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Wisconsin Football Notebook: Final Thoughts, Takeaways From Week 4



Wisconsin Badgers Football
Sep 16, 2023; Madison, Wisconsin, USA; Wisconsin Badgers footballs sit on the field during warmups prior to the game against the Georgia Southern Eagles at Camp Randall Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Luke Fickell and the Wisconsin football program came out guns blazing, with the Badgers scoring on its first three drives en route to a 38-17 victory over the Purdue Boilermakers on Friday night in West Lafayette.

Now, 3-1, the Badgers head into a bye week that suddenly seems like it came at the perfect time before returning to the field in Week 6 for a home game at Camp Randall Stadium against Rutgers.

There were some key takeaways from the Friday night lights performance, so let’s dive in.

Wisconsin Football Thoughts, Observations, & Other Badgers Ramblings From Purdue Game. 

First things first, Wisconsin football playing all-conference inside linebacker Maema Njongmeta for a total of one snap against Purdue is a real head-scratcher.

I suggested last week that the Badgers coaching staff reduce his number of snaps for myriad reasons until he could return to 100%. What I didn’t think would happen was a borderline DNP coach’s decision. Because Luke Fickell said after the game that he was available to play — this leads us to draw one of two conclusions: either the coaches didn’t like the matchup and chose to sit him, or something happened during the week, and that’s why Njongmeta didn’t see the field.

I have no inside information on this, but I assume it’s the ladder. Especially when you consider the lackluster performances from Jake Chaney and Jordan Turner. I’ll be curious to see if the Wisconsin football inside linebacker rotation returns to normal after the bye week.


At the risk of speaking for everybody, I feel like the Badgers have struggled mightily through the first four games on the tackling front. On Friday night, that issue was worse than ever, and PFF credits Wisconsin’s defense for having a season-high 16 missed tackles.

I get that Mike Tressel’s defense is in transition, but the product on the field is littered with holes that better teams will likely exploit. To their credit, Wisconsin football is No. 44 in the country in scoring defense (top third in college FB), but the Badgers simply don’t have the talent to play this sloppy against better opponents.

I’ll tip my cap: this bend, don’t-break style of defense is creating turnovers, but on the nights they aren’t, I have real concerns about the Wisconsin Badgers’ ability to stop better teams.


Ricardo Hallman had a really nice bounce-back performance against Purdue. The Boilermakers targeted Hallman six times, and he only allowed two catches for 14 yards — while tacking on two interceptions and a PBU.

While the Florida native doesn’t have the ideal size to play heavy man coverage, he’s technically sound and appears to be around the ball.


The Wisconsin football offensive line was terrific in pass protection against Purdue, specifically Jack Nelson, Riley Mahlman, Tanor Bortolini, and Trey Wedig. But the run blocking, IMO, could use some cleaning up.

Additionally, if the Badgers’ O-line can’t start cleaning up these penalties, Wisconsin will have an uphill climb against some of the more formidable opponents that lie ahead.

Bortolini is a guard — that much we know. His snaps are slow and are throwing off the offense’s timing. Now that Jake Renfro is getting healthier, it’ll be interesting to see if he can factor into the rotation and get Bortolini back where he’s best suited to play.


It was fantastic to see C.J. Williams get involved in the Wisconsin offense against the Boilermakers. He led the team in targets (8) and receptions (5), plus he was second on the team in receiving yards (56) on the day. 

The USC transfer has a ton of upside, and it was nice to see how he could impact the game on the boundary as a possession receiver. 

Given the apparent disconnect between Bryson Green and Tanner Mordecai, I’ll be interested to see if Williams starts eating into his playing time. 


I didn’t want to discuss it, but let’s do it anyway. Chez Mellusi suffered a devastating injury and will miss the rest of the season. With that news now official, I’m afraid Wisconsin football is in a lot of trouble at running back.

Braelon Allen needed someone like Mellusi to help keep him fresh. Now, the Badgers must rely on Jackson Acker and Cade Yacamelli to play enough snaps to fill that void and prevent Allen from becoming a full-on bell-cow and wearing down.

Where my greatest level of concern comes in is in pass protection, where Allen has been a liability during his career. Mellusi was a quality pass protector, and now that role will likely go to Acker, who played fullback last season. He’s a good player, but his skill set doesn’t differ significantly from Allen, which is a bummer.

Some Wisconsin Badgers Housekeeping: 

  • Tanner Mordecai was dynamic with his legs – nice game overall. 
  • Trey Wedig looked good again; start the man. 
  • Alexander Smith played pretty solid in coverage. 
  • Wisconsin football coaches keep shortening the rotation of players who see the field each week, which is concerning. 
  • The Badgers run defense is bad, I’m afraid. 

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Dillon Graff is a Substack newsletter best-selling author, publisher of AllBadgers, 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's BadgersWire, Athlon Sports, Bleacher Report, Verbal Commits, Bucky's 5th Quarter, and FanSided.