After a few flight delays I am back home and had a chance to watch the Rose Bowl over again this afternoon. This kind of game calls for a two-part film session, the second of which will include our normal film breakdown. That will be posted Tuesday.
For now, I'd simply like to share with you my thoughts as I re-watched the game. Before I share what I wrote down in my notebook, if you want to know the biggest reason why Wisconsin lost 21-19 to TCU Saturday, take a look at these drives by the Badgers:
8 plays, 55 yards, 4:21 - Field goal
13 plays, 55 yards, 6:58 - Missed field goal
14 plays, 47 yards, 7:04 - Field goal
10 plays, 50 yards, 5:16 - Punt
Those were four drives by the Wisconsin Badgers that took up 23:39 of the first 38:27 of the game and produced only six points. That's simply not the kind of efficiency the UW offense showed for most the season. Credit TCU's defense for making stops when they needed to, but when you look at how those drives ended, it really falls on the failed execution of the Badgers.
The second drive ended when Issac Anderson and David Gilreath were in the exact same spot and neither one was beyond the first down marker on 3rd-and-13. Anderson caught the ball, but the Badgers were three yards short and had to kick a field goal that Philip Welchmissed. That failed drive was one of the most crucial points in the game.
The third drive ended the first half, but it was a confusing last 44 seconds as Kendricks caught Tolzien's pass just short of the first down on 3rd-and-8. The Badgers had three timeouts remaining and could have gone for it on 4th and inches. Instead, Bielema let the clock run out and Welch hit the field goal as time expired in the half with TCU leading 14-13. I don't think it was necessarily a bad decision considering how easily TCU had moved the ball to this point, but we knew how important it was for Wisconsin to play with a lead in this game and scoring a touchdown there could have changed how the second half was played for both teams.
The fourth drive listed was UW's first drive of the second half and came on the heels of TCU taking a 21-13 lead -- the last points the Frogs would score the entire game. The Badgers made it all the way down to the TCU 37-yard line on 10 plays and had a 3rd-and-6. Tank Carder came on a blitz, James White missed the block and Scott Tolzien took a huge shot and went down for the sack. Great call by the TCU defense, but it was another opportunity where a Badger player had a chance to make a play and failed to.
Let's take a look at my notebook to see what else I saw on the tape:
On TCU's first drive, J.J. Watt had a couple chances to knock down Andy Dalton's passes, but missed them by barely an inch. One of those came on a crucial 3rd-and-10 at the UW 37-yard line when Dalton hit Jimmy Young for an 11-yard gain. TCU scored two plays later. TCU did a great job of drawing the UW defense inside with a number of Dalton keepers and then was able to go over the top to Bart Johnson for the 23-yard touchdown pass. Impressive game-plan.
Likewise, I loved how Paul Chryst used John Clay on the Badgers' ensuing touchdown drive. He brought Clay in the game for the first time and Tolzien hit Jared Abbrederis for a 16-yard gain on play-action and then came back with another play-action pass to Bradie Ewing for 28-yards down to the 1-yard line. Clay than ran it in for the touchdown. This was the first indication that Clay could make a huge difference whether or not he had the ball in his hands. I continue to wonder why he wasn't in the game more.
There were a number of dooming signs for the Badgers on the 13-play, 55 yard drive that ended with Welch's missed field goal. The first sign that Tolzien was showing jitters was when he rushed a swing pass out to White that would have been a huge gain. He threw the ball early even though he didn't need to and White couldn't get to the pass. A few plays later he fumbled a snap on first down. With a failed first down play, the Badgers couldn't pick it up on second or third down and Welch missed the field goal. Crucial empty drive.
There were two missed opportunities by the Badger defense to get interceptions. One came in the second quarter when Aaron Henry dropped an interception in TCU territory. The Badgers forced the Frogs to punt, but they had to start their drive at their own 32 instead. We'll get to the second dropped INT later.
On that drive, Clay got six yards on first down, but then Chryst called for a pass on second down which fell incomplete, as did the third down pass. This is where UW was successful on the fake punt, but it was another instance where I would have liked to see Clay get the ball more and instead UW threw the ball. Clay only received one more carry on that drive.
If you thought it was ballsy for Bielema to call for a fake punt from his own 38-yard line, how ballsy was it that he still went with it after Ethan Armstrong was called for a false start turning 4th-and-4 into 4th-and-9 from the 33? And then when you look at the tape and see Brad Nortman actually tipped the play off on the false start by tucking the ball and taking a few steps forward, how did TCU not sniff that out? Amazing.
A lot of people have been asking me about the Devin Smith pass interference call in the third quarter that played a big part in TCU scoring their last touchdown of the game. It was a big play and a debatable call, but I can see why it was made. I hate defensive pass interference when the receiver is the one who initiates the contact, but on one angle you could see Smith give Jeremy Kerley a push back and that's what drew the flag. Maybe should have been a no-call.
Toon showed up big on UW's first drive of the second half, but the Badgers missed a huge opportunity when he had a chance to pull down a deep-ball inside the five-yard line. Tolzien under-threw it just a touch and it forced Toon to slow down, allowing Greg McCoy to make a play on the ball. It was a great defensive play, but I thought Toon still had a chance to make the play -- easier said than done -- and had Tolzien hit Toon in stride it probably would have been a touchdown. Instead, the Badgers punted after Carder tanked Tolzien on third down. Left tackle Gabe Carimi told me Thursday that TCU would blitz a lot more than they usually do. The Frogs did and it worked.
First off, what a great job by the Wisconsin defense in the second half. The unit forced TCU to punt on the three possessions the Frogs had after scoring on their first possession of the second half. The defense gave up yards, but not a whole lot of points. If you had told me TCU would only score 21 points, I would have said the Badgers would win comfortably.
It wasn't a huge missed opportunity, but it could have been one of those game-changing plays. On 3rd-and-15 early in the fourth quarter, Dalton dropped back and threw a rare ill-advised pass intended for Bart Johnson. Conor O'Neill jumped the pass and had it in his hands. Unfortunately, Aaron Henry was looking to lay a big hit and he manged to hit O'Neill instead of Johnson. The ball came loose and fell incomplete. O'Neill would have had the interception at the UW 22-yard line and instead, Gilreath fair-caught the TCU punt at the UW 11-yard line. It's only a difference of 11-yards, but UW only managed to get to the 21-yard line on the drive and was forced to punt. An interception could have been a motivation changer (it would have been the first and only turnover of the game) and maybe UW would have scored earlier than they did... but we can only speculate.
The play calling wasn't all on Paul Chryst. On that same failed drive that only went 12-yards, Clay gained five yards on first down. On second down, John Moffitt was called for a false start and that pushed the Badgers into a 2nd-and-10. Chryst didn't have to pass, but it was certainly understandable. Tolzien was forced to scramble and was tackled for no gain.
With that said, Tolzien hit Gilreath on 3rd-and-10 and got the first down. Chryst then called three straight passing plays, all of which fell incomplete. If there was one time where I second-guessed the play calling, this was it. Clay's five-yard rush to start the drive showed that he was ready to take over and they lost another five minutes before finally going to the big guy again. In fact, he wasn't even on the field as the Badgers passed on three straight plays. There was still over 10 minutes left in the game and the Badgers' offense was operating like there was less than a minute to go.
If you are looking for an unsung hero for TCU, it was punter Anson Kelton. Wisconsin was forced to start their first three drives of the second half from their own 5, 3, and 11-yard lines. Field position certainly didn't make things easier on the Badgers. On top of that, Kelton saved a disastrous situation when the snap on his final punt nearly sailed over his head to the right. It was a pretty bad snap and I was surprised he handled it as well as he did.
After that punt, John Clay came in the game and immediately ran off a run of 14-yards followed by a run of 30-yards. He needed a breather and went to the bench as Ball came in. Fair enough. But then Tolzien was forced to call timeout because he called the wrong play (that's what he told me after the game and wasn't happy with himself over it). The only bright side of wasting that timeout? Clay can catch his breath and not miss a play, right? Wrong. Ball was still in the game after the timeout and ran for no gain and 4-yards on the next two plays, respectively. Fortunately, Tolzien hit Kendricks on 3rd-and-6 to keep the drive going, but why not just keep feeding Clay? Clay then came in and got the ball on four straight carries, picking up 15 yards, setting up Ball's touchdown run.
I think it should also be mentioned that Wisconsin showed a real lack of urgency on that last drive, letting the play clock go under 10 seconds on every play and thus wasting some valuable time that they needed after not converting the two-point conversion. Down eight points, I just don't think you can bank on definitely converting the two-pointer, especially when you are forced to burn a timeout in the middle of the drive.
As for the two-point conversion, I think it is unfair to criticize the play-call because Jacob Pedersen was wide open and Carder just made a great play on the ball. But I also think it is fair to wonder why John Clay wasn't on the field and why Scott Tolzien was in shotgun. It's impressive the UW coaching staff had an exact play for that exact situation, but that doesn't mean you have to run it if the game dictates otherwise.
Well, that's a wrap. A lot of thoughts on what was a really good game. Keep in mind, one team had to win and one team had to lose and TCU had a great game-plan and executed it better than the Badgers did. The Frogs deserve a lot of credit.