The University of Wisconsin football team entered the locker room at halftime up 17-0 over Illinois State in Saturday’s season opener at Camp Randall Stadium.
The Redbirds controlled the ball for 19 minutes, 8 seconds in the opening half. Here are three observations from the first half.
History-making two quarters
UW fans witnessed some spectacular snaps during the first half that included two 90-yard plus touchdown plays. Both masked some sloppy play on both sides of the ball.
Fifth-year senior John Torchio perfectly read Illinois State quarterback Zack Annexstad on a third-and-7 from the UW 9, picking off a pass at the goal line and taking it 100 yards to the south end zone to nullify the Redbirds’ scoring opportunity. . Vito Calvaruso’s extra point made it 7-0. Reserve cornerback Max Lofy and starting safety Hunter Wohler both made blocks down the field to help spring Torchio.
People are also reading…
Torchio broke Joe Ferguson’s record set five years ago. Ferguson, one of the grandsons of Barry Alvarez, returned an interception 99 yards for a touchdown against Utah State on Sept. 1, 2017.
Braelon Allen took a handoff after a holding call by redshirt freshman right tackle Riley Mahlman and scampered 96 yards for a touchdown. That eclipsed James White’s 93-yard touchdown run against Indiana on Nov. 16, 2013.
Allen finished the first half with 116 yards on seven carries and a touchdown.
Some mental errors early
Wisconsin led by three scores at halftime, but there were some early lapses in all three phases. The team committed five penalties in the first half – two each on defense and special teams, and one on offense.
The two on defense led to Illinois State first downs. Keeanu Benton’s roughing the passer penalty on a third-and-5 negated a Cedrick Dort Jr. pass breakup to give the Redbirds a fresh set of downs. The same drive saw UW hold Illinois State on a third-and-22, but a personal foul penalty against Wohler allowed Brock Spack’s team to continue its series.
Officials called two holding penalties on starting cornerback Jay Shaw on punt returns to push back the UW offense.
UW’s defense allowed 149 yards in the first half, but 61 of those came from two big passing plays in the second quarter.
Mertz looked sharp early
The productivity at quarterback will be watched by many this season with the evolution of UW’s offense, and QB1 looked more than solid in the first two quarters.
Fourth-year junior Graham Mertz finished 6 of 7 for only 59 yards, but all of his throws were on target. The lone incompletion came on his first attempt of the game, a third-down throw downfield and on the money that redshirt freshman wide receiver Markus Allen dropped.
Mertz did not lose confidence in his second-year wideout, however, hitting him three times for 34 yards later in the half.