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Wisconsin football: Graham Mertz wins two Big Ten player of the week awards

The freshman standout set multiple school records in his first career start.

Syndication: Journal Sentinel Mark Hoffman / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel via Imagn Content Services, LLC

On Monday morning the Big Ten Conference, predictably, announced that Wisconsin Badgers quarterback Graham Mertz won Big Ten Freshman of the Week and Big Ten Co-Offensive Player of the Week for his impressive performance against the Illinois Fighting Illini on Friday evening.

Mertz set or tied multiple records in his first career start, including the school record for single-game completion percentage (.952), while tying the school marks with five touchdown passes and 17 consecutive completions (shouts to Tanner McEvoy for sharing this honor with him).

In the drubbing of Illinois, Mertz was 20-of-21 for 248 yards, completing three of his five touchdowns to TE Jake Ferguson. He was also the first Wisconsin freshman to start a season opener at quarterback since 1978.

These are obviously Mertz’s first B1G weekly awards and they are Wisconsin’s first B1G weekly awards since Jonathan Taylor won Offensive Player of the Week on Nov. 18, 2019 and when Taylor won Freshman Player of the Week on Nov. 27, 2017.

On Sunday night, news broke that Mertz tested positive for COVID-19 over the weekend and he is now awaiting the results of a PCR nasal swab test which will confirm the first test’s positive or not. If the second test is positive, Mertz will be forced, by conference protocols, to sit out 21 days which means he would miss games against Nebraska, Michigan and Purdue.

Purdue WR David Bell, who shared the Offensive Player of the Week award with Mertz, recorded 13 catches for 121 yards and three scores in the Boilermakers’ win over Iowa on Saturday. Indiana S Jamar Johnson and Rutgers LB Olakunle Fatukasi shared the Defensive Player of the Week award while Northwestern K Charlie Kuhbander won the Special Teams Player of the Week award.