Emerging star redshirt freshman quarterback Graham Mertz, who executed a jaw-dropping performance during the University of Wisconsin football team’s 45–7 victory over Illinois, tested positive for COVID-19 over the weekend.
Mertz reportedly received one positive test Saturday but will undergo an additional polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test to confirm the diagnosis, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. It is currently unclear whether the university is aware of the testing results, but the Badgers are at high risk of losing the freshman record-breaker for significant time if he receives a positive test a second time.
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During the season opener, Mertz ignited the then-No. 14 Wisconsin offense. Placed in the starting lineup for the first time in his collegiate career, he tied school records for touchdown passes in a game (five) and consecutive completions in a game (17) and broke the school record for completion percentage (95.23%). He earned his place amongst veteran Badgers with ease, as he went 20-for-21 through the air and finished with 248 yards.
The Big Ten Conference protocol for COVID-19 states that if an athlete tests positive through point of contact daily testing and the additional PCR testing, they are then required to sit out of practice and games for at least 21 days. Though Mertz’s PCR results are not yet determined, there is a chance that his test may be a false positive. A source confirmed to the MJS that Wisconsin has had several false positives since beginning daily antigen testing last month.
If the results to the PCR test are confirmed positive, the electric Badger offense will suffer a critical blow. Redshirt sophomore Chase Wolf appears to be Mertz’s current replacement as he took over during the final moments of the victory against Illinois, but it is questionable if any “Mertz Magic” will rub off on him as the Badgers take on Nebraska in Lincoln on Halloween.
“I felt last year I was ready to play if they needed me,” Wolf said to the MJS prior to Friday night’s matchup. “And this year I feel more confident in my abilities. The more reps you get the more learning opportunities you have.”
Head Coach Paul Chryst is scheduled to address reporters Monday morning to assess the current quarterback situation. Depending on Mertz’s PCR results, he may have to make some changes to the starting roster over the next few weeks.
If Mertz does test positive for COVID-19 again, he will miss the team’s next three games, including Saturday’s matchup against Nebraska, the Nov. 7 matchup with Purdue at Camp Randall and the highly-anticipated Nov. 14 matchup with No. 13 Michigan in Ann Arbor.