The No. 10 Wisconsin Badgers (2-1) faltered in Evanston, losing 17-7, to No. 19 Northwestern (5-0). For the first time in the 2020 season, the Wisconsin offense was challenged, and they struggled to exert their will on their opposition.
Wisconsin, who had turned the ball over just once in the first two games of the season, turned the ball over four times in the first half alone against Northwestern. Three of those turnovers belonged to quarterback Graham Mertz (one fumble, two interceptions). However, the Wisconsin defense remained a point of strength, despite multiple suspect penalties and calls by the officiating crew.
On Northwestern’s opening drive, Wisconsin was called for two separate defensive pass interference penalties in the end zone. The first came on a Peyton Ramsey pass into the end zone where his intended receiver, John Raine, fell down with Scott Nelson on coverage.
Following an incompletion to Raine on third and goal, Wisconsin looked as though it would be holding Northwestern to a field goal attempt, but once again Wisconsin was penalized for pass interference giving Northwestern a fresh set of downs. Following the incompletion the referee, who penalized Rachad Wildgoose took a moment to throw the flag. A play later, Ramsey completed a two-yard touchdown pass to Charlie Mangieri.
Following a Garrett Groshek fumble, Wisconsin forced a fumble on a first-and-goal run by Isaiah Bowser, following a Riley Lees completion to Ramaud Chiaokiao-Bowman on a reverse, which setup Northwester at the Wisconsin one-yard line. The fumble was recovered by Spencer Lytle in the end zone for a touchback.
Following the turnover, Wisconsin did just as it has the previous two games and turned the opposition’s opening turnover into points. Mertz capped off the six-play, 80-yard drive with a 49-yard touchdown pass to Chimere Dike.
The Wisconsin defense held its own, forcing a missed field goal and a punt, following Wisconsin’s next two turnovers.
However, with the first half coming to an end, Ramsey led Northwestern on a seven-play, 72-yard scoring drive, following Mertz’s second interception of the game. The drive was aided by a pass that was originally ruled incomplete and overturned as complete, following a review.
Ramsey closed the drive, with a 25-yard touchdown pass to Chiaokiao-Bowman.
Wisconsin had a chance to get back on the board, following a combined nine drives ending in punts in the third quarter, but Wisconsin opted to go for it on fourth-and-6 and ended up turning the ball over on downs, as Mertz was sacked.
Northwestern then extended its lead to double digits, on a Charlie Kuhbander, 32-yard field goal. Making the score 17-7, which was where the game ended.