GLENDALE, Ariz. -- TCU quarterback Andy Dalton's first pass in Monday's Fiesta Bowl missed wide receiver Jeremy Kerley by 10 yards and was nearly intercepted. His third was caught by Boise State cornerback Brandyn Thompson and returned 51 yards to the end zone.
"They were just in man coverage and we had a slant called," Dalton said. "The receiver kind of slowed down and gave him a chance to undercut it. It was a little miscommunication on our part, but the guy made a good play."
It was the beginning of what became a frustrating game for Dalton and an offense that struggled to figure out Boise State's defense in a 17-10 loss.
"They were moving around a lot," Dalton said. "They would be lined up in one thing and then shift their front. I think early on we just didn't really know what exactly they were doing out there."
With a month to prepare, Boise State pulled out coverages and schemes TCU had never seen. They went from a four-man front to a three-man front and lined up in a 3-2-6 formation. They moved all-conference cornerback Kyle Wilson to safety, and the senior disrupted many Dalton passes. They faked blitzes and then dropped back in coverage, confusing TCU's offense.
The Broncos also committed to stopping TCU's rushing attack and did so, limiting the Frogs to 36 yards. Even the zone read, a play that Dalton used to gash Clemson, BYU and Utah didn't work on Monday.
"There were definitely a couple of new blitzes," Boise State coach Chris Petersen said.
They used them at good times, making Dalton rush throws on third down. In fact, TCU was just 1-for-12 on third down conversions in the game, by far their worst showing of the season.
Dalton did manage to lead his team on a scoring drive at the end of the first half. The offense marched 62 yards on five plays in 1:11 to make it a 10-7 game. But the brief rhythmic drive didn't last.
Dalton and the offense couldn't get any sustained drives going. Receivers dropped passes, and linemen had false starts. Dalton himself couldn't handle a snap from the shotgun -- it went right through his hands -- and another drive stalled.
TCU still had an opportunity to tie the score with less than three minutes left. Dalton lofted one of his better passes toward the corner of the end zone, only to have it dropped by Antoine Hicks.
The Horned Frogs got the ball back -- after a Boise State punt bounced to the 1-yard line -- and had just over a minute to try to go 99 yards. TCU got inside Boise State territory, but Dalton tried to force a throw down the sidelines and it was tipped and intercepted to end the game.
It was Dalton's third interception in the game. A huge number considering he'd thrown just five all season.
Dalton was disappointed in his performance after the game but vowed that he and the team would use it as motivation for next season.
"We're going to work really hard this offseason and hopefully get back here," Dalton said.