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Indiana 14, Wisconsin 6: UW’s offense struggles for most of the day, particularly in the red zone

MADISON, Wis. -- The University of Wisconsin football team’s offense looked at times like visiting Indiana had cracked the code to slowing down the No. 18 Badgers.

Turns out, the No. 10 Hoosiers did.

UW redshirt freshman quarterback Graham Mertz said after the team’s 14-6 loss at Camp Randall Stadium that Indiana had deciphered the Badgers’ calls, meaning the Hoosiers knew when certain plays were coming.

“We had a couple of calls that were … we got our signal and then we heard, ‘Outside zone!’” Mertz said. “When that happens a little bit, you’ve got to play the game. It’s a chess match. You’ve got to go to the sideline, you’ve got to go get your calls.”

From midway through the first quarter on, Mertz would come to the sideline between each play. He’d confer with his reserves — which included senior Jack Coan, who suited up for the first time this season after recovering from a preseason foot injury that required surgery — before returning to the huddle to relay the play call.

Mertz spoke to reporters after UW coach Paul Chryst on Saturday, so it’s unclear whether the Hoosiers apparently having the Badgers’ signals affected what plays were called or how the offense functioned.

“Obviously it’s different,” Mertz said of the system, “but it had to be done tonight.”

UW tallied 342 total yards, 202 of which came from Mertz and the passing game. But it failed to score touchdowns on two red zone drives and scored a season-low six points despite having seven possessions end in Indiana territory.

UW may host one more game when Big Ten Conference teams compete in divisional crossover games on Dec. 19, but the schedule for that weekend has not yet been determined.

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Associated Press

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