The offense started slow, scoring just ten first-half points, but the defense locked down the Rutgers’ rushing attack, which earned just 67 yards on 3.2 yards per carry.
However, there was one play that ultimately changed the direction of the game: cornerback Ricardo Hallman’s 95-yard pick-six that improved the Badgers’ lead to 17-0 ahead of the half.
With the Rutgers offense moving down the field as the first half came to an end, the Scarlet Knights had an opportunity to score a touchdown and then receive the ball back to begin the second half.
However, quarterback Gavin Wimsatt faltered at the Wisconsin five-yard line, throwing a pass that Hallman brilliantly jumped before taking the pass to the house for a 95-yard score, which was the fourth-longest interception return in Badgers history.
How did Hallman come down with the interception?
Looking at the play live, I felt that Hallman passed off his receiver, who was running an in-breaking route, to his help side, which allowed him to take on the out-breaking route and jump the play for an interception on a poor decision by the quarterback.
Fair.— Bucky’s 5th Quarter (@B5Q) October 7, 2023
IMO, seemed like Wohler/Hallman were passing off the routes, plus Wimsatt stared the out down while throwing it outside rather than on the inside shoulder.
Great anticipation, but a poor throw/decision as well.
Hallman concurred that was the case postgame, highlighting that he envisioned the route concept, which prompted him to call out “switch” to fellow defensive back Preston Zachman, who was the inside defender in man-coverage.
“That’s one of our plays,” Hallman said. “We were just, if that guy comes out, we’re going to switch it. So it was a little bit of both kind of communication and instincts.”
When looking at the play, Hallman saw his man go on an in-breaker, which switched his responsibilities to the out-route, where he was able to jump the pass for the major interception.
“As soon as I seen my guy shoot in, I just told [safety Preston Zachman], ‘switch, switch, switch.’ And I was able to jump in front of it.”
“So I was able to see him last minute and kind of jump in front of it and go make the interception.”
That wasn't the first time this season that Hallman has intercepted a pass on that same concept, showcasing the growth the corner has displayed from 2022 to 2023 in looking to be a playmaker.
“Yes, [that was the second time I’ve intercepted a pass on that concept],” Hallman said. “I think [my growth] kind of goes along with my feel for the game. I ultimately know that I don’t want to just be like a guy that covers and just doesn’t make plays. Ultimately, if I can make a play, I’m going to shoot it.”
A big part of that growth? The cornerback isn't afraid to fail, as Hallman has bounced back from the Michigan State game that resulted in his benching last season to becoming a regular ballhawk for the Badgers.
“And I think that’s one of the things about my game. I’m not afraid to fail. I’ve done it before, as you guys can see at Michigan State. I’m not afraid to fail. Having that under my belt, I’m just going to try to make plays any opportunity I can.”
“So whenever I see, especially if we’re in a formation where I can have eyes, I can see guys coming, I see the guys running across. Ultimately, if I can make the play, I’m going to try to make that.”
Hallman’s four interceptions, which lead the Big Ten, are the most by a Badgers player since Sojourn Shelton in 2016, and the season is only halfway done.
Coming into the season, there were question marks about the Badgers cornerbacks due to their lack of size, but Hallman has shut down those concerns with some major plays through the first five games of the year, and that only continued with a game-changing play on Saturday.