MADISON, Wis. -- Illinois head coach Lovie Smith spoke to local and statewide media following his team's 45-7 blowout loss at No. 14 Wisconsin Friday night.
Among the topics Friday night were the obvious blown coverages in the Illini secondary, the offensive meltdowns, the plan to play freshman quarterback Isaiah Williams and the overall disappointment of all three phases in this 2020 season opener.
In his first career college start, Wisconsin quarterback Graham Mertz couldn’t have felt more comfortable and less intimidated with Lovie Smith’s defense. The redshirt freshman completed his first 17 passes, tying a school record, and consistent coverage busts in the Illini secondary resulted in four first-half touchdowns with all of those scores on throws to a wide open receiver.
Illinois is now 2-11 all-time against Wisconsin teams ranked in the AP Poll and have lost to Wisconsin by a combined 94-27 in its last two meetings in Madison. No. 23 Wisconsin beat Illinois, 49-20, on Oct. 20, 2018.
Mertz, who had 248 yards passing, would finish with five touchdown passes and was the first college quarterback to post that number against a Lovie Smith defense. He was the first quarterback since 2011 when Green Bay Packers signal caller Aaron Rodgers accomplished that against Smith's Chicago Bears unit.