Sunday, January 2, 2011

TCU Horned Frogs Earned Roses to Prove Worthy of BCS Splendor

For a moment there, you had to wonder if this was an illusion. We can be kind and assume TCU, once defined as stuffed-animals with the insanity of the erratic and chaotic BCS system, isn't the cutest darlings in football and instead is the best program in college football.

And to think we debated, with cleverness, whether the Horned Frogs can compete with elite conferences. Saturday night, from the Rose Bowl, one of the most prestigious venues in the nation, Texas Christian vindicated non-believers and skeptics that they were worthy of contending for a national title.

Much as TCU desired to bid for a national title appearance, after unleashing a strong case when they capped an undefeated season in the weak Mountain West, the Horned Frogs settled to accept an invitation for the annual Rose Bowl Game.

This, I must say, has been a wonderful tale, engraved like never before by one of the smallest universities from an insignificant conference. The first notion is to dismiss the misguided beliefs that TCU is unworthy of emerging on the highest platform in the sport.

So respectively, in a sport that seems to disappoint and neglect the smaller schools, the Frogs were nationally seen and awed us on the brightest evening in school history, an antidote possibly for considerable changes in the future as far as implementing an eight-team playoff system.

And now the New Year is upon us, leaving the BCS idiots with a decision to improve the treacherous formula. Why are we so surprise that the Frogs knocked off a premier school from the Big Ten, revealing a body language of shock once a touching night ended nicely for TCU, a school no one ever imagined to reach a pinnacle?

There were two minutes left when TCU linebacker Tank Carder prevented Wisconsin's attempt at a two-point conversion. Parts of the night, the Badgers clearly survived on a tenacious rush attack and raced down the field late in the contest, and managed to score as the clock trickled and fortunately trailed 21-19. But in the end, it was the Frogs prevailing all the way to the finish on a brilliant defensive effort when Carder swatted Scott Tolzien's pass.

"I was coming in on blitz," Carder said. "I saw him cock him arm back. I was in the right place at the right time."

A tense night finally lifted into a celebration in the stands, many of whom were dressed in purple and suddenly erupted into a prolonged frenzy when the Frogs defeated Wisconsin 21-19 on Saturday to capture the Rose Bowl in their first ever trip. For once, the optimistic fans are elated by a feel-good story that has hijacked the moment in sports. It was seemingly dazzling for the Frogs to claim a rightful chapter in Rose Bowl history.

This was more than a miracle for TCU, the wondrous team that rendered greatness to the world, capping the season with a remarkable ending. This justified the Frogs mentality and capability, standing up to one of the prominent programs and handling the stiffest test arguably. Surely, the Frogs were poised, hungry and played with much focus and energy, prepared for the biggest moment in TCU history. Surely, the Frogs were fiercer and meaner than ever.

"All the critics don't feel like non-AQ teams should have a shot," said Carder, the defensive MVP. "But I feel that TCU has proven that we can play with the best of them. Definitely taking this win back to Fort Worth...I feel like we came in here and made a statement today."

Was this a statement? Damn right.

This will be one of the most talked about games for a long time. The Frogs came to Pasadena to earn a bed full of roses, and accepted the sweetest possession. It was a perfect ending for Carder, the household name of the Rose Bowl, who fought through much adversity in his lifetime.

As a kid, without a doubt, he was certainly obligated to participate in sports as a BMX racer. At age 13, he wasn't wearing a seat belt and was ejected from a car after it hit a tree, but he amazingly survived a disastrous accident, even though he suffered a punctured diaphragm, broken back and two punctured lungs after the car rolled over him.

When the sentimental night concluded, TCU coach Gary Patterson shed little tears of joy, safety Tejay Johnson yelled, and Carder shouted in delight. The best thing here is that the Frogs no longer are forgotten or denied, and the discernment of TCU representing the smaller schools is the truth. In fairness, the Frogs defeated the stalwart Badgers with their pedigree and determination to prove to the entire world how tough they really are against BCS opponents.

"Today," said Patterson," proved we had just as good players as anybody in the country."

Fair enough. For all we know, they were snubbed, they were insulted and they were discounted, but still overpowered the Badgers for the noble prize and constituted a breathless storyline this bowl season, literally outplaying and out-dueling the favorites to survive a dazzling meeting. The result of this is that Andy Dalton, the savior for a successful and unbeaten season which bolstered a non-BCS program, was thrilled and jubilant with his teammates to embrace a joyful moment.

So now, we can assume the Frogs don't only merit roses, but also multiple crystal balls if they continue to play at such an all-time high in the history of the program and expose a championship-caliber personality. Best of all, Patterson has developed his ideal program and has shifted the landscape at Texas Christian, mainly for providing charisma and brainwashing players with his formula to instill excellence.

In many ways, he's fortunate to have Dalton, the winningest active quarterback in I-A. Even if the Frogs are omitted by an unfair system, at a point unfortunately when TCU is well-equipped and has converted into a national power, Dalton is an efficient quarterback and has shown he is NFL-ready with incredible accuracy and strength in his throwing motion.

"I don't think we were playing just for TCU," said Dalton. "We were playing for all the non-AQ schools to show we can play with anybody in this country."

A teary-eyed Patterson was drenched with Gatorade and caressed Dalton, who had 279 yards and a touchdown on 15-for-23 passing. The possibility of TCU minimizing injustice for other less fortunate programs seems plausible, but the ramifications of fixing the BCS is unlikely, after the Frogs advertised why the NCAA needs to ponder and then form a legit playoff system.

That may not happen real soon, but it would validate the worthy winner at the end of the season by getting rid of the prejudiced formula, which is not too friendly to non-AQ schools. Not too many fell in love with TCU, but adored the feel-good story when the Frogs were shedding tears and relishing a precious finish. The fulfillment was contagious and the emotions lasted inside the locker room, where there were huge smiles and tears falling from the players' watery eyes.

All day, the humiliation of the Big Ten saddened many lovers who praises the famous conference with its own television network. The loss ultimately made the Big Ten drop to 0-5 in bowls on Saturday, but the Mountain West celebrated in euphoria based on one massive victory that represented grandeur and glory for a diminutive conference no one really pays attention to because of its weaknesses.

"We just want to prove we can play with the big boys," TCU running back Ed Wesley said. "Maybe next year, national title."

It's good to be optimistic, particularly when there are only two undefeated teams left. Next week, one of those teams will lose and, if so, doesn't that mean TCU qualifies for the second-best ranking in the nation? Certainly.

But for years, the BCS has muffed ranking teams properly. It's appropriate, for once, to rank the Frogs as the second-best program in our country and give Texas Christian the nod for beating a team from a large conference, knocking off a school with importance and surviving the hardest challenge this season to finish on top.

"There are times you definitely feel like tapping out and getting some fresh legs," Carder said. "That's all we've been hearing about is how big they are, how much more weight they have on their line. I knew we were going to come in here with speed. Speed beats power any day."

Early on, Wisconsin abandoned its strengths for its weaknesses. Just when it looked as if the vigorous Badgers were on the verge of taking a comfortable lead, they relied on delivering passes, rather than calling running plays. But as it turned out, the smarter team won in the end.

Although the Frogs allowed more total yards, they were still smarter and hungrier than the Badgers. Although Wisconsin was 11-1 prior to the disheartening loss, the Frogs held the Badgers to their lowest total in points of the year, and proved to the world that they are BCS-caliber and just as good and deserving of notability just as are the top programs.

Most of all, the Frogs produced on running plays by Dalton's mobility to scramble and run the ball. He carried it six times for 31 yards on a couple of TCU's series early in the game. Late in the contest, the Badgers were still alive and dusted down the field with seven minutes. Ball ran as if he was a speedy sprinter, as if he was running the 40-yard dash in the Olympics, and it almost benefited in the Badgers favor as John Clay rushed and gained yardage on his robust and fresh legs.

However, while the three-headed monsters known as Montee Ball, Clay and James White combined for 231 yards on 41 carries, it wasn't enough and TCU was crowned champions, not only for leading the way for themselves but for the underdogs and lowly universities. This age, obviously, the Frogs have come a long ways, following seven 10-win seasons in nine years, a transition to the Mountain West and manhandled their opponents to finish unbeaten in consecutive seasons. And now this, a Rose Bowl win.

Every year, the landscape is beautiful at the Rose Bowl, from the wonderful scenery of the San Gabriel Mountains that overlooks the town to the breathtaking venue traditionally described as the Granddaddy. But this year, the landscape was more beautiful than ever before.

The Frogs were grand.