Chryst's play-calling questioned after loss
PASADENA, Calif. - That wasn't supposed to happen.
After ending the regular season on such a roll that made it seem like they could do no wrong, the Badgers fell victim to a number of mistakes and fell 21-19 to TCU in Wisconsin's first Rose Bowl since 2000.
The offense committed penalties, dropped passes and missed blocks. The defense missed tackles, got lost in coverage and dropped interceptions.
It was a game of missed opportunities.
But what everyone will be talking about is UW offensive coordinator Paul Chryst's play-calling, especially on Wisconsin's last offensive play of the game.
After trailing the entire second half, running back Montee Ball scored on a four-yard touchdown run with two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. That cut UW's deficit to 21-19, forcing the offense to go for two.
While Ball scored the touchdown, it was actually John Clay that led the Badgers down the field for what could have been the game-tying touchdown drive. After only receiving six carries up to that point, Clay got the ball six times and racked up 59 yards on UW's final drive. He put the team on his shoulders and nearly tied the game by himself.
"They said they were going to me, fresh for the fourth quarter," Clay said. "When I got the opportunity to get out there I just wanted to prove to my team and make sure I was doing what I was doing to help this team win."
So why was he not even on the field for the two-point conversion?
"That two-point play is something that is worked on and repped for TCU for the last three weeks," Bielema said. "Had an opportunity to get it in there, but their defender made a nice read on the quarterback's eyes, got his hands up and blocked it."
Quarterback Scott Tolzien lined up in shotgun with Montee Ball as his running back. And the play design actually worked. Tight end Jacob Pedersen was open, but TCU linebacker Tank Carder -- who was named Rose Bowl Defensive MVP -- made the game-clinching play by knocking down Tolzien's pass.
It was a microcosm of the entire game. TCU made plays and Wisconsin didn't.
"This game wasn't decided on one play or two plays," Bielema said. "It was probably an accumulation of 10 to 12 plays that we failed to execute, and they did, so hats off to them."
Still, when you consider the Frogs had absolutely no answer for Wisconsin's running game -- especially on runs up the middle -- Badger fans will always wonder, what if John Clay had gotten the ball on the two-point conversion in the 2011 Rose Bowl?
Unfortunately, we'll never know that answer.
"Yeah we were all a little surprised," Kendricks said when asked about the decision to throw the ball. "We were all thinking 23 (two backs, three tight ends), but we trust Coach Chryst and what he does and he's been doing well so we just went along with it and the ball just got batted down."
Combined, Ball, Clay and James White racked up 231 yards rushing. Clay's 76 yards gave him 1,012 rushing yards on the year. Ball's 132 gave him 996 yards on the season, meaning the Badgers missed having the first 1,000-yard running back trio in FBS history by only four yards.
With the success they had Saturday, it was surprising to see Tolzien throw the ball four times on first down in the second half. On the Badgers' second to last drive, he threw the ball on first, second and third down and all three passes fell incomplete.
Those passes could have worked. Tolzien wasn't exactly accurate and his receivers didn't exactly make plays for him. But running the ball got Wisconsin to the Rose Bowl, so why did Chryst get away from running the football?
That's a question no one thought they would be asking after the Rose Bowl. Paul Chryst's genius play-calling was a big reason why Wisconsin won 11 games this season and no one expected it to be a reason why they lost the Rose Bowl.
But it wasn't the only reason. The players didn't execute like they did in UW's 11 wins and TCU did a lot to force the Badgers out of their element.
"I'll give credit to TCU. No doubt there are certain things out there today that we had some penalties that aren't normal for us," Bielema said.