NCF Nation: Badgers-Frogs 010111

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.

Video: Reviewing TCU's victory

January, 1, 2011

Brian Bennett and Adam Rittenberg break down TCU’s win over Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl.

Video: TCU's Colin Jones

January, 1, 2011

Brian Bennett talks with the safety about TCU's defensive performance in the Rose Bowl.

Video: Wisconsin's John Clay

January, 1, 2011

Adam Rittenberg talks with Wisconsin's John Clay about the loss to TCU in the Rose Bowl.

Video: TCU safety Tejay Johnson

January, 1, 2011

TCU's Tejay Johnson talks about the win over Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl.
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.
PASADENA, Calif. -- Wisconsin finally recommitted to the run game, but it could be too late.

The Badgers marched 77 yards in 10 plays as Montee Ball went into the end zone from four yards out.

But the Badgers took so much time off the clock that their chances likely hinged on a 2-point conversion attempt.

Then they come out in the shotgun without John Clay on the field?

Odd call from Paul Chryst.

To be fair, tight end Jacob Pedersen was wide open in the end zone, but TCU had a lot of hands in the way and one of them deflected Scott Tolzien's pass.

Did the Badgers abandon their bread and butter when it mattered most?

TCU needs knockout blow

January, 1, 2011
PASADENA, Calif. -- TCU has been in total control for the second half. The Horned Frogs have pinned Wisconsin deep in its own territory on every possession and kept the Badgers off the scoreboard.

But the lead is only eight. TCU has had three drives into Badgers territory this half but then stalled and had to punt. Even a field goal puts enormous pressure on Wisconsin, which does not look able to score quickly against this defense. But the Badgers have been let off the hook.

That lack of a knockout punch could come back to haunt the Frogs. Their defense now must win the game.
PASADENA, Calif. -- Wisconsin has reached TCU's territory on all but one of its six possessions.

And only scored 13 points.

That's not good enough against TCU star quarterback Andy Dalton and his many weapons, who are making it tough for Wisconsin's defense in the second half.

It's hard to put a finger on the Badgers' inability to finish drives. Linebacker Tank Carder and the Frogs certainly are putting more pressure on Scott Tolzien, and Wisconsin hasn't hit on a big play in quite some time. Still, Wisconsin seems to be running the ball well, but are the Badgers committed enough to their ground game?

It sounds crazy to suggest that, but Wisconsin's decision to pass on first down from its end zone surprised me. The Badgers are getting into too many obvious passing situations, which allows TCU's front seven to pin their ears back.

Wisconsin needs a big fourth quarter to turn this around.

Frogs defense doing just enough

January, 1, 2011
PASADENA, Calif. -- If it seems like Wisconsin's offense is overpowering TCU's defense, that's because the Badgers keep getting big chunks of yardage on running plays.

But where it matters -- the scoreboard -- TCU is doing just fine. Wisconsin has had five trips into Horned Frogs territory but has only 13 points to show for it. The Badgers scored more than 70 in two of their final three regular-season games, so TCU will gladly take this score as the third quarter draws closer to its conclusion.

The Horned Frogs have made just enough big plays. Cornerback Greg McCoy stripped the ball from receiver Nick Toon on what would have resulted in a catch at the TCU 1. Then Tank Carder leveled Scott Tolzien for a crunching sack that forced a punt.

There's a reason why TCU led the nation in defense three straight years. They're not dominating Wisconsin by any means. But they're doing just enough so far.
PASADENA, Calif. -- Wisconsin takes great pride in not beating itself, and the numbers bear it out.

The Badgers not only tie for the national lead in fewest turnovers (9), but they also lead the nation in fewest penalties per game (2.92). It has been a different story in the Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO, as Wisconsin already has been flagged five times.

A pass interference penalty on cornerback Devin Smith on TCU's opening drive of the second half proved particularly costly. Rather than third-and-13 in its own territory, TCU got a first down and cashed in with a touchdown drive. While the call was questionable, it still stung.

Wisconsin then muffed the ensuing kickoff and committed a block in the back foul.

The Badgers are beating themselves too much in this game, and they need to turn it around fast. TCU leads 21-13 early in the third quarter.

TCU opens second half strong

January, 1, 2011
PASADENA, Calif. -- TCU absolutely needed a good drive to open the second half after being stonewalled in the second quarter.

They got it -- thanks to some help from the officials. A pass-interference call on a pass that looked like it was uncatchable helped the Horned Frogs avoid a third-and-long right out of the chute. But from there, TCU took care of business and finally got Ed Wesley and Matthew Tucker involved.

Wesley was the only tailback to touch the ball in the first half, but he had a big 33-yard tackle-breaking catch, while Tucker added a nice run near the goal line. The touchdown made it 21-13 and puts the pressure back on Wisconsin.

Now we get to see what second-half defensive adjustments Gary Patterson made. Regardless, we have seen through this first two-quarters-and-change that TCU definitely belongs on this stage.