MADISON, Wis. - Braelon Allen had a 96-yard touchdown scamper for the longest run from scrimmage in Wisconsin history and John Torchio had the school's longest interception return as the 18th-ranked Badgers opened their season with a 38-0 rout of Illinois State on Saturday night.
Torchio opened the scoring with a 100-yard interception return late in the first quarter.
Wisconsin's longest run from scrimmage before Allen's was James White’s 93-yard burst in a 51-3 triumph over Indiana in 2013. Torchio broke the record previously held by Joe Ferguson, who scored on a 99-yard interception return in a 59-10 victory over Utah State in 2017.
Allen ended up with 148 yards and two touchdowns – including a 1-yard score on fourth-and-goal in the third quarter – on 14 carries.
Wisconsin had one other big play aside from the two record-setting touchdowns.
Chimere Dike caught a pass around the line of scrimmage and turned it into a 74-yard gain, the longest completion of third-year starter Graham Mertz’s career. Mertz found Dike all alone in the left corner of the end zone three plays later for a 16-yard touchdown that extended Wisconsin’s lead to 31-0 late in the third quarter.
Illinois State was facing a Big Ten team for the first time since 2016, when the Football Championship Subdivision program won 9-7 at Northwestern on a field goal as time expired.
But the Badgers took the suspense out of this one early. Illinois State lost its main weapon on offense when running back Cole Mueller was carted off the field on the Redbirds’ second series. Mueller rushed for a team-high 977 yards last season.
The Redbirds did make things interesting for a little while, though.
Illinois State outgained Wisconsin 78-6 and possessed the ball for over 13 ½ minutes in the first quarter but still trailed 7-0 because of Torchio's takeaway.
The Redbirds faced second-and-10 from the 12 when Minnesota transfer Zack Annexstad attempted to throw across the middle to tight end Tanner Taula, who was standing around the goal line.
Torchio picked off the pass, headed to his right and capitalized on downfield blocks from teammates Max Lofy and Hunter Wohler to make it to the other end zone.
The Badgers produced their next record-setting play 90 seconds into the second quarter.
Wisconsin was facing first-and-14 at its own 4 when Allen took a handoff and looked for running room. Illinois State outside linebacker Zeke Vandenburgh had his hands on Allen in the backfield, but the 18-year-old sophomore broke out of his grasp and found a huge hole on the right side of the line.
Allen took off and headed down the right sideline. Cornerback Franky West tried to chase the ballcarrier down and made a diving attempt at an ankle tackle inside the 10, but Allen made it into the right corner of the end zone.
Illinois State: Annexstad went 16 of 24 for 186 yards in his Illinois State debut, but also threw two interceptions. The big concern facing Illinois State is how the Redbirds will run the ball if Mueller is out for an extended period. Mueller rushed for 21 yards on three carries before his injury. The rest of Illinois State's players combined for 36 yards on 23 carries.
Wisconsin: The most encouraging sign for the Badgers was the efficient performance of Mertz, who threw more interceptions (11) than touchdown passes (10) last season.
A victory over an FCS team likely won’t move Wisconsin up more than one or two spots.
Illinois State: Hosts Valparaiso on Saturday in the first of three straight home games.
Wisconsin: Hosts Washington State on Saturday.