Wisconsin let Illinois come back from a 13-point deficit in the second half of their loss to the Illini last season.

The Badgers would have no part of that in 2020, securing revenge on the Illini with a 45-7 thrashing on Friday in the opening Big Ten football game of the season.

A big part of that was attributed to a nearly perfect effort from redshirt freshman quarterback Graham Mertz. Mertz tied a school record with 17-straight completed passes, and became the first Wisconsin freshman to start their season opener since 1978. He finished the game completing 20-of-21 passes for 248 yards, with five touchdowns.

Mertz gave a clear image of why he was considered the No. 3 in 24/7′ Sport’s Composite Rankings for pro-style quarterback in the 2019 recruiting class.

While talking to the Big Ten Network, former Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer credited Mertz’s poise during Friday’s game, recalling meeting him while in the recruiting process.

“His poise. His pocket presence,” Meyer said of Mertz’s best qualities. “I know he was an excellent thrower, he came from a really good high school coach and high school program. I was there in the school, talked to him, and you just felt something about this guy. When you recruit people from really good programs, the chance of playing early is much greater. When you recruit someone that’s quite honestly from a bad program, it takes a year and a half just to get them to understand the value of hard work and the value of being on time and committing to something.

“But Graham Mertz, I felt when I was with him and his high school coach, and Ryan Day was with me, there was something about this guy. We had him, he was ranked but wasn’t that highly ranked, when we left and said that’s one of the best quarterbacks of this class. And his presence, his skillset obviously is really good, but his presence for a young player was really good.”