Wisconsin QB Graham Mertz awaiting confirmation of positive COVID-19 test, per reports

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Graham Mertz slings 5 TDs in dominant Wisconsin win (2:05)

In his first career start, Wisconsin quarterback Graham Mertz completes 20 of 21 passes for 248 yards and five touchdowns as the Badgers take down the Illini 45-7. (2:05)

Wisconsin quarterback Graham Mertz, who had a record-setting first career start on Friday, tested positive for COVID-19 over the weekend, according to reports by the Wisconsin State Journal and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Both newspapers reported Sunday, citing sources, that Mertz had an antigen test come back positive. Mertz will take a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test to confirm the result. If confirmed, Mertz would have to miss a minimum of 21 days, according to the Big Ten's protocols for athletes who test positive.

Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst said Monday that he has no problem with the Big Ten's 21-day policy, which is more stringent than those of most conferences regarding players who test positive. No. 9 Wisconsin (1-0) visits Nebraska, hosts Purdue and travels to No. 13 Michigan in its next three games.

"The No. 1 concern for the league, and I appreciate this, was how do we best keep everyone as safe as possible regarding the virus, and then how do you manage the impacts of it when someone has it,'' Chryst said. "Admittedly, they told us it was more conservative, and if that helps one person, then that's a good thing for us. We've known that there was a lot of work that went through this. For us to play, if that is something that's in the best interest of everyone involved, then I completely support it.''

Chryst, who would not discuss Mertz's status Monday, said he is confident that the Badgers' game Saturday at Nebraska (0-1) will go on as scheduled.

Nebraska coach Scott Frost said Mertz's situation wouldn't necessarily impact how the Cornhuskers approach this game.

"I don't think it will change anything for us," Frost said. "Whether he plays or not, they've got a lot of really good players, and they're a really good team. I don't think their offense would change even if he wasn't playing. He obviously had a good debut. Hope he's doing OK.''

In a statement issued Sunday night, Wisconsin said it "will not be releasing COVID-related testing information regarding any individual student-athlete, due to medical privacy."

The statement noted that no player who participated in Friday's game tested positive before the game or reported any symptoms.

"Wisconsin Athletics continues to conduct daily antigen testing for the student-athletes, coaches and selected support staff associated with the Badger football program," the statement read. "Individuals who receive a negative antigen test result continue to participate in team activities. Individuals who receive a presumptive positive antigen test result are removed from team activities and are required to take a PCR test to confirm positivity."

A source told the Journal Sentinel that Wisconsin has had several false positives since it began daily antigen testing last month.

Mertz, a redshirt freshman, was nearly flawless Friday in a 45-7 win over Illinois. He completed 20 of 21 passes for 248 yards and five touchdowns. He set team records for single-game completion percentage (95.2) and touchdown passes. Mertz completed his first 17 pass attempts, matching a team record for consecutive completions.

Sophomore Chase Wolf would likely step in if Mertz were to miss time, but a report published Monday night in the Journal Sentinel indicated that Wolf also tested positive for the coronavirus. Wolf entered the Illinois game late in the fourth quarter but didn't attempt a pass. He played one game last season and completed his only pass for 2 yards.

Mertz moved into the starting role after senior Jack Coan suffered a foot injury in preseason camp and underwent surgery on Oct. 21. Coan, who started 18 games the past two seasons, is out indefinitely. Mertz, a native of Overland Park, Kansas, is considered the top quarterback recruit in Wisconsin history. ESPN rated him as the top pocket passer and No. 21 overall player in the 2019 recruiting class.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.