Notes: Gambles Don't Pay Off

Fake punts and a shotgun two-point conversion were just a couple of many gutsy plays run by No.4 Wisconsin against No.3 TCU Saturday, but the Badgers didn't get enough of a payoff to win the school's fourth Rose Bowl.

PASADENA, Calif. - Looking back at the game, you can't doubt that Wisconsin Coach Bret Bielema wanted to put that Rose Bowl trophy on the University's mantle.

Bielema tried to pull out all the stops and made some questionable play calls throughout the game. Some calls worked and others didn't.

Bielema dialed up a fake punt on a 4th-and-9 during the second quarter from Wisconsin's 33 yard line that was executed perfectly by Brad Nortman for an 11 yards and a Wisconsin first down. That call led to Philip Welch kicking a 37 yard field goal at the end of the first half.

Another controversial play call was the Badgers' two-point conversion attempt. After going back to what had gotten them to the Rose Bowl, Bielema and the coaching staff decided it was the right call to pass instead of running on the two-point attempt.

"That two-point play is something that is worked on and repped for TCU for the last three weeks. 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."

Wisconsin had used its three headed monster at running back to control the clock and get points. The Badgers running backs account for the Badgers only two touchdowns of the game.

Once Montee Ball dove into the end-zone for the touchdown that cut the lead to just two points, Bielema tested his luck one too many times.

"We had been working on that play since the beginning of fall camp," John Clay said. "We felt comfortable with that play call when it came to the two-point conversion. We got a chance to spread everybody out and see if we could get people open. We sat on the sideline knowing that we were going to get it and get ready for overtime, but they were able to get a hand up and bat the ball down."

Bielema went away from what had gotten the Badgers to the Rose Bowl and it didn't work out, but it wasn't because Bielema was being conservative.

Watt gets emotional

One look at J.J. Watt after the game and you could tell how much winning the Rose Bowl and capping off a great season would have meant to him.

After coming into the post-game press conference with helmet and eye black still on, Watt was brought to tears after an emotional game and an emotionally-charged question of how tough this was to swallow.

"We know how much this means to everybody, to everybody involved," said Watt, choking back tears. "We work 365 days a year for this, and then we come out here and don't execute."

TCU came into the Rose Bowl confident it could stymie Watt, but not even the most ardent Horned Frog supporter could have imagined rendering the Lott IMPACT Trophy recipient nearly invisible.

Watt finished with just three tackles, none for loss, and broke up a pass in what might be his final game at Wisconsin.

Co-offensive coordinator Justin Fuentes said TCU went out of its way to keep Watt from going one-on-one against its running backs and tight ends. "We felt like our offensive line, our tackles, could handle him in pass protection for the most part," Fuentes said. "You're not going to shut a guy like that totally out. We just needed to avoid the really bad match-ups."

The loss made an impact on the Badgers' defensive end, but he didn't have a doubt about where the Badgers were going in the future.

"The Wisconsin Badgers will be back to the Rose Bowl. I haven't made my decision, but if I'm back, if I go, the Wisconsin Badgers will be back to the Rose Bowl … Coach Bielema is an outstanding football coach. The Wisconsin program does things the right way. And Coach Alvarez leads the athletic department the right way."

While it's unknown if Watt will return for his senior year, he certainly has made an impact on the program and will go down as one of the best defensive lineman in school history.

"No doubt about it, the Badgers will be back," he said. "They'll be back better than ever. When they come back, they'll win."

Pinned back

There are a variety of reasons UW finished with their lowest single point total of the season Saturday, but perhaps tops among them has nothing to do with the offense at all.

The field position battle — a thorn in the side of UW all year — reared its head once again; this time with the Badgers receiving the long, long end of the stick.

With the Badgers trailing in the second half, the offense started three separate drives on the three, five and 11-yard lines.

Twice TCU got off excellent punts the Badgers couldn't do much about, forcing returner David Gilreath to fair catch one at the 11 and the TCU return team downed the other at the three. A bobbled kickoff with a block-in-the-back penalty accounted for the other.

UW never started a drive better than its own 33-yard line and had an average starting position of its own 20.

Eighty yards is a long way to go every single time against the top ranked defense in college football.

"That is rough, that is real rough," UW running back Montee Ball said. "Football is a game of field position and they got us."

"The percentages just go down and down for scoring the further away you start," UW senior and left guard John Moffitt added. "It showed with us today."

Tough to talk

The locker room of the Rose Bowl losing team is an emotionally exhausting place to be.

Seniors have just played their final games in college and with their teammates they have known for up to five years. Impact juniors are starting to make the decision about whether or not they will come back to college — Moffitt recommends that you do so. Every player is asked to explain a loss they have spent the entire year preparing for. Most of them don't even know how to describe what they are feeling.

For the courteous few who tried, however, the reactions were touching and varied.

As Ball stated, the younger players are eager to get back on the field and avenge the season ending slip up.

"Today, tomorrow, the next day and every day. I am ready for next year, I am ready for it now," Ball said. "We are going to all come back and we are going to use this motivation to come out on fire."

For seniors, the time of reflection for not just one year, but four or five years starts almost immediately.

"I am going to miss playing next to Gabe [Carimi] and Peter [Konz] the most," Moffitt said. "They are a great group of guys and great friends."

Then he choked up and stopped talking.

Quick work

TCU ran only 49 plays, tied for the fourth fewest in Rose Bowl game history and matched the fewest run by a winning team since Northwestern in 1949. The Badgers kept senior quarterback Andy Dalton and TCU's 43.3 points per game offense off the field in the second quarter for all but three plays and 90 seconds. It wasn't enough for a man with a huge chip on his shoulder.

After struggling in last season's Fiesta Bowl against fellow non-Automatic Qualifying school Boise State, Dalton was named the game's most valuable player on offense after he finish 15 of 23 for 219 yards and one touchdown and led the team in rushing with 28 yards on nine carries and a score on a quarterback scramble.

For the game, TCU had 12 plays that went 10 yards or longer.

"This is what we sought out to do," Dalton said. "From what happened last year … this whole off-season, summer workouts, fall camp, the whole season, our goal was to get back to a game like this … It's a dream come true. It's what we sought out to do, and we worked really hard for it."

Badger Nation Publisher Benjamin Worgull, Associate Publisher Michael Bleach, Recruiting Analyst Jordan Goetzke and USC writer Dan Greenspan contributed to this report


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