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Wisconsin Football: Star Linebackers Limited Week 4 Role Raises Questions

Here are some thoughts on the Wisconsin football coaches playing their All-Conference inside linebacker one-snap against Purdue.



Wisconsin football; Badgers inside linebacker Maema Njongmeta.
Sep 2, 2023; Madison, Wisconsin, USA; Wisconsin Badgers linebacker Maema Njongmeta (55) during the game against the Buffalo Bulls at Camp Randall Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

When Wisconsin football fans tuned in to watch their beloved Badgers take on Purdue in Week 4, they were met with a perplexing sight – Maema Njongmeta, an all-conference inside linebacker, was noticeably absent from the staring defensive lineup. 

That confusion reached new heights when the senior linebacker eventually entered the game for one singular snap on fourth down against the Boilermakers. This decision raised more than a few eyebrows for those who have followed Njongmeta’s journey.

Wisconsin Football Was Cryptic About Decision Not to Play Maema Njongmeta

After a ho-hum Week 3 performance, I suggested that the Badgers coaching staff consider reducing Maema Njongmeta & his snap count for various reasons, allowing him to recover fully and perform at his best. 

However, what unfolded against Purdue was not merely a calculated reduction in playing time; it bordered on a Did Not Play (DNP) coach’s decision.

Head coach Luke Fickell, in his post-game remarks, indicated that Njongmeta was available to play. 

“He [Njongmeta] was able to go,” Fickell said. “It wasn’t that he was out like he wasn’t on the depth chart. He was in there later in the game…We’re rolling through on some situations and some things, and he didn’t play as much.”

This revelation leaves Wisconsin football fans and analysts with two plausible conclusions. First, the coaching staff might have deemed the matchup unfavorable and strategically chose to keep Njongmeta on the sidelines. Second, something might have occurred during the week leading up to the game, influencing the decision not to utilize the talented linebacker.

While insider information is scarce, the latter scenario appears more likely, particularly when considering the less-than-stellar performances of Jake Chaney and Jordan Turner against Purdue, who were tasked with filling the void left by Njongmeta’s limited presence.

Regardless, the upcoming bye week offers a chance for reflection and recalibration. 

Wisconsin football enthusiasts will watch closely to see if the inside linebacker rotation returns to normal, with Maema Njongmeta back in the heart of the action. The decision-making process surrounding Njongmeta’s playing time remains a topic of intrigue, and as the Badgers prepare for the next leg of their journey, fans hope for clarity on this unusual situation.

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Dillon Graff is a Substack Newsletter Best Selling Author and the Owner of, your go-to source for in-depth coverage of the Wisconsin Badgers. His work has been featured in top media publications like USA Today, Bleacher Report, Verbal Commits, B5Q, Saturday Blitz, and Fansided.