In a game that had major implications in the Big Ten West standings, the No. 10 Wisconsin Badgers dropped a 17–7 slugfest Saturday against No. 19 Northwestern.

The Badgers entered the game shorthanded without starting receivers Danny Davis and Kendric Pryor. The absence of the receiver combination played a huge part in Wisconsin’s struggle on offense, as the Badgers could only muster 230 passing yards.

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Redshirt freshman Graham Mertz faced his toughest game in his first year as the Badgers’ starting quarterback, facing off against a Wildcat defense that only allowed 14 points per game entering Saturday’s game. Mertz, along with the Badgers’ offense, struggled mightily as the Badgers turned the ball over five times, including three interceptions and a fumble from Mertz.

Coupled with stellar play from the defense, Northwestern quarterback Peyton Ramsey managed the game well for the Wildcats. Ramsey, a senior from Cincinnati, Ohio, went 23-for-44 through the air for 203 yards and two touchdowns.

Another bright spot for Northwestern’s offense was senior receiver Ramaud Chiaokhiao-Bowman. Chiaokhiao-Bowman excelled throughout the game at making contested catches, and his 25-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter put the Wildcats ahead for good. Chiaokhiao-Bowman’s touchdown was his fourth in the last two games.

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While Wisconsin’s offense struggled, one bright spot for the Badgers was true freshman running back Jalen Berger. Similar to last week’s game against Michigan, Berger was able to effectively find holes in Northwestern’s defense, rushing for 93 yards on 15 carries. Though the Badgers dropped today’s game, look for Berger to be a focal point in Wisconsin’s offense for years to come.

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Saturday’s win puts the Wildcats in the driver’s seat in the Big Ten West as Northwestern moved to an unblemished 5-0 record following their victory against Wisconsin. The Wildcats have a favorable next three games against Michigan State, Minnesota and Illinois, who have a combined record of 4-9. The Wildcats would have to lose two of their final three games for the Badgers to have any chance of returning to the Big Ten Championship game.

The Badgers have no time to sulk after their disappointing loss. Next Saturday marks Axe Week as Wisconsin welcomes arch-rival Minnesota to Camp Randall Saturday.