Redshirt freshman quarterback Graham Mertz committed three first half turnovers and four overall as the Wisconsin Badgers (2-1) fell to the Northwestern Wildcats
(5-0) (17-7 in Evanston, Illinois on Saturday.
The Badgers, who played without injured wide receivers Danny Davis and Kendric Pryor, lost for the fifth time in the last six trips to Evanston.
The Badgers managed just one score on 17 offensive possessions and finished three for 16 on third downs, committing five turnovers for the game. UW has committed 18 turnovers in the last six meetings against the Wildcats.
Graham Mertz, who hadn’t turned the ball over in his first two games, finished 23 of 41 for 230 yards with a touchdown and three interceptions. His lone touchdown pass was a 49-yard strike to freshman Chimere Dike in the first quarter.
The Badgers finished with 136 rushing yards on 40 carries as a team. Freshman Jalen Berger led the charge with 93 yards on 15 carries.
UW’s lone score came after Nakia Watson picked up five yards on fourth and one to the Northwestern 49. Graham found Dike for the 49 yard scoring pass on the very next play.
The Wisconsin defense did all it could to keep the game close and give the offense a chance. The Badgers held the Wildcats to its season-low rushing total of just 24 yards on 23 carries for an average of 1.04 yards per carry.
The Badgers also limited Northwestern to 2-for-15 on third downs and turned the Wildcats away on three-and-outs in each of their first five series of the second half. Northwestern managed just 13 total yards in the third quarter.
It’s a huge blow to Wisconsin’s Big Ten West title chances. With Northwestern now owning the tiebreaker with the Badgers, the unbeaten Wildcats are in the drivers seat to win the Big Ten West and play in the Big Ten title game.
The Badgers are just trying to get healthy and hope to have some of their players back when they host rival Minnesota in the “Axe” game this coming Saturday (1 p.m.) at Camp Randall Stadium.
Big Ten Scoreboard
(Friday) Minnesota 34, Purdue 31
Ohio State 42, Indiana 35
Iowa 41, Penn State 21
Illinois 41, Nebraska 23