Badgers QB Mertz makes anticipated debut in unanticipated way

Let the record show that quarterback Graham Mertz made his Wisconsin debut with 1:21 remaining in the third quarter in the Badgers’ second game of the 2019 season against Central Michigan.

It might not exactly be how some envisioned the start to his Wisconsin career.

The highly touted recruit – it’s not a stretch to say Mertz is the most anticipated freshman quarterback to attend Wisconsin – was viewed as a savior by some in the fan base, who were ready for Mertz to start from day one (if you don’t believe us, just check social media).

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But Jack Coan beat out Mertz in the opener and redshirt freshman Chase Wolf was called upon for mopup duty while Mertz stood on the sideline throughout.

With Coan and the Wisconsin offense lighting up the scoreboard against the Chippewas, Mertz was summoned into action late in the third. His first pass attempt was incomplete, intended for wide receiver Jack Dunn.

But Mertz connected on his next four passes – 19 yards to Aaron Cruickshank, no gain to Nakia Watson and two eight-yard strikes to Dunn. Wisconsin then relied on the running game (with one more pass attempt to John Chenal nullified due to defensive pass interference), with Garrett Groshek punching into the end zone from two yards out.

Mertz’s line: 4-of-5 passing for 32 yards. Also, and perhaps more importantly, 1-of-4. Meaning, one game off the four he can play to maintain his redshirt, which appears is the plan going forward this year.

Mertz wasn’t the only “true” freshman to suit up for Wisconsin last Saturday as tight end Clay Cundiff also participated, meaning five freshmen have played in two games thus far. Of those, only two have played in both of Wisconsin’s games.

Here’s the complete rundown of the young Badgers after two games:

“TRUE” FRESHMEN
Keeanu Benton, NT
South Florida: 2 tackles (solo), TFL
Central Michigan: Started, 1 tackle (solo), TFL

 

Clay Cundiff, TE
South Florida: Did not play
Central Michigan: Played, did not record a statistic

 

Leo Chenal, LB
South Florida: 5 tackles (3 solo)
Central Michigan: 4 tackles (4 solo)

 

Semar Melvin, CB
South Florida: 1 tackle (solo)
Central Michigan: Did not play

 

Graham Metz, QB
South Florida: Did not play
Central Michigan: 4-of-5 passing, 35 yards

 

Have not played
Peter Bowden, LS; Stephan Bracey, WR; Logan Brown, OL; Dante Caputo, S; Julius Davis, RB; Jordan DiBenedetto, WR; Quan Easterling, FB; Dean Engram, CB; Tatum Grass, LB; Rodas Johnson, DE; Jackson Kollath, LB; Spencer Lytle, LB; Cooper Nelson, QR; Maema Njongmeta, LB; Logan O’Brien, OL; Gio Paez, NT; Cam Phillips, WR; Hayden Rucci, TE; Joe Tippmann, OL; Titus Toler, LB; Blake Wilcox, K; James Williams, CB.

 

REDSHIRT FRESHMEN
A.J. Abbott, WR
South Florida: Did not play
Central Michigan: Played, did not record a statistic

 

Donte Burton, CB
South Florida: Played, did not record a statistic
Central Michigan: 1 tackle (solo)

 

Boyd Dietzen, DE
South Florida: Played, did not record a statistic
Central Michigan: Played, did not record a statistic

 

Jack Eschenbach, TE
South Florida: Played, did not record a statistic
Central Michigan: Played, did not record a statistic

 

Jaylan Franklin, OLB
South Florida: 1 tackle (solo), sack, TFL
Central Michigan: Played, did not record a statistic

 

Michael Furtney, OL
South Florida: Played, did not record a statistic
Central Michigan: Played, did not record a statistic

 

C.J. Goetz, DE
South Florida: Played, did not record a statistic
Central Michigan: Played, did not record a statistic

 

Isaiah Mullens, DE
South Florida: Played, did not record a statistic
Central Michigan: Played, did not record a statistic

 

Taj Mustapha, WR
South Florida: Did not play
Central Michigan: Played, did not record a statistic

 

Reggie Pearson, S
South Florida: Started, 1 tackle (solo), FF
Central Michigan: Started, did not record a statistic

 

Cormac Sampson, OL
South Florida: Did not play
Central Michigan: Played, did not record a statistic

 

Brady Schipper, OL
South Florida: Did not play
Central Michigan: Played, did not record a statistic

 

Alexander Smith, CB
South Florida: Played, did not record a statistic
Central Michigan: Played, did not record a statistic

 

Jack Torchio, S
South Florida: Played, did not record a statistic
Central Michigan: Played, did not record a statistic

 

Nakia Watson, RB
South Florida: 14 rush, 80 yards, TD
Central Michigan: 8 rush, 29 yards, TD; 1 catch, 0 yards

 

Chase Wolf, QB
South Florida: Played, did not record a statistic
Central Michigan: 1-for-1 passing, 2 yards


Have not played
Travian Blaylock, CB; Nate Carter, QB; Mike Gregoire, WR; Isaac Guerendo, RB; Jacob Heyroth, ILB; Andrew Lyons, OL; Conor Schlichting, P; Marty Strey, OLB.

 

“TRUE” SOPHOMORES

John Chenal, FB
South Florida: 1 rush, 2 yards; 1 catch, 12 yards; 1 tackle (solo), FF
Central Michigan: 3 rush, 11 yards; 1 catch, 2 yards

 

Aron Cruickshank, WR
South Florida: 1 kick return, 23 yards
Central Michigan: 1 catch, 19 yards; 2 punt returns, 14 yards

 

Jack Sanborn, LB
South Florida: 5 tackles (2 solo)
Central Michigan: 1 tackle, INT, QBH

 

Rachad Wildgoose, CB
South Florida: 2 tackles (solo)
Central Michigan: Played, did not record a statistic

 

Bryson Williams, NT
South Florida: 1 tackle (solo)
Central Michigan: Did not play

 

Dave Heller is the author of Ken Williams: A Slugger in Ruth’s Shadow (a Larry Ritter Book Award nominee), Facing Ted Williams – Players From the Golden Age of Baseball Recall the Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived and As Good As It Got: The 1944 St. Louis Brown