UW Badgers defeat Illinois Fighting Illini
MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - UW Madison’s game against Illinois Friday night marks the kick off of the Big Ten season.
Wisconsin entered the season with large goals- a Big Ten title, a Big Ten Championship and ultimately a sport in the college football playoffs. To reach those expectations, they’ll have to beat the team that ruined their chances last year- the Illini.
Ben Stevens, host of the Locked On Big Ten podcast, said the depth in the Big Ten West is intriguing this year. “You look at Wisconsin and Minnesota at the top, but Iowa will still be a factor this year,” Stevens said. “And then Nebraska, Purdue, even Illinois coming off their first bowl berth since 2014 this past season and then Northwestern."
He said the Big Ten West battle will be very interesting this year, but favored one particular team.
“But I still like the Badgers to come out on top,” he said.
There will be no fans in the stands Friday night and no band either. Joshua Richlen, a UW Marching Band member, said they are only allowed to practice in groups of 25 at the moment.
“It’s just a new way of doing things, the hope is this is the last marching season that we’ll be doing this,” UW Marching Band Director Dr. Corey Pompey said.
Another large change this year was the county COVID-19 restrictions, which meant no outdoor tailgates or large parties. Bars will be open at 25% capacity on Regent Street in downtown Madison, with both indoor and outdoor service.
UW Madison student Max Barrbau said he has been looking forward to the season opener for awhile.
“I was very upset when they took it away, and now it’s back,” he said. “Makes it that much better, I guess.”
Kickoff was at 7 p.m. Friday night and the stands at Camp Randall Stadium were practically empty, other than Bucky Boards in the first few rows of bleachers. The season opener marked the Badger’s first home game since Nov. 23, 2019 which was a win over the Purdue Boilermakers.
The Big Ten decided to not allow fans into football games, but allow the Badgers to play inside the stadium since it is considered a state entity.
Red-shirt Freshman Graham Mertz made his career start on Friday, with the first drive of the game getting capped off by Mertz. The Badgers were the first to score in the first quarter as a first drive for starting quarterback Mertz ended with a touchdown pass to fullback Mason Stokke.
With 12 minutes left in the first half, Badgers Jake Ferguson was wide open thanks to a connection from Mertz. By halftime, the Badgers lead the Illini 28-7.
In the end, the Badgers were victorious over the Fighting Illini with a score of 45-7.
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