UW football: For TCU team, Rose Bowl trip is no day at the beach

2010-12-07T05:00:00Z 2010-12-20T17:29:55Z UW football: For TCU team, Rose Bowl trip is no day at the beachTOM MULHERN | tmulhern@madison.com | 608-252-6169 madison.com

The original Rose Bowl itinerary for the Texas Christian football team had the Horned Frogs practicing on Dec. 24, then allowed the players to spend Christmas with their families before flying to Pasadena, Calif.

The players quickly nixed that idea.

They were eager to leave as soon as possible, hoping to redeem themselves after losing to Boise State 17-10 in their Bowl Championship Series debut in the Fiesta Bowl last season.

TCU players even requested tighter curfews than a year ago, too.

"It says a lot about our kids," TCU coach Gary Patterson said Monday during the Mountain West Conference coaches' teleconference. "Very unselfish, really workmanlike. I think going to the BCS game a year ago and coming up short made a difference in how they've looked at this.

"The feeling they had after that ball game, I think it'll help us in this ball game, to get ready for the game."

Any disappointment the Horned Frogs (12-0) might have felt in being left out of the BCS title game was short-lived after getting a shot to play the University of Wisconsin (11-1) in the Rose Bowl.

TCU is the first school from a non-automatic qualifying conference to earn consecutive BCS berths and the first to play in the Rose Bowl since the start of the BCS system in 1998.

Over the past 64 years, only four teams from outside the Pacific-10 or Big Ten have played in the game — Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska and Miami (Fla.). The significance of joining that list is huge to Patterson.

"The honor of being able to be a part of it is very important to us," Patterson said. "We understand that responsibility."

The lessons learned from last year will also help. Patterson relaxed curfews early in the week before the game, in part due to distances from the hotel to events.

"(The players) have already asked I not do that, that I close that off a little bit when I get to the Rose Bowl," Patterson said.

TCU is now scheduled to fly to Los Angeles on Dec. 24 and will practice there on Christmas Day.

Linebacker Tank Carder told the Dallas Morning News the experience at last year's bowl game will help the players be more focused this time.

"Last year we saw it more as a BCS game instead of just another game," Carder said. "This year we'll know how a BCS game works, so we'll be a little bit more prepared for it and go take care of business."

Some other factors were at work last season, too. Both TCU and Boise State had undefeated regular seasons and were hoping to get shots at opponents from BCS conferences. The two teams also met the previous season in the Poinsettia Bowl and TCU won 17-16.

The Horned Frogs got off to a slow start in the rematch, falling behind 10-0 in the second quarter. Patterson credited Boise State with making key defensive changes entering the game. Quarterback Andy Dalton threw three interceptions and a fake punt set up the winning touchdown. It's the only defeat TCU has suffered in its past 27 games.

The challenge for Patterson, while acknowledging the significance of playing in the Rose Bowl, is not to make this game too big.

"You only get one chance, this is history," Patterson said. "I told (players), 'You're on uncharted grounds, to be a team from a non-automatic qualifying conference, to get a chance to play in such a ball game. And to get a chance to represent. We need to make sure we have a great showing and go there to win, lay it all on the line."

Patterson is in his 10th year as coach at TCU and said he not only admires what the Badgers do, he has tried to use them as an example for his fan base when it comes to supporting a team.

"I've always watched Wisconsin play," he said. "I'm an admirer of what they do. I'm an admirer of their fans and how they enjoy their team and how they travel."

The Frogs have the nation's top-ranked scoring defense, allowing 11.4 points per game, and the top-ranked total defense, surrendering 215.4 yards per game. They are trying to become just the third team to finish first in total defense for three straight seasons.

The Badgers come in having averaged 67 points in the past three games and tied for fourth nationally in scoring (with TCU) at 43.3 ppg.

It's the kind of challenge TCU knew was waiting in a high-profile bowl game and one Patterson said his players will relish. He referred to it as a "move-forward game" for his program. To truly move forward, it means winning. The Frogs learned last season that going to a BCS game is not enough.

"I think for us to keep climbing the mountain we need to (win)," Patterson said. "That's why we're going there. We're not going there just to play well. But I do believe it says a lot for us to be in this ball game, because of what we've been able to do over the last six years and where we've come from."

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