MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin might have to rely on a fourth-stringer to lead the offense Saturday at Nebraska after the Badgers’ two healthy quarterbacks tested positive for COVID-19, two people with knowledge of the situation told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Tuesday.
The people requested anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the situation.
Here’s how it got to this point:
The Badgers opened the season without projected starter Jack Coan, who suffered a foot injury on Oct. 3 and underwent surgery four days later.
Redshirt freshman Graham Mertz completed 20 of 21 passes for 248 yards and five touchdowns in his starting debut, a 45-7 victory over Illinois last Friday.
However, two people told the Journal Sentinel, which is part of the USA TODAY Network, that Mertz and his backup, Chase Wolf, have tested positive for the coronavirus.
Mertz received a second positive test and is out, according to those people. It is unclear whether Wolf received a second positive test. Those developments have put the ball in the hands of Danny Vanden Boom, a redshirt junior who led Kimberly High School to a pair of WIAA Division 1 state titles.
According to Big Ten protocols released last month, athletes who test positive through point of contact (POC) daily testing will require a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test to confirm the first result.
If a player who receives a positive antigen test subsequently receives a negative PCR test, that player could be cleared to play.
However, CBSsports.com reported Tuesday that Mertz’s PCR test was positive. The Journal Sentinel confirmed that.
Those protocols say the earliest an athlete can return to game competition is 21 days following a COVID-19 positive diagnosis. Mertz’s initial positive test, according to two people with knowledge of the situation, came on Saturday.
One big question is when a 21-day clock would start. Wisconsin is scheduled to play Michigan on Nov. 14.
The positive tests for the Badgers quarterbacks come at a time when the state of Wisconsin is seeing a record number of cases. The state Department of Health Services reported 5,262 new cases and 64 deaths Tuesday, both records far above any previous daily counts.