Needing a Better Fiesta

TCU Coach Gary Patterson said after a disappointing loss to Boise State in last year's Fiesta Bowl that his team only got one chance to handle the pressure. Getting another BCS shot against Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl, the Horned Frogs aren't taking any chances, limiting their holiday and their fun in the process.

MADISON – Finally breaking through the BCS barrier, TCU Coach Gary Patterson knew his team has a chance against fellow buster Boise State to show it belonged on the national stage.

Maybe that's why Patterson is so eager for his team to have a second chance.

One year after the Horned Frogs saw their 14-game win streak end in the Fiesta Bowl, No.3 TCU are looking for more than extended its win streak to 13 when it faces No.4 Wisconsin in the 97th Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., Jan.1. The Frogs are looking for redemption.

One year after TCU edged Boise State, 17-16, in the 2008 Poinsettia Bowl, the Broncos took advantage against fourth-ranked TCU by intercepting junior quarterback Andy Dalton three times and held the Horned Frogs fourth-rating scoring offense (40.7 points per game) to a meager 10 points in a 17-10 ugly win for Boise State.

"We didn't change our bowl prep, so whether it was playing Boise State twice … I don't know," Patterson said. "Give Boise credit. They came out, changed their defense, did a bunch of things differently and were positive on their side to do so. I think both schools were a little bit disappointed they didn't get a chance to play somebody from an automatic qualifying conference.

"I don't know if we took the ball game, starting off the ball game, as well. You've got to be able to handle the pressure. You only get one chance."

Actually, the Horned Frogs are getting another chance, which is why TCU is picking preparation over the holidays. Its original practice schedule had TCU practicing on Dec. 24 and giving the players Christmas off to spend with their families before flying to Pasadena.

The players nixed that idea, wanting to leave as soon as possible to start focusing on the task at end. Wisconsin on the other end will have off the 24th and fly out on the 25th.

"It says a lot about our kids," said Patterson, as TCU is now scheduled to fly to Los Angeles on Dec. 24 and will practice there on Christmas Day. "Very unselfish, really workmanlike. I think going to the BCS game a year ago and coming up short made a difference in how they've looked at this. The feeling they had after that ball game, I think it'll help us in this ball game, to get ready for the game."

Another change made by Patterson was his decision was tightening the team's curfews. A year after relaxing curfews in the week leading up to the game, in part due to distances from the hotel to events, the players approached Patterson about putting them on lock down when they get to California.

"I think for us to keep climbing the mountain we need to (win)," Patterson said. "That's why we're going there. We're not going there just to play well. But I do believe it says a lot for us to be in this ball game, because of what we've been able to do over the last six years and where we've come from."

TCU is the first school from a non-automatic qualifying conference to earn consecutive BCS berths and the first to play in the Rose Bowl since the start of the BCS system in 1998, and can thank two areas two areas for that opportunity.

Dalton, who had thrown only five interceptions in 279 pass attempts during last year's regular season before getting picked three times, was the offensive player of the year in the Mountain West after helping Texas Christian to the eighth-best rushing offense in the country (261.17 ypg) and the No. 53 passing attack (230.33 ypg).

Complimenting Dalton is the nation's top-ranked scoring defense, allowing 11.4 points per game, and the top-ranked total defense, surrendering 215.4 yards per game.

If they register another shutdown performance, TCU would become just the third team to finish first in total defense for three straight seasons, and a team that successfully fixed last year's disappointment.

"Every team is different, but what can I say about the nucleus of this team, the chemistry and the attitude to play together is there," Patterson said. "We've lost some great players, especially on defense, and every year they seem to come back and play together."


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