The Jim Leonhard era at Wisconsin is off to a 1-0 start after the Badgers drubbed the Northwestern Wildcats 42-7 on Saturday afternoon. The offense was explosive, the defense was dominant, and the Badgers got a much needed victory in Big Ten play on the road.
After a tough week following the dismissal of head coach Paul Chryst, the Badgers looked poised and looked like a much different group than we've seen this season.
Graham Mertz had a career day, completing 20 of 29 passes for 299 yards and five touchdowns. His progress as a quarterback had stalled over the last few years but he had a breakout statistical performance against Northwestern, throwing for the most TDs on the road in program history.
Mertz's top target was Chimere Dike, who also had a career day, catching 10 passes for 185 yards and three touchdowns.
Braelon Allen was back to his running ways, carrying the ball 23 times for 135 yards this week after getting just six rushes last week against Illinois. He also had a passing touchdown from the Wildcat formation, finding a wide open Chez Mellusi for a 23 yard touchdown pass. On the whole, the Badgers gained 515 yards of total offense.
The Badgers defense forced three turnovers, including two interceptions from Kamo'i Latu off Northwestern quarterback Ryan Hilinski. Northwestern was just 3 of 13 on 3rd down conversion attempts while Wisconsin converted 10 of 14 third downs.
A game like this is exactly what Wisconsin needed. They got back to their identity in being successful running the ball, but they also opened up the playbook and had a lot of success through the air, which is a great development. They'll be looking to build some momentum off this win and continue it next week when they go on the road again to face Michigan State.