Grading the Badgers: Rose Bowl

PASADENA, Calif - It just wasn't in the cards for the University of Wisconsin. Penalties, sluggishness, up-and-down pass coverage and not converting on opportunities caused the Badgers to fall, 21-19, to No.3 TCU in the Rose Bowl. Badger Nation hands out the grades.


Scott Tolzien was not his normal calm and collected self. The Johnny Unitas Award winner, who led the nation in completion percentage, had an inconsistent Rose Bowl.

In the first quarter he was on target with most of his throws, including an impressive 16 yard deep out to Jared Abbrederis, and a 28 yard pass to Brady Ewing down the seam, which got the Badgers to the one-yard line.

As the game progressed, however, Tolzien became rattled by the pressure from TCU. Tolzien missed wide open receivers on multiple occasions and couldn't find the check-downs when his primary options were covered. He also took too long to get rid of the ball on a few occasions.

"There were pressures, but I know there is stuff that I can do too when that happens," Tolzien said. "Notably getting rid of the ball quicker, and that's what I can control, and I didn't do that. It hurt us today, especially on third down."

Tolzien finished the game 12-of-21 passing for just 159 yards. He also made a couple of poor decisions when he had to burn two timeouts in the fourth quarter. It became costly when the Badgers didn't convert the two-point conversion to tie the game with two minutes left in the game.

Tozien was just average when the Badgers needed him to be better than average to win the game.

Grade: C

Running Backs

The Badgers had their way with TCU for most of the game, which makes you wonder why Offensive Coordinator Paul Chryst was so determined to throw the football in some sequences. Montee Ball and John Clay each had explosive running plays, while James White was held in check for most of the game.

Ball opened the game with a 40-yard run which really set the tone for the Badgers. Wisconsin was going to try and rely on the run to beat TCU. Ball continued to run hard throughout the game. He finished with 22 carries for 132 yards and a touchdown.

John Clay made an impact from the start as well. The Badgers used play-action with Clay and Tolzien hit Ewing on the deep ball. On the next play Clay scored a TD from 1 yard out on his first carry.

"They said they wanted me fresh for the fourth quarter and when I got the opportunity to get out there I just wanted to prove myself to my team, and help this team win," Clay said.

He was certainly fresh for the final quarter. Clay rushed right through the TCU defense and led the Badgers down the field for a touchdown. He finished with 11 carries for 76 yards and a touchdown, but should have been used more.

White was held in check for most of the game. In many other games this year White was able to break a long run, but that wasn't the case in the Rose Bowl. White was held to just 25 yards on eight carries.

Combined Ball, Clay, and White had 231 yards on 41 carries.

Grade: B+

Wide Receivers

The passing game was almost non-existent for the Badgers. After a solid touchdown drive in the first quarter, which saw Tolzien complete three passes for 58 yards, the Badgers really struggled to get open and make plays in the passing game.

Nick Toon couldn't hang on to a couple of very catchable passes, but also made a spectacular catch, which originally was ruled an incomplete pass, but was overturned by replay.

Toon had three catches for 46 yards, but could have had a larger impact if he could have made those catches.

The Badgers were led by Lance Kendricks with four catches. Kendricks was out for a large portion of the second half with cramping issues, but still managed four catches for 36 yards.

Kendricks needed to be a bigger part of the game plan for the Badgers to be successful. If he would have been used down the middle it could have opened up for the wide receivers on the edges to make a play. Aside from Kendricks and Toon, the rest of the receiving corps didn't impact the game at all.

Grade: D+

Defensive Front

J.J. Watt was used to getting his named called multiple times throughout a game, but that wasn't the case during the Rose Bowl. TCU neutralized the All-American defensive end by using quick three step drops by Andy Dalton.

"The best thing their quarterback did was get the ball off extremely quick," Watt said. "I came off very, very clean a few times and the ball was gone."

The front four couldn't put pressure on Dalton and that put the defensive backs at a disadvantage as well.

The defensive line did do a good job of holding the TCU running game in check. The Horned Frogs gained just 82 yards on 26 carries, but managed two touchdowns.

Grade: C-

Defensive Backs

The Badgers secondary really gave the TCU wide receivers huge cushions all game long. This resulted in the Badgers giving up easy yardage in the passing game.

Devin Smith was beat numerous times including on a route up the seam to give TCU their first TD of the game on a 23 yard pass from Dalton. On the next drive Niles Brinkley was beaten deep by Josh Boyce to put the Horned Frogs on the Badgers 12, which led to the Dalton TD run. Smith also had a costly pass interference penalty later in the game, which extended a TCU drive and resulted in another TCU touchdown.

The Badgers defensive backs looked lost and out of position more times than not.

Grade: F

Special Teams

Brad Nortman has become a weapon as a punter. Not only because he kicks the ball extremely well, but because he is such a good athlete and gives the Badgers flexibility when calling fake punts. Nortman averaged 42 yards per punt, but also had the huge 11 yard run for a first down.

Philip Welch missed one kick from 39 yards with 8:34 left in the second quarter, but did make kicks from 30 and 37 yards. Many people thought one of the big advantages for TCU was the Badgers kick coverage, and that TCU was going to be able to take advantage of that deficiency. However, the Badgers held TCU in check and really made the return game a non-factor.

Grade: B

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