MADISON, Wis. — Cornelius Johnson caught both of Cade McNamara‘s touchdown passes and No. 14 Michigan remained unbeaten Saturday with a 38-17 victory over Wisconsin, which lost starting quarterback Graham Mertz to a chest injury.
Wisconsin (1-3, 0-2 Big Ten) trailed 13-10 and had the ball to start the third quarter when Mertz was sacked by Daxton Hill on a third-and-9 play. Mertz and tight end Jake Ferguson both went to the locker room with chest injuries after that play, and neither returned to the game.
Once Mertz and Ferguson departed, Michigan scored 25 straight points to put the game out of reach.
“It didn’t make a difference who was on the other side of the ball,” Michigan linebacker David Ojabo said. “It was just a relentless effort.”
The Wolverines (5-0, 2-0) won at Madison for the first time since 2001 by shutting down Wisconsin’s rushing attack, something Michigan had failed to do the last couple of seasons. Michigan had lost in each of its last five trips to Camp Randall Stadium.
Wisconsin beat Michigan 35-14 in 2019 and 49-11 in 2020 while rushing for over 340 yards in each of those games. Michigan limited the Badgers to 43 yards on 32 carries Saturday.
“There’s things we’ve got to get better at to give ourselves a chance,” Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst said. “We’re going to keep working on that. We’ll get it straight. How do you respond? You respond by going forward.”
Mertz was 8 of 15 for 115 yards with a touchdown pass to Chimere Dike before getting hurt. Chase Wolf replaced Mertz and went 3 of 8 for 52 yards with an interception and a touchdown pass to Clay Cufiff.
Michigan led 10-0 and outgained Wisconsin 122-minus-2 for the first 20-plus minutes of the game as the Badgers failed to complete a pass or get a first down on any of their first four possessions.
The Wolverines opened the scoring on a flea flicker that resulted in McNamara’s 34-yard touchdown pass to Johnson. McNamara and Johnson connected again on a 13-yard score in the fourth quarter.
Wisconsin got back in the game by scoring on its last two possessions of the first half. Mertz connected with Dike on a 36-yard completion and an 18-yard touchdown on consecutive plays to get Michigan’s lead down to 13-10 with seven seconds left in the first half.
But once Mertz went down, the Badgers never threatened again.
Wisconsin honored former coach and athletic director Barry Alvarez during a halftime ceremony. Alvarez stepped down as coach in 2005 and retired as athletic director earlier this year.
Chancellor Rebecca Blank announced Friday that Camp Randall Stadium’s playing field will be named after Alvarez. The change takes effect next season, making the playing field “Barry Alvarez Field at Camp Randall Stadium.”
U.S. Ryder Cup caption and Madison native Steve Stricker was recognized during a first-quarter timeout. The U.S. team won back the Ryder Cup with a 19-9 rout of Europe at Whistling Straits, located just outside Sheboygan, Wisconsin.
Michigan: The Wolverines had run the ball on 74% of their snaps this season heading into Saturday, but they changed their strategy against a Wisconsin run defense that ranked first in the nation. McNamara hadn’t thrown more than 16 passes in any of Michigan’s first four games. . The Wolverines showed plenty of boldness in fourth-and-short situations. They went 3 of 5 on fourth-down conversions, including McCarthy’s touchdown run.
Wisconsin: After being ranked 12th to start the season, the Badgers have dropped three of four games and now must worry about how soon they’ll get Mertz or Ferguson back. Wisconsin has lost seven of its last 13 games and has dropped eight straight to ranked teams. Mertz’s injury came just as he showed signs of bouncing back from his four-interception performance last week in a 41-13 loss to Notre Dame. . The Badgers played without usual starting center Joe Tippmann, who was poked in the eye during pregame warmups.
Michigan: At Nebraska on Saturday.
Wisconsin: At Illinois on Saturday.