Last Saturday, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights lined up at the Wisconsin 6-yard line with 22 seconds left in the first half. The Badgers defense had dominated the entire first half, forcing four 4-and-outs in five Rutgers drives. But the Scarlet Knights traveled 69 yards on their last possession before the half, looking to get on the board and turn the momentum before heading into the locker room.
Rutgers quarterback Gavin Wimsatt took the shotgun step, dropped back and immediately looked right to slot receiver Christian Dremel, who was cutting towards the sideline. Unfortunately for the Scarlet Knights, sophomore cornerback Ricardo Hallman was lurking after dropping into zone coverage. He broke for the spot before the ball was thrown, jumping the route and taking the ball 95 yards to the house to put the Badgers up 17-0.
It’s been a long time coming for Hallman, who had a forgettable 2022 season. In a matchup with Michigan State last season, he surrendered numerous pass interference penalties, had issues tackling in open space and gave up two touchdowns on one-on-one jump balls, the second of which walked off the game in an overtime win for the Spartans.
Hallman’s standout performance against Rutgers was exemplified by the big pick-six, but the Scarlet Knights threw his way just four times during the game, showcasing his impact on the secondary and lockdown abilities.
It was another impressive game from Hallman’s start to his 2023 campaign as he racked up four interceptions and three pass breakups in the first five games — including three interceptions in three games. The redshirt sophomore is tied for first in the FBS in interceptions and leads the way for the Big Ten.
The Badgers will need Hallman and the rest of the secondary to continue to step up in the next three weeks. Although the Iowa Hawkeyes — who Wisconsin will battle this coming Saturday — don’t possess any standout wide receivers, tackling on the outside will be an emphasis against an offense that moves the ball slowly downfield.
After Iowa, the Badgers take on Illinois and Ohio State, tasking the secondary with locking down two of the top Big Ten wide receivers in back to back weeks. Illinois receiver Isaiah Williams leads the Big Ten in receptions and yards, and Ohio State wideout Marvin Harrison Jr. sits at third in the Big Ten in receptions and second in yards. Williams and Harrison Jr. are both likely 2024 NFL Draft picks, with the latter expected to land in the top 10.
Hallman and the Badgers secondary will look to build off their solid defensive play in the win against Rutgers to stay undefeated in the Big Ten. The Badgers sit atop the Big Ten West at 2-0 in conference play with the Hawkeyes at 2-1 right behind them. Saturday’s matchup will be a key factor in the Big Ten West and play into which team can earn a trip to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship in December.