Jae C. Hong, Associated Press
TCU vs Wisconsin boxscore
PASADENA, Calif. — TCU will never know how it would fare against prolific Auburn quarterback Cam Newton. Thanks to the impenetrable BCS, the Horned Frogs can only speculate on whether they could match Oregon's spread offense point for point.
Yet third-ranked TCU's dramatic 21-19 win over No. 4 Wisconsin in the 97th Rose Bowl on Saturday answered just about every other question the world could pose to this modest program with enormous heart.
The Frogs (13-0) then celebrated their perfect season on the hallowed Pasadena turf in the name of all those small schools that never even imagined they could get there — every non-automatic qualifying school with dreams of validation.
"We weren't just playing for TCU," said Andy Dalton, who threw for 219 yards and a touchdown and ran for a score in his 42nd career victory. "We were playing for all the non-AQ schools out there. ... The way the system is, it didn't give us the opportunity to play in the (title) game, but we did everything we were capable of doing."
TCU's first Rose Bowl victory wasn't secure until Tank Carder batted down a 2-point conversion pass attempt with 2 minutes to play. The Frogs' star linebacker saved the game with a serendipitous play after the Badgers (11-2) made a gutsy late scoring drive to get to the brink of a tie.
Bart Johnson caught an early TD pass and recovered a late onside kick for the Mountain West champion Horned Frogs, who followed up their second straight unbeaten regular season with their first BCS victory.
TCU lost last year's Fiesta Bowl to Boise State by a touchdown, but that's still the only loss of the past two seasons for the improbable power built deep in the heart of football-crazy Texas by coach Gary Patterson.
"It's hard for me to believe we even got an opportunity to play in the Rose Bowl, let alone say we're the Rose Bowl champs," Patterson said. "As a program for 13 years, we've been trying to climb the mountain. ... Today has been the climax of the last (13) years and what we've tried to get done."
Most of the Frogs stayed on the field after the trophy presentation to soak in another minute of the biggest achievement for TCU football since its national championship season in 1938 — the only other unbeaten campaign for the school that has produced Davey O'Brien, "Slingin' Sammy" Baugh and LaDainian Tomlinson.
Patterson plans to watch the BCS championship game on his couch, relaxing while Oregon's Chip Kelly and Auburn's Gene Chizik sweat out the details in nine days. Patterson's ferocious Frogs already proved they can play with anybody on college football's biggest stages.
"I've been saying for a while that parity in college football is here," Patterson said. "I got texts from everybody across the nation, from Boise State and schools all over. ... Today we played for us, and for all the schools that wanted a chance."
Although nobody would have guessed from the raucous crowd comprised of roughly three-quarters Wisconsin fans, the game was just the third Rose Bowl since 1919 without a current Pac-10 team in it. With Oregon otherwise occupied, TCU beat out Orange Bowl-bound Stanford for the Pasadena slot because of a BCS rule requiring the Rose Bowl to take a non-AQ team this year.
The non-AQ schools improved to 5-2 in BCS bowls with the Frogs' triumph — 4-1 vs. the leagues with automatic bids. Fans can debate where TCU's win in Pasadena ranks with Boise State's thrilling one-point win over Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl or Utah's upset of Alabama in the 2009 Sugar Bowl, but the Frogs will always be the first back-to-back BCS busters — even after they head to the Big East in 2012.
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