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

Sep 4, 2021; Madison, Wisconsin, USA;  Wisconsin Badgers running back Chez Mellusi (6) rushes with the football as Penn State Nittany Lions cornerback Joey Porter Jr. (9) defends during the first quarter at Camp Randall Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

After opening loss, No. 18 Wisconsin faces MAC foe Eastern Michigan

After a home loss in its opening game, No. 18 Wisconsin will look for redemption when it welcomes Eastern Michigan into Madison on Saturday.

Wisconsin (0-1, 0-1 Big Ten) is coming off a 16-10 loss against then-No. 19 Penn State last weekend. The game was scoreless at halftime and 7-7 after three quarters, but the Nittany Lions gained the upper hand in the fourth quarter.

Badgers left tackle Tyler Beach said he and his fellow linemen needed to do more to help the team.

“We’re better than that,” Beach said. “The good thing is that we can see where we messed up. And it’s good that this happens now rather than later. Gets us ready for the rest of the season.”

For many years, Wisconsin has prided itself on a run-heavy offense, and this season is no different. Badgers running back Chez Mellusi led the team with 31 carries for 121 yards and a touchdown in the opening game, while Isaac Guerendo contributed 56 yards on 13 carries.

The passing game was a different story, however. Quarterback Graham Mertz completed 22 of 37 passes for 185 yards and two interceptions.

Mertz’s top target was Danny Davis III, who caught eight passes for 99 yards.

Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst stood up for his quarterback heading into this week’s game.

“I’ve liked the way that he’s handled it and approached it from personal interactions with him,” Chryst said. “I think that he’s trying to do the right thing and owning the things where he can be better. I think he’s got good energy and understands his role in this whole big picture.

“I’ve spent time with him. It’s hard for everyone, right? But it’s an opportunity, an opportunity to get better, and I am confident he’ll do that.”

Mertz said the game offered a new opportunity to put last week’s disappointment behind him.

“I’m obviously not proud of how it ended,” Mertz said. “There are definitely a lot of things that fell on my plate that I need to clean up. I will.”

Meanwhile, Eastern Michigan (1-0) is looking to beat a Top 25 team for the first time in school history. The Eagles are coming off a 35-15 win over FCS opponent St. Francis (Pa.) on Friday.

Samson Evans finished with three rushing touchdowns for the Eagles. As a team, Eastern Michigan rushed for 221 yards and five touchdowns.

The successful start came after Eastern Michigan signed coach Chris Creighton to a contract extension through the 2025 season.

Creighton has won each of his past three meetings with Big Ten opponents.

“I can’t compare Wisconsin to playing Rutgers in 2017 or Purdue in 2018 or Illinois in 2019,” all Eastern Michigan wins, Creighton said, according to the Detroit News. “All of the scenarios, situations and programs, all of those things are different. This is the best football team that I’ll ever coach against in my entire life, and certainly in these last eight years at Eastern Michigan, these guys are phenomenal.

“(The Badgers have) been great for over a decade. I thought they outplayed Penn State, didn’t win the game and had some situations that they wished they could have back I’m sure, but when you look at the totality of the game, I thought that they were the better team.”

–Field Level Media

Dec 19, 2020; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Sean Clifford (14) warms up on the sideline during the fourth quarter against the Illinois Fighting Illini at Beaver Stadium. Penn State defeated Illinois 56-21. Mandatory Credit: Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

No. 19 Penn State tries to win fifth straight vs. No. 12 Wisconsin

No. 19 Penn State aims to continue its recent dominance of No. 12 Wisconsin when the two Big Ten powers open the season on Saturday at Madison, Wis.

The Nittany Lions have won four straight meetings and six of the past seven. The Badgers last prevailed in 2011 when they rolled to a 45-7 home victory.

Neither team wants to open the campaign with a conference loss, especially with excitement high following the shortened 2020 season due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In fact, Penn State coach James Franklin sees this season as a night-and-day difference from 2020.

“It’s hard for me not to compare everything to last year just because that’s the most recent thing we’ve gone through, so comparing it to last year, it’s not even close,” Franklin recently told reporters. “Having spring ball, having all the summer walkthroughs, I think we’re in a good place.”

The Nittany Lions brought in Mike Yurcich to pump up on the offense after he spent last season as offensive coordinator at Texas.

One of Yurcich’s main orders of business is getting quarterback Sean Clifford to take a major step forward in his third season as a starter.

Clifford passed for 1,883 yards and 16 touchdowns against nine interceptions last season when Penn State went 4-5.

“Any quarterback that has his demeanor and attitude and willingness to learn and understands every day that there’s something more to attain, his ceiling is very high,” Yurcich told reporters. “I think he can get a lot better. … He’s a tremendous leader. Sean’s all about helping this team win.”

Clifford has a top-rate receiver in Jahan Dotson, who caught 52 passes for 884 yards and eight touchdowns last season. Clifford also averaged 24.6 yards on eight punt returns, returning one for a score.

The Nittany Lions feature a trio of solid defensive players in linebackers Ellis Brooks (team-leading 60 tackles in 2020) and Jesse Luketa (59 tackles) and safety Jaquan Brisker (57 tackles).

The Badgers went 4-3 last season and are hoping to see improved play from quarterback Graham Mertz, who passed for 1,238 yards, nine touchdowns and five interceptions.

Mertz had a memorable college debut when he tossed five touchdown passes against Illinois. But he had just four over the final six games.

“First off, going back to last year, it was definitely one of those years that you learn from and you grow from,” Mertz told reporters. “And for me, I always set the bar really high for myself. And I know what we want to do here is something that’s never been done. And I know the whole team is on that same wave.”

Tight end Jake Ferguson is back after leading the Badgers with 30 receptions for 305 yards and four touchdowns last season. He has 10 career scoring receptions.

The Wisconsin defense is led by inside linebacker Jack Sanborn, who has led the team in tackles in each of the past two seasons. He had 80 stops in 2019 and 52 in last season’s seven-game slate.

“On the field, in meetings or workouts, he’s a tremendous example,” Badgers coach Paul Chryst told reporters. “You point to how you want to approach it, he’s got that. He brings an energy along with it. He’s doing it in his style. There’s no question that he’s one of our leaders.”

–Field Level Media

Dec 19, 2020; Madison, Wisconsin, USA; DUPLICATE***Wisconsin Badgers quarterback Graham Mertz (5)is sacked by the  Minnesota Golden Gophers defense during the first  half at Camp Randall Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

Groshek powers Badgers past Gophers in OT

Collin Larsh kicked a 30-yard field goal in overtime Saturday as Wisconsin won for the first time since Nov. 14, squeaking by Minnesota, 20-17, in Madison, Wis.

The Golden Gophers (3-4) had a chance to take the lead in overtime, but a first down sack forced them to try a field goal. Anders Gelecinskyj missed from 36 yards, and the Badgers (3-3) were able to get close enough for Larsh to win it.

Garrett Groshek led Wisconsin’s offense with 154 yards rushing and a touchdown on 24 carries. Quarterback Graham Mertz completed 12 of 20 passes for 132 yards before leaving the game late in the third quarter after taking a helmet-to-helmet hit at the end of a 6-yard run. Backup Chase Wolf came in and fired a 4-yard touchdown pass to Jack Dunn.

Minnesota forced overtime when Tanner Morgan hit Mike Brown-Stephens with a 9-yard touchdown pass with 4:40 left in regulation. It was the first career touchdown for Brown-Stephens.

Morgan finished the day 13 of 25 for 160 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Big Ten Conference running back of the year Mohamed Ibrahim rushed 26 times for 151 yards, allowing him to finish the Gophers’ seven-game season with 1,076 yards.

Minnesota initiated scoring with 2:04 left in the first quarter when Morgan found Cam Wiley for a 16-yard touchdown pass. Ibrahim set it up with a 27-yard run, three plays after the Gophers’ defense got a three-and-out and forced a punt from the Wisconsin 4.

But the Badgers found traction on offense on their next possession. Mertz moved the chains with a couple of passes, setting the stage for Groshek to burst 39 yards up the middle for the tying score just 43 seconds into the second quarter.

Minnesota missed on a golden chance to go ahead on its next possession, with Morgan tossing an interception to Eric Burrell in the end zone. Neither team got close to scoring over the half’s remainder, and they went to intermission tied at 7.

–Field Level Media

Oct 30, 2020; College Park, Maryland, USA;   Minnesota Golden Gophers running back Mohamed Ibrahim (24) reacts after scoring a touchdown during the second quarter against the Maryland Terrapins at Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota, Wisconsin set to battle for ‘Paul Bunyan’s Axe’

Rushing for 1,000 yards is the mark of a top running back.

That Minnesota’s Mohamed Ibrahim is in position to do it in 2020, when the Golden Gophers will play just their seventh game of the year Saturday at Wisconsin, speaks to how brilliant he’s been week after week.

The Big Ten Conference Running Back of the Year enters needing only 75 yards to reach four figures. He leads the league in rushing attempts (175), yards (925), touchdowns (15), rushing yards per game (154.2) and all-purpose yards (1,028).

What’s more, Ibrahim is the focus of every defense with the departure of wide receiver Rashod Bateman, who opted out of the season’s remainder before last week’s 24-17 win at Nebraska to prepare for his NFL future.

But the Cornhuskers couldn’t keep Ibrahim from rattling off 108 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries, including key runs down the stretch to salt away an unlikely win. Minnesota (3-3) was without a whopping 33 players because of injuries or COVID-19 protocol.

Little wonder that coach P.J. Fleck’s first comments after the victory were to thank his university’s medical team.

“We had a lot of challenges on our football team this week,” he said. “We haven’t played in 22 days, everyone. It’s a very difficult thing to do in 2020 with the ghost in the room. I don’t think people realize how truly hard this is.”

While the Gophers returned from a lengthy break with a win, a long layoff appears to have hampered the Badgers’ season. Coronavirus hammered the roster after a season-opening 45-7 rout of Illinois, sidelining quarterback Graham Mertz and coach Paul Chryst, among others.

Wisconsin returned three weeks later with a blowout win at Michigan, but hasn’t won since. In fact, the Badgers fell to 2-3 last week with a 28-7 defeat at Iowa, their third straight game in which they failed to crack double figures offensively.

“We had our chances, but you have to be opportunistic when you get those chances, and we weren’t,” Chryst said. “Every time you compete, there’s lessons to be learned. We have to get better and finish this thing out the right way.”

The teams were scheduled to play on Nov. 28 but had to postpone because COVID-19 was ripping through Minnesota’s program. This will be the 130th game in a series that dates back to 1890. Wisconsin holds a 61-60-8 edge, winning last year 38-17 in snowy Minneapolis to capture the Big Ten West title.

–Field Level Media

Dec 12, 2020; Iowa City, Iowa, USA; Iowa Hawkeyes place kicker Keith Duncan (3) kicks a field goal as punter Ryan Gersonde (2) holds during the first quarter against the Wisconsin Badgers at Kinnick Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

No. 16 Iowa tops Wisconsin to extend win streak

Ihmir Smith-Marsette had seven receptions for a career-high 140 yards and two second-half touchdowns to help No. 16 Iowa increase its winning streak to six games with a 28-7 victory over visiting Wisconsin on Saturday at Iowa City.

Iowa quarterback Spencer Petras was 14 of 25 for 211 yards and two TDs, while Tyler Goodson had 80 of his 106 yards came on a late scoring run for the Hawkeyes (6-2, 6-2 Big Ten).

Iowa has not lost since falling to both Purdue and Northwestern to open the season by a combined five points. Iowa held short-handed Wisconsin to 225 total yards while snapping a four-game slide between the rivals, while defeating the Badgers at home for the first time since 2008.

The Badgers (2-3, 2-3), minus leading rusher Jalen Berger and key receivers Kendrick Pryor and Danny Davis, have scored 20 total points during a three-game losing streak. Wisconsin’s Graham Mertz was 20 of 38 for 169 yards with an interception.

The teams combined for 178 total yards – 66 from Wisconsin — and 13 punts in the first half, with Iowa leading 6-0 at the break. Each showed some life out of the gate in the second half.

The Badgers marched to the Hawkeyes’ 29-yard line on their first drive of the third quarter, but Collin Larsh’s 47-yard field-goal attempt came up short.

Iowa took over possession and Petras connected with Brandon Smith for a 14-yard pass play and then hit Smith-Marsette for a 38-yard reception. On third-and-10, Petras found Smith-Marsette in the corner of the end zone from 19 yards with 8:49 left in the third.

Wisconsin, though, took advantage of a muffed punt by Iowa’s Charlie Jones muffed punt, recovering it at the Hawkeyes’ 25. Three plays later, Nakia Watson scored the Badgers’ first touchdown in 10 quarters from 1-yard out to make it 14-7 with 5:42 to play in the third quarter.

Iowa found some breathing room when Petras and Smith-Marsette hooked up on a 53-yard TD for a 21-7 lead with 1:23 remaining in the third quarter, on a score that concluded with the receiver doing a flip into the end zone. Smith-Marsette apparently injured his ankle on the play and did not return.

Goodson broke free for the long insurance touchdown run for the Hawkeyes after Mertz was intercepted in the end zone on Wisconsin’s prior drive.

Keith Duncan’s 30-yard field goal opened the scoring for Iowa with 7:12 to play in the first quarter. Duncan then hit from 45-yard field-goal, banking it in off the upright, with one second left in the first half.

–Field Level Media