Rose Bowl: Texas Christian 21, Wisconsin 19 (final)
Texas Christian won't be the national champion, but the Horned Frogs did all they could do.
TCU capped a 13-0 season by defeating Wisconsin, 21-19, Saturday in the 97th Rose Bowl game before a crowd of 94,118 and a national television audience.
The Horned Frogs' top-rated defense gave up 385 yards and Wisconsin was able to drive 77 yards in 10 plays to pull within tying distance near the end of the game, but TCU made big plays when it had to.
The biggest one: On a two-point conversion try following Montee Ball's four-yard touchdown with two minutes left in the game, Horned Frog linebacker Tank Carder batted down a Scott Tolzien pass to secure the win.
Wisconsin tight end Jacob Pedersen was open in the end zone on the play, but Carder, rushing on a blitz, read Tolzien's eyes and got his hands up in plenty of time.
Carder was chosen the defensive player of the game. TCU quarterback Andy Dalton was offensive player of the game. He completed 15 of 23 passes for 219 yards and a touchdown, and also led the Horned Frogs in rushing with 28 yards in nine carries.
Jeremy Kerley also had a strong game for TCU, catching six passes for 58 yards and returning two kickoffs for 51 yards.
Wisconsin, which finished 11-2, got 132 yards rushing from Ball in 22 carries and 76 yards rushing in 11 carries by John Clay -- who carried six times for 59 yards on the Badgers' final drive. Tolzien completed 12 of 21 passes for 159 yards.
Wisconsin rediscovered John Clay a little too late -- and with the game on the line lost him again.
Clay, the Big Ten Conference's top offensive player in the 2009 season, was slowed by injuries this season. And in today's Rose Bowl game, even though he was healthy, he stayed something of an afterthought, getting only five carries until Wisconsin's final possession.
He had six carries for 59 yards as the Badgers drove 77 yards in 10 plays for the touchdown that pulled them to within a two-point conversion with two minutes left to play.
But then on a two-point try, Wisconsin tried a pass rather than give it to the back who carried it to within striking distance.
Scott Tolzien's pass, intended for tight end Jacob Pedersen, barely got out of his hand before it was knocked to the ground by Texas Christian linebacker Tank Carder.
Wisconsin tried an onside kick, but it was recovered by TCU senior Bart Johnson and the Horned Frogs ran out the clock in their 21-19 victory.
It's hard to believe these teams set a Rose Bowl record for scoring with 24 first-quarter points.
Since then, the defenses have settled in, with Texas Christian proving why it came into the game as the national leader in overall defense, giving up averages of only 11.4 points and 215.4 yards per game.
And now time is running out. With only 7 minutes 32 seconds left in regulation, Wisconsin has the ball on its own 16-yard line.
After a fast start, Wisconsin's offense hasn't been able to sustain much against Texas Christian's top-ranked defense, which made two big plays early in the third quarter.
First, cornerback Greg McCoy stripped Wisconsin receiver Nick Toon of a pass that would have moved the Badgers inside the 10-yard line. Then, on a key third-down play, linebacker Tank Carder made like his first name and flattened Wisconsin quarterback Scott Tolzien before he could deliver a pass.
TCU has been impressive on special teams, too, with punter Anson Kelton most recently pinning Wisconsin back on its own three-yard line thanks to a hot-potato relay by his teammates on the coverage team.
Texas Christian's offense hasn't had the ball much compared to Wisconsin, but the Horned Frogs are making the most of their time.
Fullback Luke Shivers just scored from one yard on his first carry of the game to give TCU a 21-13 lead just 3 minutes and 4 seconds into the second half.
Wisconsin has held the ball more than twice as long as TCU, but Horned Frogs quarterback Andy Dalton has had his unit in motion most of the game.
Dalton completed passes of 33 yards to Ed Wesley and 12 yards to Jimmy Young on the drive. TCU also picked up 15 yards on a pass interference call.
Dalton has completed nine of 12 passes for 154 yards in the game.
TCU 14, Wisconsin 13 (halftime)
A not-very-smart call that worked and an officials challenge enabled Wisconsin to pull within a point on the last play of the first half.
The call: On fourth-and-nine from its own 33 yard line, Wisconsin punter Brad Nortman ran 11 yards for a first down.
A gutty play since it worked. Something far less than that if it hadn't.
Then, later in the drive, wide receiver Nick Toon made a diving catch of a Scott Tolzien third-down pass, but officials on the field ruled it a trap.
However, Toon popped up, sprinted across the field, and appealed to his coaches to challenge the ruling. They did -- and won.
Tolzien was then sacked by Texas Christian strong safety Colin Jones on the next play, but he rebounded to complete three passes to put Wisconsin in field goal range.
Philip Welch converted from 37 yards out as time expired in the half.
Jones, a 6-foot, 208-pound senior, has been all over the field for the Horned Frog defense, batting away passes and generally being a thorn in the side to Tolzien.
Halftime statistical leaders:
For TCU, quarterback Andy Dalton has completed seven of 10 passes for 109 yards and a touchdown. He also leads the Horned Frogs with 31 rushing yards in seven carries. Jimmy Young is the top receiver with three catches for 34 yards.
For Wisconsin, Tolzien has completed eight of 12 passes for 106 yards. Montee Ball is the leading rusher with 101 yards in 13 carries -- 40 of those yards coming on the game's first play from scrimmage. Lance Kendricks is the Badgers' top receiver with three catches for 26 yards.
Something to remember late in the game: Wisconsin ran 38 plays for 234 yards in the first half, keeping the ball 21 minutes and 28 seconds.
TCU has gained 141 yards in 18 plays and has kept the ball only 8:32.
Still TCU 14, Wisconsin 10 (late in second quarter):
Wisconsin's Philip Welch was six for six making field goals from 39 yards in.
But now he's six for seven.
Welch, a junior, just missed wide left on a 39-yard field-goal attempt early in the second quarter.
TCU 14, Wisconsin 10 (start of second quarter):
Andy Dalton is faring considerably better in his second Bowl Championship Series game than he did in his first.
The Texas Christian senior had three passes intercepted in last year's Fiesta Bowl, a 17-10 loss to Boise State.
But in the early going against Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl, he's been nearly flawless.
Dalton has put the Horned Frogs back in front on a four-yard run with 36 seconds left in the first quarter.
Jeremy Kerley set up the 57-yard scoring drive with a 35-yard kickoff return.
Then came a one-yard run by Ed Wesley on the first play. After that, it was all Dalton.
He hit Josh Boyce with a perfectly thrown pass for a 44-yard gain, then ran on three consecutive plays, gaining one, seven and four yards.
The 24 points in the first quarter is a Rose Bowl record. The previous record was 17 points, accomplished on multiple occasions -- the last time in 1993 by Michigan and Washington.
Wisconson 10, TCU 7 in first quarter:
What's this? Wisconsin can pass the ball too?
The offense that one time this season ran on 29 consecutive plays, just moved right down the field to take a 10-7 lead on the arm of quarterback Scott Tolzien.
Tolzien, showing why he led the nation in completion percentage, connected on passes of 14 yards to Lance Kendricks, 18 to Jared Abbrederis and 27 to Bradie Ewing on a six-play, 67-yard drive.
John Clay scored the touchdown on a one-yard dive, the first score since Oct. 23 for the 2009 Big Ten Conference offensive player of the year. He has been slowed by knee injuries
TCU 7, Wisconsin 3 (first quarter):
Whether Texas Christian's top-rated defense can slow Wisconsin is still to be seen.
But the Horn Frogs on their first possession left little doubt they can move the ball against the Badgers.
TCU has taken a 7-3 lead with 6 minutes 15 seconds still to play in the first quarter on a 23-yard pass from Andy Dalton to Bart Johnson.
Dalton, a senior, was impressive throughout the 10-play, 77-yard scoring drive.
His pass to Johnson came after a nice pump fake and was right on target as well as right on time.
He also twice connected on third-down passes to keep the drive going, finding Jimmy Young both times for gains of 14 and 12 yards.
Wisconsin, the nation's least-penalized team, also fueled TCU's march with a pass interference penalty. The Badgers have already been flagged twice, the first time on offense for a false start that negated a nice run.
Wisconsin 3, TCU 0 (early first quarter):
First questionable decision of the 97th Rose Bowl:
Texas Christian won the coin flip and Coach Gary Patterson elected to put the ball in the hands of the nation's hottest offense.
So, after one possession, Wisconsin leads, 3-0.
Badgers running back Montee Ball ripped off a 40-yard run on the first play from scrimmage to set up a 30-yard field goal by Philip Welch only 4 minutes 21 seconds into the game.
It's game time, so it's time to get the six L.A. Times reporters, columnists and editors covering the game on the record with their predictions:
National college football columnist Chris Dufresne: Texas Christian, 34-31.
USC beat reporter Gary Klein: Wisconsin, 34-31.
Reporter Ben Bolch: TCU, 31-24.
Columnist Bill Plaschke: TCU, 24-20.
Deputy Sports Editor Mike Hiserman: Wisconsin, 27-24.
Page 2 columnist T.J. Simers: "I don't give a rip."
Later in the day, around sunset, the San Gabriel Mountains overlooking the Rose Bowl will no doubt turn majestically purple.
But right now, about 15 minutes or so before game time, there is a distinct red hue inside the stadium.
Wisconsin fans have turned the Rose Bowl into Camp Randall West, turning out in force to fill about two-thirds of the seats.
Early omen: the Navy Seal parachutist representing Texas Christian landed closest to midfield -- touching down around the 47-yard line while the Wisconsin representative landed around the 38.
It doesn't mean a thing ... but it's all we have at this point.
Photo: TCU linebacker Tank Carder reacts after sacking Wisconsin quarterback Scott Tolzien in the third quarter of the Rose Bowl on Saturday. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times