13 left in the fourth quarter. Allen raced in for a 14-yard score that marked his second touchdown of the game and his fifth of the season.

Collin Larsh added a 43-yard field goal late in the fourth to increase Wisconsin’s lead to 30-13.

Wisconsin opened the scoring late in the first quarter. Allen carried the ball for a 4-yard score.

Purdue pulled even in the first minute of the second quarter. O’Connell found Durham for a 10-yard touchdown.

Wisconsin regained a 10-7 lead on a 37-yard field goal by Larsh with 8:54 remaining in the first half.

Purdue responded with the defensive touchdown to go on top 13-10 with 6:13 left in the half. Jamari Brown forced Mertz to fumble on a cornerback blitz, and Karlaftis was in the right place at the right time for a scoop and score on a 56-yard fumble return.

The Badgers pulled even at 13-13 on a 23-yard field goal by Larsh with 2:06 left before halftime.

–Field Level Media