Wisconsin vs TCU: Who Rose to the Occasion? Game Recap and Implications

Jonathan FrayneContributor IJanuary 2, 2011

PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 01:  Quarterback Andy Dalton #14 and linebacker Tank Carder #43 of the TCU Horned Frogs hold the Rose Bowl Championship Trophy after defeating the Wisconsin Badgers 21-19 in the 97th Rose Bowl game on January 1, 2011 in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

TCU's flawless season came to a victorious end as they topped the Wisconsin Badgers, 21-19.

TCU's appearance in the "Grandaddy of them all" marks the first time a non-AQ team has played in the Rose Bowl game, but the BCS-busting Horned Frogs represented the small schools admirably, looking right at home in this traditional bowl game.

"We just want to prove we can play with the big boys," TCU running back Ed Wesley said.

And big boys they are. 

The game, played in the shadow of the San Gabriel mountains, remained close because of the five mountains up front for Wisconsin. The Badgers offensive line used their size advantage to dominate TCU at times as Wisconsin pounded the ball for 226 yards.

But TCU's defense came up big when it mattered most and no play mattered most than when Tank Carder's perfectly timed leap allowed him to swat Scott Tolzien's pass to the hallowed Pasadena ground.

Despite spending a long time on the field, TCU's defense bend but don't break attitude allowed them to keep Wisconsin out of the end zone on several occasions forcing them to settle for field goals.

Yet Wisconsin only came away with points on two of these occasions, Philip Welch's miss from 39 yards out proved to be key as the Badgers lost by two points.

The close defeat made it all the more agonizing for Wisconsin but all the more satisfying for TCU as players from both teams broke down in tears at the end of the game.

TCU senior safety Tejay Johnson cried tears of happiness after the triumph. He made several good plays in the run game and should be selected in the later rounds of the NFL Draft.

Rose Bowl defensive MVP Tank Carder recorded nine tackles and a sack to go along with this game winning play. Tackling machine "Tank" was constantly in the Wisconsin backfield, using his speed to snuff out running plays.

Will the junior linebacker decide to forgo his senior season and declare for the NFL Draft?

Junior defensive end J.J. Watt was another one in tears as he was asked about his future. Although he's yet to make a decision on his future, the defensive lineman is expected to forgo his senior season and enter the NFL Draft.

While it appears Watt had a quiet game, the 6'6" 290 pound prospect did draw to false start penalties and forced a holding penalty from TCU lineman Marcus Cannon.

Marcus Cannon played his final game for TCU and the play where he held JJ Watt highlighted his weakness in pass protection. The 360 pound tackle projects at guard or right tackle in the NFL.

On the other O-line, Wisconsin linemen Gabe Carimi showed similarities to Marcus Cannon—a raw prospect with good size but a little stiff in pass protection. Next to him, guard John Moffitt also played his last game and is a solid guard/center prospect.

Senior receiver Jeremy Kerley had six catches for 58 yards. The TCU playmaker is a dynamic threat with the ball in his hands and also possesses return ability. Expect him to be a mid-round selection.

Like Kerley, Wisconsin tight end Lance Kendricks didn't have his best of games, suffering from cramps. Although relatively undersized, he is a solid blocker and can also create mismatches in the pass game. He should be another another mid-round selection.

While TCU must say goodbye to the seniors who have achieved 44 wins in the past four years, making them the winningest class in school history, there isn't a player they will miss more than quarterback Andy Dalton.

Having recorded a school record 42nd win in the Rose Bowl, Dalton bows out as a big time winner.

And he deserves every bit of credit he gets.

Dalton was 15-of-23 for 219 yards and a touchdown to go along with 28 rushing yards and a touchdown on the ground.

It was the invaluable leadership and game management which we have seen time and time again from Dalton that propelled the Horned Frogs to victory.

The TCU signal caller will now advance to the pros.

While he won't garner a first round selection, Dalton possesses the tools to become a solid quarterback. He may not be spectacular, but he's a solid passer and his leadership and intangibles give him every chance of succeeding in the NFL.

Dalton will leave behind a TCU team which can now be recognized as one of the best in the country.

Having been snubbed for the National Championship, the Horned Frogs will finish as one of only two unbeaten teams in the nation.

Their glorious victory in Pasadena earns them the respect they rightly deserve and having burst the BCS bubble, the future looks rosy for TCU.