first_imgView Gallery (2 Photos)PASADENA, Calif. – Three yards. Two points. One onside kick recovery.The Wisconsin Badgers (11-2, 7-1) seemingly needed just one of the above to eek out a victory in the 97th Rose Bowl Game on Jan. 1. Instead, the afternoon became a game of missed opportunities. UW outgained TCU 385-381, outrushed the Horned Frogs 226-82 and held the ball for 13 more minutes, but ultimately, it wasn’t enough.“They did exactly what we saw on film and everything,” running back Montee Ball said. “They capitalized on our mistakes, and that’s how you win football games.”After ending their first two drives with a field goal and touchdown, respectively, the Badgers seemed well on their way to a strong offensive performance. Yet, after driving 55 yards on 13 plays – consuming 6:58 of the clock – Phillip Welch missed a 39-yard field goal. That left the score at 14-10 with 8:34 remaining in the first half.Wisconsin forced TCU – which matched the Badgers’ powerful offensive attack all game long – into a three-and-out on its next drive. UW started the next drive on its own 32-yard line and 7:04 to score, but after driving 47 yards on 13 plays, the Badgers were faced with a fourth-and-short on TCU’s 22-yard line. Wisconsin had all three of its timeouts remaining and could have attempted to prolong the drive, but head coach Bret Bielema rushed Welch out for a 39-yard field goal. The junior kicker connected, and the Badgers went into halftime down 14-13.“We were content with taking the points,” Bielema said. “I couldn’t get clarification as much as I wanted of how close we were [to the first down]. All [the referees] kept saying it was [fourth down]. So at that point I didn’t want to call a timeout and disrupt Phillip. Phillip felt pretty good. He’s a better kicker on the left hash, and he was going out in rhythm. I wanted him to get those points and move forward.”So despite outgaining the Horned Frogs by nearly 100 yards and holding the ball for 21:21 compared to their 8:32, the Badgers trailed at halftime. Entering Jan. 1, Wisconsin averaged 2.9 penalties per game, the nation’s fewest. Yet, in the first half alone, the Badgers had committed three for 16 yards. After Ball ran 40 yards on the first play from scrimmage, receiver Nick Toon committed a false start, immediately cutting Wisconsin’s momentum.“From penalties to not getting a first down running or catching the ball, we were just playing outside our characteristics,” running back John Clay said. “We know what kind of team we have, we know what we’re capable of doing. We didn’t get hot until the second half, and by then, it was too late.”On TCU’s subsequent drive, Devin Smith was called for a pass interference penalty on Horned Frogs’ star receiver Jeremy Kerley, negating an impressive defensive stand. Then, on the final drive of the first half, Ethan Armstrong committed a false start on fourth-and-four. Backed up five yards, the Badgers called a fake punt, and punter Brad Nortman scrambled for 11 yards and a first down. Wisconsin escaped the false start unscathed, but the writing was on the wall for the second half.The Badgers committed three more penalties in the second half, finishing with six for 41 yards.“We just weren’t executing,” quarterback Scott Tolzien said. “We knew that’s what the game was going to be about, who is going to be disciplined and who is going to execute. TCU did, and Wisconsin didn’t.”The Badgers had one final shot to execute, down eight with 7:32 remaining in the game. After seemingly inconsistent play calling that had Wisconsin’s offense deviate from its stellar power running attack for much of the game, Clay almost singlehandedly drove the Badgers down the field. The now-departed running back (he announced Jan. 7 he was declaring for the NFL Draft) rushed for 59 yards on UW’s final drive, and Ball ran it in from four yards out to make the score 21-19 in favor of TCU.Yet, Wisconsin elected to go to the air on the two-point conversion. Backup tight end Jacob Pedersen broke off the line and was wide open in the endzone after a short buttonhook.Tolzien saw him, but his pass was batted down at the line by TCU linebacker Tank Carder. The Badgers’ final shot came on backup kicker Alec Lerner’s onside kick, which went straight up into the air and was easily recovered by the Horned Frogs. With only two minutes left on the clock, TCU easily ran out the clock.“I was feeling hot, it was a possibility [that we would have converted] … You never know what that defense is going to do,” Clay, who was taken off the field for the two-point attempt, said. “They could’ve loaded the box up, and they even could’ve stopped me then. We went for the best thing we’ve been working on for the longest in practice. Every two-point conversion that we tried in practice, we felt comfortable with that play and we ran with it.”last_img