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The University of Wisconsin quarterback speaks to the media Saturday after the Badgers defeated the Illinois Fighting Illini 24-0 at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Il.

University of Wisconsin quarterback Graham Mertz finished his day 10 of 19 for an even 100 yards as the Badgers defeated the Illinois Fighting Illini 24-0 Saturday at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Il. It wasn’t spectacular or reminiscent in any way of his debut a year ago against Illinois when he was a nearly perfect 20 of 21 with five touchdowns, but it got the job done.

Most importantly, Mertz, who was knocked out in the third quarter a week ago in the loss to Michigan, got out of the game healthy. He wasn’t sacked, though he was hit four times, and he ran twice for 22 yards. Both his runs were for first downs and one extended a touchdown drive in the second quarter.

Mertz told reporters he had to wear extra protective gear under his normal pads to protect his rib injury.

“Treatment every day, numbing patches, heating packs, a bunch of stuff,” Mertz said. “I had to do a bunch of stuff to make sure I was ready to go. It was good. I feel good.”

The only real blemish was a second-quarter interception, his sixth of the season, on a ball he said he should’ve thrown to intended receiver Kendric Pryor earlier.

“There’s always things I can learn from,” Mertz said. “I’ve just got to keep building. Keep giving guys a chance to go make a play, put the ball in their hands. I’m happy that I was able to play. There was a second there where it was like, ‘Oh gosh, this could get pretty serious.’ But it was all good.”

LARSH STEPS UP

UW senior kicker Collin Larsh had to step into the kickoff specialist role against the Illini after sophomore Jack Van Dyke was ruled out. Van Dyke was dealing with a kicking-leg injury during training camp, but Badgers coach Paul Chryst didn’t answer a question regarding if Van Dyke’s absence was related to that injury.

Larsh had five kickoffs, one that went into the end zone for a touchback and the other four were fair caught inside the 5-yard line for touchbacks. The kickoffs against the Illini were Larsh’s first in his UW career, and giving the Badgers’ defense a 75-yard field to work with aided their dominant performance.

“He did a nice job,” Chryst said. “You appreciate being able to put that on him. I like what he’s done to this point with field goals, but his role needed to expand a little bit and I thought he did a good job with it.”

BORTOLINI FILLS IN FINE

Badgers senior offensive tackle Logan Bruss was working through a shoulder injury for most of the week, according to teammates, and it was determined after Friday’s work that Bruss wouldn’t be able to play against the Illini. UW’s status reports don’t give reasons as to why a player is not available, but players said it was a stinger.

Redshirt freshman Tanor Bortolini — who played in two games last season as a center and made his second career start Saturday — filled in at right tackle and helped the Badgers post 395 rushing yards.

“We had one good practice where you kind of had an idea (Bruss couldn’t play), so (Bortolini) was able to get some work at it,” Chryst said. “(Bortolini) has been working at the tackle spot quite a bit, so that certainly helped him in this situation.”

The University of Wisconsin offensive lineman speaks to the media Saturday after the Badgers defeated the Illinois Fighting Illini 24-0 at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Il.

This article originally ran on madison.com.

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