CFN Bowl Analysis ...
TCU 21 ... Wisconsin 19
Rose Bowl SOC Notes - Pregame
Rose Bowl SOC Notes - 1st Quarter
Rose Bowl SOC Notes - 2nd Quarter
Rose Bowl SOC Notes - 3rd Quarter
Rose Bowl SOC Notes - 4th Quarter
To go Freddie Bauer, “When something works for me, I stick with it.”
There’s no question that Paul Chryst is one of the elite offensive coordinators in all of college football, and it’s impossible to argue too much, if at all, with an attack that averaged 450 yards and 43 points per game, but Wisconsin got too cute and it proved costly.
There’s a reason old school Nebraska and Oklahoma used to throw the ball fewer than ten times per game. There’s a reason that Texas Tech under Mike Leach used to throw it, throw it, and throw it some more, abandoning the running game for long stretches. This isn’t the NFL. You don’t have mix up the play calls. If you do something at an unstoppable level, you keep doing it until the other team stops you. Wisconsin was unstoppable running the ball up the middle and was averaging around five yards per carry. But the normally accurate Scott Tolzien completed just 12-of-21 passes, with the offense trying two fewer passes than TCU, and the offense got away from what worked. The result was just three points from 3:14 in the first quarter to two minutes left in the game.
The argument will be that you need to run other plays to keep a defense like TCU’s honest, but not in this case. The Badgers showed on the first drive that they could pound away at will, and they showed on the final drive that they could flatten the Horned Frogs when they wanted to. Make no mistake about it; TCU earned this win. However, between the curious play calling, the missed Phillip Welch field goal, the time mismanagement at the end of the first half, and going into the locker room with time outs in the pocket, Wisconsin did its part to make just enough slips to lose a game that was going to be decided by one team blinking. That turned out to be the Badgers.
TCU played a clean game with just four penalties, no penalties, and great special teams play to not give the Badgers any breaks. Keeping the field tilted on the Wisconsin side made a big difference in the second half, and while the TCU spread attack was slowed down, there wasn’t the critical mistake made to change the game around. And the team kept on doing what it did best, which was letting Andy Dalton run the attack while spreading the wealth around with his decision making ability taking over.
Wisconsin will be flying back to Madison thinking things might have been different if there were more than 46 rushing attempts.
- The unsung hero of the game might have been Anson Kelton, the TCU punter. While he got a little help from a magnificent play by his coverage teams, he kept the Badgers pinned deep in the second half on some key kicks.
- If John Clay returns, the Badgers will get back all three of their talented runners, including Montee Ball and James White, but Scott Tolzien will be desperately missed.
- The biggest key to the game might be that Wisconsin held on to the ball for 13:30 in the second quarter and only came away with three points.
- Wisconsin isn’t a superior pass rushing team, but it’s not bad. The D didn’t come up with a sack and didn’t do enough to pressure Andy Dalton.
- If you had told the Badger coaches that Ed Wesley would be held to 13 yards rushing and Jeremy Kerley would be held in check as a returner and would only catch 58 yards worth of passes, and if you had said the offense was going to hold the ball for 36:35, they’d have assumed they’d have won easily.
The current BCS system is rotten. Yeah, that’s been overplayed and is a little too spot on, but it needs to be repeated as much as possible and from every corner of the media map. The BCS cannot be let off the hook. Ever. It was a great afternoon for the Horned Frogs in Pasadena, beating Wisconsin to cap a perfect season. However, for the second straight year, a non-AQ school is going to finish a 13-0 campaign without so much as a glimpse of the crystal trophy. And that’s never going to be cool. The entire TCU family is justifiably ecstatic right now. This is the type of win that’ll forever leave an indelible mark on the program’s historical timeline. It deserves more than that. It deserves a chance to measure itself against Auburn or Oregon. We deserve an opportunity to see that played out. Instead, we’re left to forever wonder what might have been. This sport deserves something so much better so that the TCU’s of the world get a legitimate shot to play for a national title in the future.
- Somewhere, assuming he watched football today, Ohio State president Gordon Gee must be cringing. Maybe next New Year’s Day, Big Ten members can face-off with a few Little Sisters of the Poor. Going 0-5, with a couple of clunkers, this might have been the worst eight-hour stretch for a conference in NCAA history.
- Andy Dalton and the aptly-named Tank Carder are microcosms for what it means to be a Horned Frog. Generally overlooked coming out of high school, the respective offensive and defensive players of the game are cornerstone figures, who’ve blossomed since arriving in Fort Worth.
- It’s been a great couple of days for the Big East, which got upset wins from Syracuse and South Florida, and is the new home of Rose Bowl champ TCU. If Connecticut can somehow hang with Oklahoma later on, the 48-hour stretch becomes an epic one.
- If John Clay returns to Madison next year, which of the Badger backs belong on the Heisman short list? Probably none because of the logjam, but Clay, Montee Ball, and James White would all be threats with the appropriate number of carries.
By Matt Zemek
So, how about Saturday, January 22, the day before the NFL’s conference championship games? On that night, at 8:15 p.m. Eastern time on ESPN (should be ABC, but oh well...), the TCU Horned Frogs will play the Oregon-Auburn winner in the plus-one national championship game of college football. It will be just like last year, when, on Saturday, January 16, 2010, Boise State and Alabama played for the plus-one national title. And oh, this TCU matchup against Oregon or Auburn will also recall the 2005 plus-one title tilt between USC and Auburn, a memorable battle that occurred just one year after the January 2004 confrontation between USC and LSU. Yes, there’s a proud legacy in college football of settling championships on the fi.................. on the fie............. on the fiel........................
No, we can’t say it. This blessedly emotion-drenched sport, which annually gives us the Rose Bowl, the epic spectacle in the Arroyo Seco set against the backdrop of the San Gabriel Mountains, cannot manage to decide championships on the field.
We should indeed commend and congratulate TCU and Gary Patterson, a program and a coach who toiled in the shadows for many years before tasting the nectar of sweet victory in college football’s best gameday setting. We should be focusing on TCU’s ability to prove, once again, that conference label and affiliation are vastly overrated in the one-shot world of bowl games. Utah and Boise State taught us this lesson, but now TCU has given further affirmation of the truth. However, there is a sad undercurrent to TCU’s stirring two-point win over the Wisconsin Badgers in a riveting and generally well-played Granddaddy. That plus-one outlined above – which would draw insane TV ratings and generate an extra windfall for the sport’s coffers – won’t actually come to pass.
There isn’t one good reason why we shouldn’t have a plus-one on Jan. 22, when TCU and Auburn/Oregon fans could have enough time to travel to another destination for a weekend game. There isn’t one good reason why college football can’t crown a truly national champion that receives two postseason tests, not just one, following a regular season that sometimes allows certain teams to go 11-1 without being challenged out of conference (Michigan State). The fact that TCU was eliminated from BCS title consideration on Dec. 5, despite going 12-0 for the second straight regular season, throws mud into the notion that college football crowns fully legitimate champions of the whole nation, not just their own region.
Mindful of the fact that TCU’s only BCS bowl loss came to Boise State last season (that 2009 team wasn’t terrifically different from this 2010 version), the TCU-Boise-Utah triumvirate is 4-0 in BCS bowls not played against each other. (Hawaii lost to Georgia in the 2008 Sugar Bowl, but that’s the exception for non-AQ conferences, not the rule.) The TCUs and Boise States of the world don’t deserve to be given an easier path to the national championship of college football; what they do deserve is the ability to play in the biggest games alongside the rest of the FBS elite. Anyone who took up Boise’s or TCU’s cause during the season wasn’t advocating for their superiority, but simply for equal opportunity and legitimate access to college football’s national title. TCU’s triumph over Wisconsin strikes one more blow for the underclass of college football; the term “little guy” isn’t about being physically weak or competitively fragile. The term is much more a socioeconomic and political one, a reference to the fact that TCU has not been able to contest the national title after two straight 12-0 regular seasons.
Notice that the word “playoff” has not yet appeared in this space. College football doesn’t need that. It does need a plus-one in the years when it’s necessary. If a 2005 Texas-USC scenario emerges, no plus-one. This shouldn’t be hard, but college football – which gives us the most sumptuous and visually appealing on-field spectacles – can’t give its fan base the biggest gift of all: a clear-cut, settle-the-debate, battle-of-bowl-winners extravaganza between Rose Bowl champion TCU and (in a modified system) Fiesta Bowl champion Auburn or Oregon. It’s unfortunate, because TCU never did anything to merit exclusion from the national-title chase.
---With that sermon over, some notes on the particulars of the latest and greatest Granddaddy:
1) The Armed Forces Bowl between Army and SMU featured this, and the Monday Morning Quarterback has talked about the same topic on multiple occasions over the years: Unless you face third- or fourth-and-one or a fourth-down red-zone situation, you should not use timeouts at an early or intermediate stage of the second half. One cannot emphasize enough the preciousness of second-half timeouts, which need to be preserved until the endgame phase if humanly possible. When Wisconsin mounted its late touchdown drive, quarterback Scott Tolzien – on 1st and 10 – called the Badgers’ second timeout with more than five and a half minutes to go. On third and two, such a move would have been acceptable, though not desirable. On first down, the value of a timeout greatly exceeds a five-yard delay of game penalty. Teams and quarterbacks have to realize this (SMU did not in its fourth quarter against Army on Thursday), but Wisconsin didn’t.
The Badgers wasted two timeouts before the endgame phase, and TCU gained an inordinate amount of tactical leverage as a result. You shorten the game when leading, but you lengthen the game when trailing. You can dog Wisconsin’s play selection in this game (the failure to use John Clay was more alarming than the run-pass mix; the infrequency of deep balls was more unwise than the number of passes the Badgers threw), but the biggest deficiency on the part of UW coach Bret Bielema was his teaching of game management. Tolzien is a veteran quarterback, but he wasn’t taught by Bielema to value second-half timeouts. If Wisconsin had two timeouts heading into the final minutes, TCU would have faced far more game pressure, and the Badgers could have legitimately considered the option of kicking deep after their touchdown with two minutes left.
Protect your second-half timeouts if you can. Learn from what Wisconsin failed to do.
2) The other big takeaway from this game was that Andy Dalton has cemented his place as a TCU legend. Tank Carder was the game’s MVP, but one can’t say enough good things about Dalton, a man who struggled so consistently and profoundly with his nerves over three years, but defeated his mental demons in year four. Dalton was a rock of leadership and the embodiment of poise for his team. Prudent and decisive, Dalton enabled the rest of TCU’s offense to flow with enough consistency to put Wisconsin off balance. TCU didn’t score nearly as much as it should have, but the Frogs – thanks to Dalton’s clutch third-down passing – were able to win field position and play a Big Ten-style game against the Big Ten co-champion. Now Dalton will occupy a place of prominence alongside another great SMU quarterback, Sammy Baugh. Not too bad for the redhead who melted down at Air Force and BYU in 2007; who cracked at Utah in 2008; and who slipped on the banana peel in the 2010 Fiesta Bowl against Boise State.
3) In the 161st game of the 1982 Major League Baseball season, the Los Angeles Dodgers walloped the San Francisco Giants, 15-2. On the 162nd game of the season, the Dodgers were nipped, 5-3, on a late home run by the Giants. How many times do we see this dynamic unfold? Teams that win games by huge margins then lose even bigger games by tiny margins. Should have saved some of those Indiana and Northwestern points for TCU, Bret Bielema. Somewhere, Tim Brewster’s having himself a mighty loud chortle, along with many other Big Ten coaches.