To say the little guy beat the big guy would be too simple, but it would be correct.
Even though Texas Christian University was a three-point favorite over Wisconsin, most felt the Badgers were too tough and would run the ball down the Horned Frogs’ throat.
What happened in the 97th Rose Bowl Game last Saturday afternoon was TCU’s quickness on both sides of the ball was enough to slow down the Badgers’ relentless ground attack, and in the end linebacker Tank Carder’s knockdown of quarterback Scott Tolzien’s two-point conversion pass with two minutes left helped preserve TCU’s 21-19 victory in front of 94,118.
“I saw him bring back his hand, and I knew he was going to throw,’’ said Carder, who had six tackles with one sack, and was named defensive player of the game.
The Badgers made it a two-point affair, marching 77 yards on 10 plays, as running back Montee Ball scored from four yards out.
Wisconsin toils in the rugged Big Ten Conference, and its massive offensive line averages 325 pounds, and helped the Badgers average 43.3 points a game. The weight differential between Wisconsin’s offensive line and TCU’s defensive line was nearly 45 pounds.
“We climbed the mountain top,’’ said TCU Head Coach Gary Patterson. ”But this has been a 10-year process.”
TCU fullback Luke Shivers scored on a one-yard run early in the fourth quarter to make it 21-13, finishing off a 71-yard, six-play drive.
On the game’s opening play, Ball (game-best 132 yards on 22 carries) burst up the middle for 40 yards. It was in the middle that the Badgers (11-2) had their best success.
“We were there for four quarters,’’ said Wisconsin Head Coach Bret Bielema. “We came up a little short.”
The Horned Frogs (13-0), who play in the Mountain West Conference, made second-half adjustments, and it became more difficult for Wisconsin to run the ball.
The Badgers had 226 yards on the ground, while the Horned Frogs picked up 82, with senior quarterback Andy Dalton, the offensive player of the game, grinding out 28 yards on nine carries.
In nearly every offensive category, Wisconsin held the edge, but still lost. How is this possible?
On TCU’s first series, Dalton (15 of 23 for 219 yards and no interceptions) was sharp, directing the Horned Frogs on a 77-yard, 10-play excursion and into the lead 7-3 with 6:15 left in the first quarter.
The 23-yard scoring strike to wide receiver Bart Johnson came on a double-pump, and briefly froze the linebackers and secondary.
Wisconsin (385 total net yards, 20 first downs and 36:35 time of possession) took a 3-0 lead on Philip Welch’s 30-yard field goal with 10:39 showing in the opening quarter. Welch nailed a 37-yarder as time expired in the second quarter that brought the Badgers to within 14-13, but missed a 39-yard attempt.
Behind Tolzien (12 of 21 for 159 yards and no interceptions), Wisconsin drove 67 yards on six plays, building a 10-7 lead when running back John Clay (76 yards and 11 rushes) scored from one yard out and 3:14 showing in the opening quarter.
It see-sawed, as the Horned Frogs (301 total yards, 18 first downs and 23:25 time of possession) moved ahead 14-10 after Dalton ran it in from four yards out as 36 seconds remained in the first quarter.
Rick Assad has been a sportswriter for more than two decades. He has a political science degree from UCLA, a journalism degree from CSUN, and is a staff writer for diamondboxing.com, and is a columnist for socalboxing.wordpress.com. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.