The TCU Horned Frogs were in the Mountain West Conference during the 2010 season, but that didn't stop them from capping off an undefeated campaign with a 21-19 victory over the Big Ten's Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl.
To hear TCU head coach Gary Patterson tell it during Big 12 media days (via RedditCFB), the fact then-Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst had his eyes on the same position with the Texas Longhorns didn't help the Badgers' cause:
"So Wisconsin goes into the Rose Bowl, their offensive coordinator and the offensive coordinator at Boise State were both vying for the offensive coordinator at Texas. So do you think you can just get the offensive coordinator at Texas job by running for 300 yards and not throwing the football and just pounding TCU? Probably not. So I took into consideration, the more I read the papers, the more I listened, that they would probably try to play action and do more. So we played to our advantage until the last drive. We had them locked, incomplete, 2nd-and-10, well now that plays the advantage of a smaller TCU team."
Throwing the ball was not a recipe for success in that game for the Badgers.
Quarterback Scott Tolzien finished 12-of-21 for 159 yards and zero touchdowns and threw an incomplete pass on a two-point conversion with two minutes remaining that would have tied the contest. Wisconsin never got the ball back.
It was a win for the Horned Frogs every time Tolzien dropped back to throw because that meant it kept the ball out of the hands of Wisconsin’s talented running backs. Montee Ball ran for 132 yards and a score while averaging 6.0 yards per attempt, while John Clay ran for 6.9 yards per attempt on his way to 76 yards.
It is not a stretch to suggest the Badgers would have won if they consistently pounded away at the Horned Frogs defense with the rushing attack. They could have at least kept the ball on the ground for the two-point conversion but elected to pass again.
Chryst eventually became the head coach for the Pittsburgh Panthers from 2012 through 2014 and finished with a 19-19 record before returning to Wisconsin as its head coach. He is 42-12 in the last four seasons with four straight bowl game victories, including an Orange Bowl win over Miami.
While Chryst has largely found success with the Badgers as the head coach, it appears as if Patterson found a weakness leading into the 2011 Rose Bowl and exploited it for a head-turning win over a power-conference foe.