Oct 16, 2021; Madison, Wisconsin, USA;  Wisconsin Badgers quarterback Graham Mertz (5) rushes for a touchdown in front of Army Black Knights linebacker Daryan McDonald (30) during the second quarter at Camp Randall Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Wisconsin holds off late charge from Army

Quarterback Graham Mertz ran for two touchdowns and host Wisconsin capitalized on a late turnover to hold off Army 20-14 in a nonconference game Saturday night.

Army, which trailed 13-0 at the half, pulled within 13-7 on a 5-yard run by quarterback Tyhier Taylor with 11:22 remaining.

The Black Knights got the ball back with 4:38 left and picked up one first down. Jabari Laws fumbled when sacked by linebacker Leo Chanel and Keeanu Benton recovered for Wisconsin on the Army 1-yard line. Mertz plunged over on the next play to put the Badgers up 20-7.

Army responded with a 77-yard drive, keyed by Laws’ 36-yard pass to A.J. Howard, who scored on a 6-yard run on the next play to make it 20-14 with 38 seconds left. Wisconsin then recovered the onside kick.

Freshman Braelon Allen rushed 16 times for 108 yards, including a 33-yard touchdown burst for Wisconsin. Mertz completed 8 of 15 passes for 112 yards.

Wisconsin (3-3), whose losses were to ranked teams Penn State, Notre Dame and Michigan, won consecutive games for the first time this season. Army (4-2), which won its first four games, lost its second straight without injured quarterback Christian Anderson. It was the first meeting between the two programs.

Army, which entered second in the nation in rushing at 318.2 yards per game, ran for 131 of its 179 yards in the second half against Wisconsin’s top-ranked run defense, which had allowed 41.4 yards per game.

Army pulled within 13-7 early in the fourth quarter with a 54-yard drive, keyed by Tyler’s 36-yard run for a first-and-goal at the nine. Three plays later, he scored from 5 yards out.

Allen put Wisconsin up 7-0 just over two minutes into the second quarter, bouncing outside and skirting the left end for a 33-yard touchdown.

Wisconsin marched 81 yards in 10 plays its next possession, keeping the drive alive with a fake punt. Mertz scored on a 5-yard bootleg around left end, but the extra point was blocked.

The Black Knights missed a scoring opportunity in the third quarter when Cole Talley’s 43-yard field goal attempt was wide right.

Wisconsin finished with 310 yards total offense, but just 80 in the second half.

–Field Level Media

University of Wisconsin Badgers football's Jalen Berger (8) runs the ball against Michigan during their game Saturday, October 2, 2021 in Madison, Wis. Michigan won the game 38-17. Doug Raflik/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

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Wisconsin dismisses RB Jalen Berger

Wisconsin dismissed redshirt freshman running back Jalen Berger from the program, coach Paul Chryst announced Sunday.

Berger did not play in Saturday’s 24-0 win at Illinois. He ranks fourth on the Badgers (2-3, 1-2 Big Ten) this season with 88 rushing yards in three games, with one touchdown. He caught two passes for 17 yards.

Berger was Wisconsin’s leading rusher in 2020 with 301 yards and two touchdowns on 60 carries, adding 13 yards on two receptions.

A native of Newark, N.J., Berger was a consensus four-star recruit in the Class of 2020. He was ranked as the No. 3 prospect in New Jersey and the No. 15 running back nationally by the 247Sports composite.

–Field Level Media

Oct 9, 2021; Champaign, Illinois, USA;  Illinois Fighting Illini quarterback Brandon Peters (18) runs with the ball as Wisconsin Badgers defensive tackle Keeanu Benton (95) pursues in the first half at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Chez Mellusi, Braelon Allen lift Wisconsin in romp of Illinois

Chez Mellusi rushed for 145 yards and a touchdown and Wisconsin played air-tight defense in overwhelming Illinois 24-0 on Saturday afternoon in Champaign, Ill.

Braelon Allen piled up 131 yards on the ground and also scored for the Badgers (2-3, 1-2 Big Ten), whose three losses have been to ranked teams.

Wisconsin had little trouble with the Fighting Illini (2-5, 1-3).

The Badgers rolled up 491 yards in total offense, while its defense — which began the weekend first in the nation against the run and third in total defense — held Illinois to 93 yards overall (26 rushing, 67 passing). The Illini had only 40 total yards after three quarters.

Badgers quarterback Graham Mertz completed 10 of 19 passes for 100 yards and an interception.

Joseph Kerby picked off Mertz at the Illini’s 3-yard line. Kerby also recovered a fumble in the third quarter.

The Badgers led 10-0 in the first half and picked right up to start the third quarter, going 75 yards in 13 plays and chewing up 6:22 off the clock. Mellusi capped the drive with a 15-yard touchdown run.

Later in the quarter, Allen sprinted 23 yards to a corner of the end zone on a quicker drive, covering 86 yards in just five plays.

Illinois coach Bret Bielema, who coached at Wisconsin for seven seasons before leaving for five seasons at Arkansas, saw his former team win the possession game 36:02 to 17:17. Five of Illinois’ nine first downs came on penalties.

The Illini did not advance into Wisconsin territory until about the midpoint of the fourth quarter.

Backup quarterback Artur Sitkowski completed 8 of 27 passes for 55 yards for the Illini. He entered after Brandon Peters completed 3 of 7 passes for 12 yards in the first three possessions.

The Badgers scored the only touchdown of the first half on their second lengthy drive of the game. They kept the ball for almost seven minutes as they marched 79 yards on 14 plays.

John Chenal, who converted a fourth-down play during the drive, plowed in from 1 yard out for a 10-0 lead.

Wisconsin amassed 206 total yards in the first half to only 33 for Illinois, and two of the Illini’s three first downs came via penalties.

The Badgers had scored on their first possession of the game, consuming 9:44 in covering 67 yards on 18 plays. The drive stalled on the Illini 7-yard line, and Collin Larsh booted a 17-yard field goal.

–Field Level Media

Sep 4, 2021; Champaign, Illinois, USA;  Illinois Fighting Illini head coach Bret Bielema enters the field with his team before the start of Saturday   s game with the UTSA Roadrunners at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Wisconsin visits Illini for Bielema Bowl

While each team’s search for offensive consistency will be the focus once Wisconsin kicks off at Illinois in a Big Ten clash Saturday, much of the pregame attention will land on first-year Illini coach Bret Bielema facing his former team for the first time.

Bielema coached Wisconsin for seven seasons, where he was 68-24 three two Rose Bowl appearances before surprisingly leaving for Arkansas following the last regular-season game in 2012. Bielema was 29-34 with the Razorbacks before being fired after five seasons.

Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst was the Badgers’ offensive coordinator under Bielema.

“I’ve got a lot of respect for everything that Paul’s done. Obviously, he and I have known each for a long time,” Bielema said. “But this game is about the University of Illinois football vs. the University of Wisconsin football.

“Every game is a big game when you’re in the infancy of a program when we’re trying to build a foundation of how we’re going to play,” Bielema said. “I’m excited because it’s a Big Te=n game, a Big Ten West opponent that is a really good football team, that’s been able to sustain success for a long time.”

Illinois (2-4, 1-2 Big Ten) opened the season with a 30-22 victory over Nebraska, but then lost four in a row before scoring a 24-14 nonconference win over Charlotte behind two second-half touchdowns from Chase Brown, who ran for 257 yards.

Wisconsin (1-3, 0-2) is coming off a 38-17 loss at home to Michigan, which climbed from No. 14 to ninth in the AP poll.

The Badgers are 1-3 for the first time since former coach Barry Alvarez’s first season in 1990, when the Badgers finished 1-10. Wisconsin, ranked 12th in the preseason poll, also has lost to ranked teams Penn State and Notre Dame, with its only victory over Eastern Michigan.

“We get to choose the direction that we go and I’m confident in the group that we have,” Chryst said. “We’re going to make this a great week of preparation so we can go out and play our best.”

Wisconsin remains something of an unknown, insofar as their three defeats all came against ranked teams, when the Badgers were outscored in the fourth quarter 58-13. That means in the first three quarters of those games, Wisconsin has played evenly (27-27).

The Badgers are scoring just 18.5 points per game, last in the Big Ten. Illinois is one spot above at 20.7.

Illinois had season highs of 336 yards rushing and 414 yards total offense last week against Charlotte.

Wisconsin quarterback Graham Mertz is questionable after suffering a chest injury on a vicious sack in the first series of the second half against Michigan. Reserve Chase Wolf lost a fumble and thew an interception, completing 3 of 8 passes for 52 yards — with 25 of those on a consolation touchdown in the closing minute.

Long-known for an overpowering ground game with a massive offensive line opening running room for the likes of Jonathan Taylor and Melvin Gordon — even going back to 1999 Heisman Trophy winner Ron Dayne — Wisconsin currently ranks tied for 64th nationally in rushing offense (163 yards a game).

The Badgers managed just 43 yards rushing against Michigan at a paltry 1.3 yards per carry. For the season, they have rushed for just five touchdowns and four of them came against Eastern Michigan.

The Badgers have committed 11 turnovers (their 2.75 per game is worst among the 130 FBS teams) and are just 16 of 62 (25.8 percent) on third-down conversions – ranking 129th nationally.

Wisconsin’s defense has kept the Badgers close against their ranked opponents. They lead the nation in rushing defense, yielding just 45.2 yards per game and 1.6 yards per attempt. The Badgers have allowed just one rushing play of more than 10 yards.

Wisconsin is third nationally in total defense at 249 yards per game. Illinois is ranked 98th, giving up 417.3 yards per contest.

Wisconsin has won 10 of the last 11 meetings with Illinois, including a 45-7 victory last season at Madison in which Mertz threw five touchdown passes in his first collegiate start.

On Wisconsin’s last trip to Illinois, in 2019, the Illini shocked the sixth-ranked Badgers, 24-23, on James McCourt’s 39-yard field goal as time expired. Illinois overcame a 23-14 deficit in the last six minutes, using a late interception by Tony Adams Jr. to set up the winning score.

Adams has eight field goals this season, including a 53-yarder, and Adams has one interception for the Illini, giving him six for his career.

Wisconsin leads the all-time series, 43-37-7.

–Field Level Media

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh celebrates a touchdown against Rutgers during the first half at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor on Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021.

No. 9 Michigan, Nebraska meet in search of more redemption

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh and Nebraska coach Scott Frost will walk tall into their Big Ten Conference matchup Saturday.

After recent months of ridicule, doubts and even calls from irate fans that both should be fired, there is reason for hope with both programs.

Both Harbaugh and Frost were expected to elevate their respective alma maters to heights seen during glory days, but despite still not meeting those expectations, No. 9 Michigan and Nebraska are trending in the right direction entering the game at Lincoln, Neb.

Unranked to start the season and with lower-than-usual expectations, Michigan (5-0, 2-0 in Big Ten) is coming off its most impressive performance of the year.

The Wolverines went on the road and dominated Wisconsin last week, leaving with a 38-17 win and feelings they could finally make the conference championship game at the end of the season for the first time in program history.

“This group is different,” Harbaugh said. “They don’t flinch.”

Through its first four games, Michigan used a dominant rushing attack to earn victories, but the win over Wisconsin showed the Wolverines can have success through the air as well.

After throwing just 53 total passes in the first four games, Michigan quarterback Cade McNamara went 17 of 28 for 197 yards and two touchdowns against the Badgers.

“We really believe in our quarterbacks,” Harbaugh said. “We believe in our receivers and tight ends. We believe we can throw the ball well and we believe we can run it well. We can do both.”

Having similar balance will be essential against Nebraska, which has seemed to find itself on both sides of the ball after a slow start.

In their past three games, the Cornhuskers (3-3, 1-2) played unbeaten Oklahoma tough on the road before losing by a touchdown, outplayed unbeaten Michigan State on the road before mistakes on special teams led to a 23-20 overtime loss, and then destroyed Northwestern at home 56-7.

“We’re a lot better team than we have been,” Frost said. “We have a lot of work to do still. (Northwestern) was one game. This is a world of exaggeration and hyperbole. This was one game. But this is what I know this group can do.

“We have talented guys in a lot of places. It’s a good first step, but we still have a lot of work to do. We can still get better.”

Saturday’s game will feature the top two rushing offenses in the Big Ten.

Michigan enters No. 1 in the conference at 255.0 rushing yards a game, while Nebraska is right behind at 237.5 yards, but they’ve had success in different ways.

Michigan has ridden the tandem of Blake Corum (521 yards, seven touchdowns) Hassan Haskins (373 yards, six TDs), while Nebraska relies on dual-threat quarterback Adrian Martinez, who has rushed for 412 yards and nine TDs, whole also completing 66.7 percent of his passes for 1,463 yards and six TDs.

The last meeting between the teams came in 2018, when Michigan walloped visiting Nebraska 56-10.

–Field Level Media

Oct 2, 2021; Madison, Wisconsin, USA;  Michigan Wolverines wide receiver Roman Wilson (14) is tackled after catching a pass during the first quarter against the Wisconsin Badgers at Camp Randall Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

No. 14 Michigan finds winning touch at Wisconsin

Cade McNamara passed for two touchdowns and No. 14 Michigan capitalized on turnovers for a 38-17 victory over host Wisconsin on Saturday in the Wolverines first victory at Madison since 2001.

The Wolverines (5-0, 2-0 Big Ten), playing on the road for the first time, pulled away from a 13-10 halftime lead. Michigan turned two fumble recoveries and an interception into 14 points.

Wisconsin (1-3, 0-2), which also lost to No. 4 Penn State and No. 9 Notre Dame, opened 1-3 for the first time since former coach Barry Alvarez’s first season in 1990, when the Badgers finished 1-10.

McNamara had touchdown passes of 34 and 13 yards to Cornelius Johnson, and also hit Johnson with a two-point conversion. J.J. McCarthy ran for one score and passed 56 yards for Michigan’s touchdown.

Wisconsin quarterback Graham Mertz left after being sacked on the first series of the second half and did not return. Starting tight end Jack Ferguson also left with an injury.

The Wolverines, who had lost five straight at Wisconsin, opened a 20-10 lead with a 59-yard drive on their first possession of the second half. McCarthy plunged over from a yard out on fourth down.

Michigan turned a fumble by backup quarterback Chase Wolf into a 48-yard field goal by Jake Moody for a 23-10 lead with 12:21 remaining. Daxton Hill intercepted Wolf on the first play of the ensuing series at the Wisconsin 35, setting up McNamara’s 18-yard touchdown pass to Johnson.

Wolf threw a 25-yard touchdown pass in the closing minute.

Michigan passed for 253 yards, but also rushed for 112 yards on 44 attempts, against Wisconsin’s top-ranked run defense, which entered allowing 23 yards per game on the ground.

After Moody’s 47-yard field goal put Michigan up 13-3, Wisconsin took over on its own 37 with 25 seconds left in the half. After a 9-yard run, Mertz hit Chimere Dike for 36 yards and then on an 18-yard touchdown pass.

Michigan took a 7-0 lead late in the first quarter when McNamara capped a 59-touchdown drive with a 34-yard pass to Johnson.

–Field Level Media

Wisconsin Badgers quarterback Graham Mertz (5) tosss the ball to running back Chez Mellusi (6) during their football game Saturday, September 25, 2021, at Soldier Field in Chicago, Ill. Dan Powers/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

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Wisconsin’s defense aims to slow No. 14 Michigan

Undefeated Michigan hopes to reignite its ground game against the nation’s top-ranked run defense when the 14th-ranked Wolverines look for their first victory at Wisconsin in 20 years on Saturday.

Michigan (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten), heading on the road for the first time this season, has lost the last five encounters to the Badgers in Madison since a 20-17 victory in 2001 on a field goal in the final minute.

Wisconsin (1-2, 0-1) dropped out of the Top 25 with a 41-13 loss Saturday to ninth-ranked Notre Dame, despite holding the Irish to 9 yards rushing. The Badgers have been plagued by costly turnovers, but they allow just 23 yards per game rushing.

“A solid, physical, athletic defense that really knows the scheme,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said of the Badgers. “They’re very dialed in.”

The Wolverines averaged 350 yards rushing and 47 points in their three nonconference victories but had just 112 yards on the ground in a 20-13 victory over Rutgers on Saturday. Michigan led 20-3 at the half but managed just two first downs in the second half.

“Defensively, we’re going to be challenged differently this week,” Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst said. “Obviously playing a really good Michigan team, a team that’s talented and really well-coached and I think playing really good football right now.”

Wisconsin unraveled in the fourth quarter against Notre Dame at Soldier Field in Chicago. The Badgers took a 13-10 lead on a field goal early in the final quarter, then allowed a 96-yard return for a touchdown on the ensuing kickoff.

Badgers quarterback Graham Mertz then had two fourth-quarter interceptions returned for touchdowns. The sophomore finished with four interceptions and lost a fumble.

In Wisconsin’s 16-10 opening loss to No. 4 Penn State, Mertz threw two fourth-quarter picks in the red zone.

The Badgers, who were ranked 12th in the preseason poll, have turned the ball over nine times, while Michigan is the only FBS team without a giveaway.

“There are no offensive turnovers,” Harbaugh said. “Now, some other things. Playing on the road, keeping your poise in the noise, all things that the team is learning and growing. So far, they’re picking them up and they’re retaining them, and this will be a big task this week, playing against a really tough team on the road.”

The Wolverines rushed 15 times for 64 yards on their 74-yard opening touchdown drive against the Scarlet Knights but struggled after that with their rushing offense.

Blake Corum leads the Wolverines’ ground game with 475 yards and seven touchdowns, and Hassan Haskins has 322 yards and six touchdowns.

Quarterback Cade McNamara has completed 33 of 53 passes for 534 yards and three touchdowns. Cornelius Johnson has a team-high eight receptions, averaging 24.8 yards per catch.

While the Badgers’ offense has struggled, the defense has been stingy, especially against the run. Even before holding Notre Dame 0.3 yards per carry, Wisconsin held Penn State to 50 yards on 18 carries and Eastern Michigan to 16 yards on 18 attempts.

Mertz has completed 54 of 95 passes for 566 yards with one touchdown and six interceptions. Defenses have keyed on all-conference tight end Jake Ferguson, who has 13 receptions for 80 yards but no touchdowns. Wideout Danny Davis III has a team-best 16 catches for 193 yards.

Although the Wolverines lead the series 51-17-1, Wisconsin has won the last two, 35-14 at Madison in 2019 and 49-11 last season at Ann Arbor.

–Field Level Media

Sep 25, 2021; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish wide receiver Kevin Austin Jr. (4) receives a pass for a touchdown against Wisconsin Badgers cornerback Faion Hicks (1) during the first half at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

Late uprising fuels No. 12 Notre Dame past No. 18 Wisconsin

Kevin Austin Jr. had a pair of touchdown receptions, Chris Tyree scored on a 96-yard kickoff return, and No. 12 Notre Dame relied on 31 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to storm to a 41-13 win over No. 18 Wisconsin on Saturday in Chicago.

It was a historic afternoon for Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly, who surpassed Knute Rockne as the winningest coach in program history with his 106th victory.

Jack Coan, who transferred from Wisconsin, got the better of his former team by completing 15 of 29 passes for 158 yards and a touchdown for Notre Dame (4-0). Coan left in the second half with an apparent leg injury and was replaced by Drew Pyne, who completed 6 of 8 passes for 81 yards and a touchdown.

Kendric Pryor had six catches for 69 yards and a touchdown to lead Wisconsin (1-2). Graham Mertz struggled against the Fighting Irish defense, completing 18 of 41 passes for 239 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions.

Wisconsin grabbed a 13-10 lead with 14:14 left in the fourth quarter. The Badgers marched deep inside the red zone but settled for a 27-yard field goal by Collin Larsh.

The advantage did not last for long.

On the ensuing kickoff, Tyree scored on an electrifying 96-yard return to give Notre Dame a 17-13 edge. He fielded the ball along the right sideline, weaved through the middle of the field and eventually outraced a pair of Badgers along the left sideline.

The Fighting Irish made it 24-13 when Pyne hit Austin for a 16-yard touchdown with 9:34 remaining. It was Austin’s second score of the day and third of the season.

After a 37-yard field goal by Jonathan Doerer made it 27-13, the Fighting Irish added a defensive touchdown on a 66-yard interception return by Jack Kiser.

Drew White capped the scoring with a 47-yard interception return for a touchdown with 1:09 remaining, ending a miserable day for Mertz and the Badgers’ offense.

Notre Dame built a 10-3 lead at the half.

Wisconsin struck first early in the first quarter on a 37-yard field goal by Collin Larsh.

The Fighting Irish evened the score at 3-3 on a 51-yard field goal by Doerer.

Notre Dame seized a seven-point lead 4:48 before halftime when Coan found Austin for a 36-yard touchdown strike.

Wisconsin pulled even at 10-10 with 9:53 left in the third quarter. Mertz connected with Pryor for an 8-yard touchdown on a slant route across the middle.

–Field Level Media

Sep 11, 2021; Madison, Wisconsin, USA;  Wisconsin Badgers defensive end Matt Henningsen (92) sacks Eastern Michigan Eagles quarterback Ben Bryant (8) during the second quarter at Camp Randall Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

No. 18 Wisconsin has little trouble with Eastern Michigan

Chez Mellusi had 20 carries for 144 yards and a touchdown, and No. 18 Wisconsin rushed to a 34-7 win over Eastern Michigan on Saturday night in Madison, Wis.

Isaac Guerendo had 92 rushing yards and a touchdown, and Jalen Berger contributed 62 rushing yards and a score for Wisconsin (1-1), which bounced back from a season-opening loss against Penn State. Braelon Allen added his first career touchdown on the ground for the Badgers.

David Carter had a 98-yard interception return for Eastern Michigan (1-1). The Eagles fell short on the road after winning their season opener 35-15 against St. Francis (Pa.).

The Badgers improved to 4-0 all-time against the Eagles. Wisconsin also improved to 34-2 against opponents from the Mid-American Conference.

Wisconsin exploited an advantage on the line of scrimmage and leaned on the running game throughout the night. Mellusi opened the scoring with a 6-yard rush late in the first quarter to cap off a nine-play, 55-yard drive.

Collin Larsh added a 33-yard field goal early in the second quarter to make it 10-0.

Wisconsin increased its lead to 17-0 on a 6-yard touchdown by Berger with 7:02 to go in the second quarter. His score finished off an 11-play, 75-yard drive that chewed 5:17 off the clock.

Guerendo added a highlight play with 4:40 to go before halftime. He found daylight along the right sideline and evaded a pair of would-be tacklers as he raced for an 82-yard touchdown to make it 24-0 heading into the intermission.

Eastern Michigan snapped the shutout with 9:38 left in the fourth quarter. Carter stepped in front of a pass near the goal line and raced untouched down the left sideline for a touchdown.

Wisconsin finished the scoring on a 1-yard rushing touchdown by Allen with 4:16 remaining.

Wisconsin quarterback Graham Mertz completed 14 of 17 passes for 141 yards before Chase Wolf took over late in the game.

Eastern Michigan quarterback Preston Hutchinson completed 6 of 13 passes for 53 yards and an interception. Fellow quarterback Ben Bryant completed 4 of 7 passes for 23 yards.

–Field Level Media