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Monday, March 20, 2023

Badgers take Game 1 of the season, breaking school records

The Wisconsin Badger stars shined bright all Saturday night during the season opener at Camp Randall, resulting in a scoring barrage and multiple school records broken.

Wisconsin Football took the field at Camp Randall for the first time since 2021, facing Illinois State. With an ecstatic atmosphere and a sold out stadium, the Badgers clinched the win 38-0. Braelon Allen and John Torchio had two record-setting touchdowns. 

Late in the first quarter, Torchio intercepted a pass from Illinois State’s Zack Annexstad to open the score with a 100-yard touchdown. He sprinted down the right sideline, weaving his way through to the endzone with help from teammates Max Lofy and Hunter Wohler. Joe Ferguson previously held the school record with a 99-yard interception return back against Utah State in 2017. 

In the second quarter, Allen set a record for the longest run from scrimmage with a 96-yard touchdown. Waiting for the perfect opportunity, the 18 year old running back found his gap and took off to the endzone, kicking in the gears. Previously, in 2013, James White held the record with a 93-yard return against Indiana. 

Leading the team in both categories, Allen finished the game with 148 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries.

Chimere Dike was also a key player in Wisconsin’s dominant win over Illinois State. On just three receptions, Dike caught a screen pass from Graham Mertz turning it into a 74-yard gain while later catching a 16-yard pass for the touchdown. This extended the Badgers win 31-0 in the third quarter. Dike’s 74-yard reception is also Mertz’s longest completion in his three year career. The junior wide receiver led the team in receiving yards, followed by Markus Allen who totaled 34 yards with a 19-yard catch.

As the offense tore through the Red Birds’ defensive line, the Badger defense held their own — completely preventing Illinois State from scoring. 

Maema Njongmeta, a redshirt junior, emerged as a star player during his first career start for Wisconsin. The inside linebacker faced setbacks in 2020, making him unsure whether he would ever be able to return to the sport, according to a feature from 247Sports' Evan Flood. The past two seasons he faced a medical scare and a couple serious injuries, eventually requiring surgery. 

Heading into training camp in August, most did not expect to see Njongmeta’s name on the team roster. But, when the depth charts were released in late August, there he was. He told reporters it "definitely felt special. It's been a long road and there's still more to go." 

He was then announced as a starter for the season opener on Saturday. For his first career start, he had a team-high eight tackles, four of which were solo stops. Playing 38 snaps, he was also the highest-graded Badger defensive starter, according to Pro Football Focus. 

After the game, Wisconsin defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard said, “sometimes guys with little game experience, they struggle with that,” but Njongmeta, “he flew around. He was disruptive. He tackled well. Plenty of little things.”

Contributing to the Wisconsin defense were Nick Herbig and Jordan Turner, who both had four tackles including Herbig with two sacks and Torchio with one.  

Heading into Saturday’s game, the now ranked No 19. Badgers will face Washington State at home. Keeping an eye on the players mentioned above to make game-changing plays in order for Wisconsin to secure their second win. 

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The Daily Cardinal will provide live updates during Saturday’s game on @cardinal_sports, and our recap will be available online shortly after the contest. 

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