Wisconsin will look to build on an emotional first victory under interim coach Jim Leonhard when the Badgers travel to East Lansing, Mich., to face Michigan State on Saturday in a matchup of Big Ten teams looking to salvage their season.
Wisconsin (3-3, 1-2) is coming off a 42-7 road victory over Northwestern in its first game under Leonhard, who was promoted from defensive coordinator after head coach Paul Chryst was fired following the Badgers’ 34-10 home loss to Illinois the previous week.
Michigan State (2-4 ,0-3) was routed at home by then-No. 3 Ohio State 49-20, the Spartans’ fourth consecutive loss.
Wisconsin quarterback Graham Mertz threw five touchdown passes against Northwestern, including three to Chimere Dike. Mertz completed 20 of 29 passes for 299 yards without an interception. He has thrown four of his five picks this season in Wisconsin’s three losses.
Braelon Allen, held to 2 yards on eight carries in the loss to Illinois, bounced back for 135 yards on 23 attempts vs. Northwestern. He also threw a 23-yard scoring pass. Allen is averaging 6.1 yards per carry this season.
The Badgers outgained Northwestern 515-342 and were 10 of 14 on third-down conversions.
“I was extremely proud of the ways guys responded, and to go get a victory like that was a lot of fun,” Leonhard said. “We know there’s big challenges ahead, and we need to turn the page fast.”
Michigan State, ranked 11th after opening with two wins, was torched by Buckeyes quarterback C.J. Stroud, who threw six touchdown passes. Ohio State totaled 614 yards while holding the Spartans to 202, including just 7 on the ground.
“We did do some good things in the game but not enough,” Michigan State coach Mel Tucker said. “We have to be able to — offense, defense and special teams — we need to be able to string several good plays, several positive plays together in a row to be able to be successful. And that’s what we haven’t been able to do on a consistent basis.”
Spartans quarterback Payton Thorne is averaging 206 yards passing per game this season but has thrown seven interceptions vs. nine touchdowns.
Wisconsin is traveling to Michigan State for the first time since 2016, when the Badgers won 30-6. In the most recent meeting, Wisconsin rolled to a 38-0 victory at home in 2019.
–Field Level Media