NCF Nation: 2011 Rose Bowl coverage

PASADENA, Calif. -- Gary Patterson doesn't have a vote in the coaches' poll this season. Voters in that poll are required by rule to place the BCS title game winner -- either Auburn or Oregon in this year's case -- at the top of their ballot.

But Patterson -- who has steadfastly refused to whine about undefeated TCU being left out of the national championship picture -- did a rare bit of lobbying after his Horned Frogs beat Wisconsin 21-19 in the Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio.

"If I was a voter, I'll watch those two teams play and see how my team compares to them," Patterson said Saturday night. "Then I'll have my own national championship vote if I think we're better. It won't count, but it seems like a lot of votes don't count anymore."

[+] EnlargeGary Patterson
Gary A. Vasquez/US PresswireGary Patterson's Horned Frogs finished the season a perfect 13-0.
That's about as much complaining or cajoling as any of the TCU contingent voiced in the wake of Saturday's victory. The BCS gaveth, and the BCS taketh away from the Horned Frogs. They finished 12-0 for the second straight regular season and were shut out again from the national title game. But they also have gone to two straight BCS games, and this year they had the unique privilege of playing in the Rose Bowl.

"We'll go down in history as one of the first non-AQ teams ever to win the Rose Bowl," tailback Ed Wesley said. "We're very proud of that. Maybe if we go undefeated again next year they'll give us a shot at the title."

Of course, TCU isn't the first non-AQ team in recent memory to go undefeated and unrecognized for a national championship. Utah did it in the 2004 and 2008 seasons, while Boise State accomplished the feat last year. But the Horned Frogs might have a bit stronger of a case this time around. The Utes beat mediocre Pittsburgh and disinterested SEC runner-up Alabama in their bowl games. Boise State topped TCU in last year's Fiesta Bowl as the non-AQs got ghettoized.

TCU beat an 11-1 Big Ten co-champion in No. 5 Wisconsin that was highly motivated to win the Rose Bowl. The stadium was at least 65 percent Badgers red. This was no fluky, mistake-filled upset, either. Both teams played well. The Horned Frogs were just better.

"We can play with anybody," said receiver Jimmy Young. "What more have we got to prove?"

The schedule hurts their case. Other than Wisconsin, TCU has beaten only one other team (Utah) currently in the BCS standings, and the Utes could drop out after getting hammered in their bowl game by Boise State. (On the flip side, San Diego State and Air Force both registered nice bowl wins and could climb into the final rankings).

Unless Auburn and Oregon play a complete stinker, odds are very few voters will seriously consider the Horned Frogs for the top spot in The Associated Press poll. But the Rose Bowl win could help TCU start next year high in the rankings, even though the team loses many key seniors such as quarterback Andy Dalton, center Jake Kirkpatrick, receiver Jeremy Kerley, defensive end Wayne Daniels and safety Tejay Johnson.

"We're going to just keep climbing the mountain," Kirkpatrick said. "Our goal is to win the national championship, and we're one step closer now."

This TCU team might have been good enough to win the BCS title, but we'll never know. The Horned Frogs will happily settle for 13-0 and a Rose Bowl win that will be remembered for generations.

"Nobody has beaten us yet," linebacker Tanner Brock said. "So we're a champion in my book."
PASADENA, Calif. -- They say that sometimes it's better to be lucky than good. But more times, being good creates the luck.

Take TCU's winning play against Wisconsin for instance. The Badgers needed a two-point conversion to tie the Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio with two minutes left. They lined up in the shotgun with four wide receivers.

[+] EnlargeTank Crader
Kevork Djansezian/Getty ImagesTank Carder's two sacks and game-winning pass breakup earned him the Rose Bowl's defensive MVP award.
The Horned Frogs had a double blitz on, with a linebacker and a safety firing in. But the backside safety misread his coverage and left receiver Jacob Pedersen wide open in the end zone. To make matters worse, linebacker Tank Carder got stuffed on his blitz attempt.

But here's where the good part came into play. Carder, knowing he couldn't get to quarterback Scott Tolzien, decided to take a step back from his blocker and then jump. He timed it just right and knocked down the pass to seal the victory.

"We were lucky Tank was in the game," head coach Gary Patterson said.

And the Horned Frogs are lucky Carder is so good. The junior earned Rose Bowl defensive MVP honors for his efforts, which included the only two sacks in the game.

"He ate up the D-line and knew exactly where to fit," fellow linebacker Tanner Brock said. "He had an MVP day for sure."

Carder's second sack was crucial. TCU took the opening possession of the second half in for a touchdown and a 21-13 lead. Wisconsin came right back the next drive and had a third-and-6 on the Horned Frogs' 37. But Carder flew into the backfield and leveled Tolzien for an 8-yard loss to force a punt.

"I felt like it gave us a lift," Carder said. "I felt like it changed the momentum of the game."

Carder, a former youth BMX world champion, was the Mountain West Conference defensive player of the year in 2010. But he only had 2.5 sacks all season, a number he almost equaled in the Horned Frogs' biggest game ever.

"Somebody had to show up, and somebody did," defensive lineman Cory Grant said. "He had the game of his life at the right time."

A good -- and lucky -- time for TCU.
PASADENA, Calif. -- Wisconsin finally got it rolling midway through the fourth quarter.

Trailing TCU 21-13 in the Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO, the Badger battering ram kicked into high gear.

John Clay ran for 14 yards. Then he ran for 30 more. After a nifty throw from Scott Tolzien to Lance Kendricks picked up 10 yards on third-and-6, the Badgers got back to their bread and butter.

[+] EnlargeScott Tolzien
AP Photo/Jae C. HongQuarterback Scott Tolzien and Wisconsin could not get going offensively against TCU.
Run. Run. Run. Run. Run.


Had Wisconsin finally rediscovered who it is and why it got here?

"I'd like to think so," senior guard John Moffitt said. "But it wasn't who we were today. And that's all that matters."

Wisconsin's run-heavy, clock-eating drive at the end of Saturday's game was the exception rather than the rule. Too often the Badgers strayed from what had made them Big Ten champions, and it cost them in a 21-19 loss to TCU.

"We were doing some uncharacteristic things," said running back Montee Ball, who rushed for 132 yards and a touchdown. "Twenty yards going in, we score seven points. We don't get penalties, and we did today. We wasted our timeouts because we had the wrong information in there.

"We were most definitely not playing Wisconsin football, and that's how you lose football games."

There were moments and even stretches where Wisconsin appeared to establish its identity Saturday. But it never lasted.

Ball began the game with a major statement, dashing 40 yards through a huge hole on the right side of the line. But the drive stalled in the red zone on a dropped pass by Nick Toon, and Wisconsin had to settle for a field goal.

Toward the end of the first half, Wisconsin converted a fourth down on a fake punt and twice moved the chains on third-and-long to reach TCU territory. But again, they had to settle for a field goal.

And then there was the game's defining play, which followed Wisconsin's defining drive. Rather than stick with the run on the potential tying 2-point conversion attempt, the Badgers went to the air. Tight end Jacob Pedersen found space in the end zone, but TCU's Tank Carder swatted away Tolzien's pass.

"That was something we saw on film, and obviously the guy was open," Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema said. "But you've got to get the defender's hands down in that situation. Hindsight is 20/20. I felt confident with the call, [offensive coordinator Paul Chryst] felt confident, and we went with it."

Not surprisingly, Tolzien concurred and saw what he needed to see.

"It looked like a zero blitz, they were bringing everyone and just playing man," Tolzien said. "I wouldn't change a thing. We had a guy open, and their guy tipped it, plain and simple."

TCU linebacker Tanner Brock was surprised to see Tolzien line up in the shotgun after the previous drive, which featured runs on nine of 10 plays.

"A little bit [surprised]," Brock said, "because that's not really Wisconsin."

Wisconsin reached the Rose Bowl primarily because of its offense, a unit that averaged a team-record 45.2 points in Big Ten play. The Badgers racked up 201 points in their final three regular-season games and scored 31 points or more in their final seven games. Saturday, they became the first team in FBS history to produce three 1,000-yard running backs in a season.

This offense ran the ball at will, executed in the play-action pass game and reached the end zone 63 times. Most important, Wisconsin didn't beat itself, leading the nation in fewest turnovers (9) and fewest penalties per game (2.92).

Although the Badgers didn't cough up the ball, they committed a season-high six penalties. They also allowed two sacks and seven tackles for loss, above their season averages.

"There's three things we did really well this year: assignment sound, low penalties and low turnovers," left tackle Gabe Carimi said. "Those first two, we didn't do as well as we have been in the past."

Wisconsin reached TCU territory on each of its first five possessions but had only 13 points to show for it. Field position certainly played a role, and Wisconsin struggled to make big plays outside of its first and last drives.

Although the Badgers ran the ball more than twice as many times (46) as they passed it (21), they went to the air at some curious times, like on first-and-10 from their own 3-yard line late in the third quarter. Wisconsin had benefited from shaking things up at times this season; it ran four consecutive pass plays against Ohio State during a fourth-quarter scoring drive in a 31-18 win.

But TCU never consistently stopped Ball, Clay and James White between the tackles.

What the Horned Frogs did was keep Wisconsin out of the end zone.

"You realize that you only have so many opportunities," Moffitt said. "And every drive that doesn't end in the score is a missed opportunity. We missed a lot of opportunities today."

It's what made the loss so tough to take.

"The shame of it is we left opportunities on the field," Tolzien said. "You don't want to live games and you don't want to live life with regrets. We had some of those today."
PASADENA, Calif. -- Andy Dalton changed once TCU began its postseason practices in Fort Worth last month.

Receiver Jimmy Young noticed it right away. Dalton stopped cracking jokes with his teammates and laughing in the locker room. Smiles didn't come very easily from the big redhead.

[+] EnlargeAndy Dalton
Jeff Gross/Getty Images"I knew everything they were doing," Andy Dalton said of Wisconsin's defense. Dalton racked up 247 yards of total offense and was TCU's offensive MVP.
"You can always tell when Andy is serious," Young said. "I just knew then that he was locked in."

"Locked in" is a good way to describe Dalton's performance in the Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio. The Horned Frogs put the bulk of the offensive game plan in the hands of their reliable senior quarterback, and he delivered in a 21-19 win over Wisconsin.

Dalton, the game's offensive MVP, completed 15 of 23 passes for 219 yards and a touchdown and finished as his team's leading rusher with another score that way. In all, he accounted for 247 of TCU's 301 yards.

Maybe most importantly, he didn't throw any interceptions. In the previous year's 17-10 loss to Boise State in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, he had the worst game of his career, getting picked off three times. He had to live with the criticism that came from that loss, and he said he didn't watch any replays of the game for more than two weeks afterward. Center Jake Kirkpatrick described Dalton as really down on himself last January.

Dalton remembers the feeling well. As he awaited his Rose Bowl news conference, Dalton saw the disappointed Wisconsin players on the dais and immediately recognized the looks on their faces.

"To take a lot of the blame for the team puts you in a tough position," he said. "That's something I didn't want to feel again."

So once the Rose Bowl matchup was announced, Dalton got down to business. He did little else but study film on Wisconsin in the weeks leading up to the game. Along with the coaching staff, he thought the Horned Frogs could exploit the Wisconsin defense down the field and on the edges. When TCU needed a big play on offense, time and again Dalton found open receivers.

His numbers could have been better if not for a few drops and a couple of times when receivers slipped on the stadium's grass. Only once in the first half did a tailback even touch the ball, as Dalton picked up yards himself on the zone-read plays.

"I knew everything they were doing," he said of Wisconsin's defense. "The way I studied for this game helped with the way we played. I was really focused because I knew I wanted to play well in this game."

In truth, Dalton's Rose Bowl performance typified his career better than the Fiesta Bowl disappointment. Lightly recruited -- TCU beat out UTEP and Memphis for his services -- Dalton won the starting job as a freshman and broke every school passing record. He finished as the Horned Frogs' all-time winningest quarterback, with a 42-7 record, including 36-3 the past three years.

That's why teammates said earlier this week that they let him down last year against Boise State, not the other way around.

"He's how we were able to go 13-0," tailback Ed Wesley said. "He's the guy who has led this team this far, and it was his job, I guess, to finish it off."

Dalton was one of the last two players to leave the TCU locker room, walking toward the team bus in his white sweat suit. A smattering of fans still waiting spotted him and yelled "Andy!" He cracked a smile. There was no need to be locked in any more.
PASADENA, Calif. -- Quick thoughts from the Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO, where TCU held on to beat Wisconsin 21-19.

How the game was won: Wisconsin's offense missed too many opportunities and got away from its roots in the power run. Even after recommitting to the run on a fourth-quarter scoring drive, the Badgers went to the pass on the potential tying 2-point try. Paul Chryst's decision certainly will be questioned, but Wisconsin had many more opportunities to put up more points. TCU did just enough on offense and won the field-position battle in the second half.

Player of the game: TCU linebacker Tank Carder. As good as Andy Dalton was in the first half, Carder was even better as the Frogs held Wisconsin's offense in check. Carder had two sacks and broke up the 2-point conversion attempt as he led the Frogs to the biggest win in team history.

Unsung hero of the game: Wisconsin running back Montee Ball was outstanding, rushing for 132 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries against the nation's top-ranked defense. Ball looked like a totally different player from the middle of the season until Saturday.

Stat of the game: Wisconsin was held to its lowest point total of the season. The Badgers had 20 in a Sept. 18 win against Arizona State and had put up 201 points in their final three regular-season games.

Second guessing: The 2-point try stands out, but Wisconsin seemed to go away from the run at inopportune times. TCU never consistently stopped the Badgers' backs, but Wisconsin wasn't as committed as it needed to be. Also, Scott Tolzien burning two timeouts in the second half stands out.

What it means: Wisconsin had a tremendous season and played well for stretches Saturday, but the Badgers got away from the things that made them 11-1. They didn't run the ball enough, committed too many penalties and allowed too many third-and-long conversions. Still, Wisconsin is a program on the rise in what looks like a very manageable Big Ten conference. The Badgers lose an outstanding senior class and possibly several others to the NFL draft, but they'll have a solid squad coming back in 2011.

PASADENA, Calif. -- Instant analysis from the Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO, which TCU won 21-19 over Wisconsin:

How the game was won: TCU's national-best defense surrendered 226 rushing yards to Wisconsin, but the Horned Frogs came up with big plays at crucial times over and over again. None was bigger than linebacker Tank Carder's pass break-up on Wisconsin's two-point conversion attempt with two minutes left that would have tied the game. Carder was huge all game, while quarterback Andy Dalton managed the game smartly and TCU's special teams pinned the Badgers in bad field position the entire second half.

Turning point: Other than the obvious two-point stop, TCU's opening drive in the second half. Leading just 14-13 and having played defense almost the entire second quarter, the Horned Frogs had to make something happen on their first possession. They got a controversial pass-interference penalty to aid the drive and went all the way in for the touchdown. That gave them a cushion and allowed them to play field position the rest of the way.

Stat of the game: Wisconsin's second half drives started on the Badgers own 3, 5, 11, and 23 yard lines.

Player of the game: Take your pick between Dalton and Carder. One led the offense, while the other powered the defense. But this was a total team effort by the Horned Frogs, as it had to be.

Second guessing: Wisconsin gashed TCU's defense almost at will, yet the Badgers tried passing the ball on some critical second-half downs. The two-point try curiously came out of the shotgun formation. And while the receiver was open, the Horned Frogs were happy to defend a pass in that situation than deal with the Badgers' big backs and offensive line.

What it means: TCU won the Rose Bowl. Just let that sink in for a minute. The Horned Frogs not only represented all the non-AQs out there, they earned an earth-shattering, program-rattling victory. All the non-AQs now have an argument in the future against power conference teams, and TCU can make a claim to at least a share of the national title at 13-0. With a move to the Big East coming in 2012, this is a program with seemingly limitless potential.

GameDay Live: Rose Bowl

January, 1, 2011
Join our college football experts as they break down the Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio between the No. 3 TCU Horned Frogs and the No. 5 Wisconsin Badgers.

Contribute your thoughts and questions beginning at 5 p.m. See you there.

Video: Rose Bowl update

December, 31, 2010

Adam Rittenberg and Brian Bennett wrap up their day at the Rose Bowl looking ahead to Saturday’s game.
LOS ANGELES -- The Big Ten is 6-3 in bowls since 2009 and has recorded five wins against top 15 opponents, but the league's reputation largely will be shaped in Pasadena.

The Wisconsin Badgers are well aware of this fact.

Conferences are judged primarily on national championships, and then on BCS bowl performances. The Big Ten once again gets two opportunities on the BCS stage, beginning Saturday with Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO.

Bret Bielema learned how BCS bowls impact a league's national reputation during his first season as Wisconsin's coach.

"We played Arkansas in the Capital One Bowl," Bielema recalled. "Everybody was telling us how bad we were going to get beat. We went out there and put a whooping on them, and nobody said anything about that. Well, because a couple days later, the Big Ten was in a couple BCS games and didn't fare very well.

"I realized the BCS is where everybody looks and everybody talks about. So this is the opportunity for us."

Although the Big Ten's perception isn't nearly as bad as it was before last year's bowls, the league still struggles to gain elite status in some college football circles. The questions about Big Ten speed resurfaced this week in California as the TCU speed vs. Wisconsin size story line was beaten to death.

The Badgers realize they're part of the image problem.

"Wisconsin is what they think about: big, slow, smash-mouth guys, no-skill guys, guys that can't run," Badgers linebacker Blake Sorensen said. "So that's the perception."

That's why Wisconsin is the perfect team to change it.

"Definitely," Sorensen said. "You get one shot a year to play these teams, and that's the only way to do it, to play these teams and beat 'em, and hopefully, they'll be quiet."

TCU still embracing underdog role

December, 31, 2010
LOS ANGELES -- The oddsmakers may say that the TCU Horned Frogs are a slight favorite over the Wisconsin Badgers in the Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO. No. 3 TCU is ranked two spots higher than Wisconsin, after all.

But in many ways, TCU -- despite winning 35 games the past three years -- still carries an underdog's mentality.

[+] EnlargeTCU Horned Frogs
Mark J. Rebilas/US PresswireDespite being favored in the Rose Bowl, TCU is approaching the game with an underdog's mentality.
"If you want to understand the emotion behind why TCU has won ballgames, you need to know where we came from," head coach Gary Patterson said in Friday's coaches' news conference. "If you know where we came from, you understand why we play with a chip on our shoulder."

Patterson arrived at the school in 1998 as a defensive coordinator and took over as head coach for the 2001 season. TCU was winning games at the time but hardly had the trappings of a big-time program.

"We had to walk a mile and a half to the practice field," Patterson said. "We had to pull partitions in an old weight room to have meetings. We didn't have really any office space. We didn't have an indoor [practice facility], we didn't have practice fields."

Thanks in large part to Patterson's success, the program has come a long way. The school recently raised $130 million for complete stadium renovations, a new locker room and new training room. TCU is in its second straight BCS game and is entering the Big East in 2012. Patterson said the football team's high profile has helped increase the number of out-of-state applications for admission, and that attendance has gone up from about 17,000 to around 43,000 per game.

But the Horned Frogs still operate in the shadows of the Texas Longhorns and Dallas Cowboys, not to mention Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Texas Tech and even LSU, which recruits heavily in the Lone Star State. They kind of like that underdog role, which is why the players and coaches don't seem at all intimidated going up against the Big Ten co-champs or the much bigger Wisconsin offensive linemen.

"Since we started at TCU, everybody's been bigger and faster," Patterson said. "We've been doing this a long time. We're 15-3 against BCS opponents. I think we're the last team to beat Oklahoma in Norman. So this won't be our first rodeo."

Much of the talk has centered around Patterson's top-ranked defense against that powerful Wisconsin offense. But Patterson said the other side -- his offense versus the Badgers 'D' -- might be more critical. He compared it to this year's Utah game, when the Horned Frogs got up big early and cruised. He thought his team was too tense offensively in last year's Fiesta Bowl loss to Boise State, and he thinks it must get off to a much better start on Saturday.

Patterson will tell his team before the game to be loose and enjoy the ride. The Horned Frogs may technically be the favorites, but they're approaching this with their usual underdog spirit.

"After 10 years, we finally got to a point where all eyes of America are on them and getting the chance to prove what kind of program we have," he said. "To be able to say you won the Rose Bowl would be quite an accomplishment. It wouldn't be in a braggish way. It would be more of, hey, if you only knew where we came from."

Video: Badgers WR Jared Abbrederis

December, 31, 2010

Adam Rittenberg talks with Wisconsin’s Jared Abbrederis.

Video: Wisconsin's Aaron Henry

December, 31, 2010

Adam Rittenberg interviews the Badgers' safety.

Video: MWC commissioner Craig Thompson

December, 31, 2010

Brian Bennett talks with MWC commissioner Craig Thompson.

Rose Bowl keys for Wisconsin

December, 31, 2010
Here are three keys for Wisconsin heading into its matchup against TCU in the Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO.

1. Change speeds on offense: John Clay is finally healthy, and Wisconsin should take advantage of its most experienced running back despite the success of Montee Ball and James White down the stretch in Big Ten play. Much like a pitcher with three great pitches, Wisconsin's ability to change speeds with its backs can make life extremely difficult for opposing defenses. The Badgers need Clay to pound away at TCU's undersized defenders and then switch things up with a speed back like White, who can take it the distance.

2. Maintain defensive playmaking: Wisconsin isn't a lock-down defense, and from a statistical standpoint, the Badgers' D lags behind the other three units (TCU offense, TCU defense, Wisconsin offense). But what Dave Doeren's unit does is make big plays. No Big Ten defender made more than Badgers end J.J. Watt, who recorded every defensive statistic except safety this season. Wisconsin also needs strong performances from All-Big Ten cornerback Antonio Fenelus, hard-hitting safety Jay Valai and others.

3. Control clock by avoiding obvious passing situations: The Badgers have dominated possession time this season and must control the clock with their run game against TCU. They don't allow many sacks, but they also have avoided obvious passing situations in third-and-long. Scott Tolzien isn't the most mobile quarterback and TCU defenders could rattle him if Wisconsin can't set up manageable third downs. Tolzien can be very effective with the play-action pass game if the Frogs are overly concerned about the run.

Three keys for TCU in the Rose Bowl

December, 31, 2010
Here are three keys for TCU against Wisconsin in Saturday's Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO :

1. Control first down: If you have read or listened to one word of pre-bowl coverage, you know that the Badgers have a major size advantage on offense against TCU's defense. It's no secret that Wisconsin would like to use that advantage to pound the ball right at the Horned Frogs with its powerful running game. That's why it's important for TCU to keep John Clay, Montee Ball and James White from ripping off big gains on first down, hopefully forcing the Badgers to throw it more than they'd like. If Wisconsin has manageable second and third downs, it can keep plowing forward on the ground and set up its play-action passing game. TCU needs to be strong on first down, or it could be a long day.

2. Speed kills: The whole speed vs. power debate this week underrates Wisconsin's athletic ability. Yet there's no denying that TCU is ridiculously fast, on both sides of the ball. The Horned Frogs need to get the most out of that, especially on offense. Quarterback Andy Dalton normally throws short or immediate passes and then relies on his quick receivers to break tackles. With multiple formations and the threat of the zone-read, TCU should be able to get its playmakers in space. Time to see if that whole Big Ten lack-of-speed thing is true.

3. Win special teams: One of the few areas where Wisconsin doesn't excel is on covering kicks and punts. That could be a place for TCU to gain an edge with dynamic return man Jeremy Kerley. The senior has been itching for a kick or punt return score this year after getting two last season. Even if he can't reach the end zone, Kerley could be crucial for helping the Horned Frogs establish field position. It will be interesting to see if Wisconsin tries to kick the ball away from TCU's most dangerous player.