It was a close game for three quarters. Then the wheels fell off for Graham Mertz and the Badgers.
Out to another sluggish start offensively, the Badgers were not able to run the ball effectively, and Mertz continued to struggle. They were given a short field on their first possession, but were only able to muster a field goal to take an early 3-0 lead over the Fighting Irish.
With the Badgers trying to drive down the field, Mertz threw his first interception of the day to Cam Hart, which led to a Notre Dame touchdown five plays later to give the Irish a 10-3 lead over the Badgers and it would stay that way until the half.
After trading punts to begin the second half, Mertz finally threw his first touchdown pass of the season, a 7 yard pass to Kendric Pryor, and his first touchdown since November 21st of last year. That tied the game up at 10. The Badgers defense was once again excellent, and they forced a fumble from Notre Dame, putting the offense in prime position to take the lead. Mertz couldn't get into the endzone again and they settled for a Collin Larsh field goal to take a 13-10 lead early in the fourth quarter.
Then everything went downhill.
On the ensuing kickoff after the Badgers field goal, Notre Dame returned it 98 yards to the house to take a 17-13 lead. On the following drive, Mertz was strip-sacked and Notre Dame recovered, scoring a touchdown six plays later. Notre Dame took a 24-13 lead and the game felt out of hand there.
Mertz then fired off three interceptions in a span of nine plays from scrimmage. One led to a Notre Dame field goal, and the other two were returned for touchdowns by the Notre Dame defense. Mertz had five turnovers on the day; four interceptions, two that went for touchdowns, and a lost fumble. Notre Dame scored 27 points off Badgers turnovers. Their margin of victory was 28 points.
Mertz finished the game completing just 18 of 41 pass attempts for 240 yards, one touchdown, and four picks. Chez Mellusi was the Badgers leading rusher with just 54 yards on 18 carries.
Both teams were about even in first downs, passing yards, and time of possession. The Badgers outrushed Notre Dame 78-3. That's right, the Badgers defense allowed just three rushing yards from Notre Dame all game. But the Badgers were just 1-14 on third down conversions, and all those turnovers they gave up made the difference.
Jack Coan, the former Badger, left the game in the middle of the third quarter with an injury and did not return and Notre Dame backup QB Drew Pyne was 6 of 8 throwing for 81 yards and a TD.
The Badgers fall to 1-2 on the season and are back at Camp Randall next week against Michigan.