Wisconsin opened the season with a 38-0 win over Illinois State, and QB Graham Mertz played surprisingly well to start the year.
Going into the game, I predicted Mertz’s stat line would be 215 passing yards on 20/28 passing with a passing touchdown.
I begged and pleaded that he didn’t need to do anything to be a hero. He just had to be a successful game manager, and the running attack would take care of business.
Now, I’m not one to brag, but my stat line prediction was almost perfect.
The junior quarterback finished the blowout win with 219 yards on 14/16 passing and got himself a touchdown. I was off by four yards and he even outperformed my completion percentage prediction. One of his incompletions also hit a receiver square in the hands.
More than anything, Mertz didn’t make any notable mistakes.
So, did the embattled Wisconsin QB do enough to silence his doubters and haters? That’s impossible to say after one game against an at best average FCS team, but I will say he looked very different from the 2021 season.
Mertz is infamous for being skittish and scared under pressure. When he panics, he makes mistakes. Well, new OC Bobby Engram has built an offense that features plenty of release valves in the passing game.
Mertz made plenty of small check downs and short throws when there weren’t plays down the field. In years prior, he likely would have forced it downfield, and we all know how that story ends.
Instead, the physically gifted quarterback showed great patience and comfort with the offense.
So, I think it’s safe to say Mertz certainly did enough to build some confidence and have people believing in him again. Will it be enough to silence his doubters?
There’s a date on the calendar circled in red for September 24 against Ohio State. We’ll learn a lot more on that day, and I can’t wait to find out.