MADISON — The No. 18 Wisconsin Badgers (1-0, 0-0 conference) opened the 2022 season, 38-0 over the Illinois State Red Birds (0-1, 0-0 conference).
Wisconsin’s first two scores of the game set school records, first with John Torchio returning an interception, 100 yards for a score, ending a 15-play, 71-yard, Illinois State drive.
The score came at the perfect time for Wisconsin, as not only did it thwart an Illinois State potential scoring drive, but it also shifted the tide in the game, as Wisconsin had been beating itself, up that point.
Wisconsin’s only offensive drive was a three-and-out and the Wisconsin defense had failed to get off the field, allowing back-to-back third down conversions and had allowed automatic first downs by penalty, on back-to-back third-and-long situations earlier in the Red Birds drive.
Penalties remained an issue for Wisconsin, for the remainder of the first half, committing five penalties for 51 yards. Wisconsin was not penalized once in the second half.
Later in the second quarter, Braelon Allen set a new school record with a 96-yard touchdown run.
Allen finished the game with 14 carries for 148 yards and later added his second score of the night, a 1-yard touchdown on fourth-and-goal.
Wisconsin was 2-2 on fourth down conversions in the game.
Apart from Allen, the Wisconsin offense was paced by Graham Mertz, who turned in his best peformance since the 2020 season opener.
Mertz’s first pass of the game was dropped by Markus Allen and Mertz then completed 14-straight passes, including a 74-yard completion to Chimere Dike to open a third quarter drive and then later a 16-yard touchdown pass to Dike, to book-end the 4-play, 93-yard scoring drive.
Mertz finished the game 14-16, 219 yards and the touchdown pass to Dike.
Wisconsin later added a touchdowm from Isaac Guerendo, his first since his 82-yard touchdown run against Eastern Michigan, last season.
Wisconsin hosts Washington State, next Saturday.