After two weeks of waiting through blowouts and snoozers, the Grandaddy of Them All delivered. The 2011 Rose Bowl is destined for the hall of classics, with its two deserving opponents and tight finish. The win was never out of reach for either team, but a quick run through the numbers points the way to TCU's victory over Wisconsin:
Credit where credit's due, the Badgers outgained the Horned Frogs, 386-302. And despite the rapid-fire scoring in the first period, both defenses played with stalwart resolve, at least according to the stat sheet: These teams were tied for fourth place nationally in scoring offense headed into today's game, with each averaging over 43 points a week, and both offenses were held to less than half their customary outputs.
Clean, efficient play was the order of the day for the most part in Pasadena, with all sides playing turnover-free ball and accumulating modest penalty yardage. Wisconsin did fumble twice, but never lost the ball. The Badgers were 6-15 on third-down conversions; the Horned Frogs 6-10. Wisconsin, it should also be noted, converted on both fourth-down plays they attempted.
So let's get to what didn't work, and why it didn't matter: The Badgers recorded 226 rushing yards, just below their season average. The Horned Frogs, boasting the nation's seventh-ranked rushing offense thanks to the tireless efforts of Ed Wesley, were held to 85 on the ground, but they also had an aerial attack to turn to that matched up favorably with the Badgers' pass defense, with Andy Dalton and his receiving corps averaging over nine yards per pass play.
As for what didn't work for Wisconsin, and why it did matter: TCU's top-flight defensive front seven got Scott Tolzien to the ground twice, ending one possession, and that missed field goal in the second quarter proved costly. And really, that's all.
What we saw in the 2011 Rose Bowl matched, for once this postseason, the billing we were sold by the game marketers: two excellent teams playing up to their potential. When a contest pairs combatants so closely matched, however, it's the little mistakes that shift those tiny margins. TCU was just a little bit cleaner today, and that's all the room they needed.