TCU makes their point — on the field

By Nick Canepa
Updated: January 2, 2011

— As darkness collapsed on the Arroyo Seco and the 97th Rose Bowl late Saturday afternoon, it seemed TCU had thrown a Klieg light into the elitist dungeon that college football has become. The unbeaten Horned Frogs had made a case that the system stinks, that they deserved a chance to be No. 1.

But just as the third-ranked Frogs had shot down fifth-ranked Wisconsin, their coach, Gary Patterson, shot down the notion. He basically said that beating the Badgers 21-19 in the Rose Bowl was plenty, that this was close enough to college football heaven for him and his program.

What a bunch of conciliatory nonsense.

Patterson, whose team finished 13-0 and can climb no higher than second in the final BCS standings, was terribly diplomatic, throwing out his best we’re-just-happy-to-be-Rose-Bowl-champions manure. But there’s no chance any coach of an unbeaten team worth his competitive sodium really can feel that way.

I’m not calling him a liar. But I am saying I’m not buying the coachspeak, for which I have developed an ear.

Because he’s too good a coach and he’s taken his program too far to want it to end here. There was no climax to winning the Rose Bowl. He went unbeaten and took care of a Wisconsin team that arguably had been playing as well as anyone at season’s end.

How could he want to leave it at that?

How can there be any solace in knowing you don’t have a chance to prove you’re the best on the field, as Auburn and Oregon, thanks to the computer geeks, will on Jan. 10 in the BCS Championship Game.

“I’m looking forward now to watching the national championship game,” Patterson would say, “because I don’t have to sweat. I don’t have to call the defense. I’m going to sit on my couch and watch and not have to do anything else and see what goes on.

“We want our chance, but I think the Rose Bowl was our chance. This was our bowl game — until we find a better way of doing it, but you know, it’s a lot of fun. You have three teams now that are still undefeated in college football.”

That’s not fun. That’s the problem. Maybe there’s a spot for Patterson in the State Department. This is dexterous hogwash.

“I think we all look for finality,” he said. “But it’s like anything else in college football or anything else you have in life. There’s a set of rules of how it is, and right now this is the way it is. I’ve never been a whiner; I’ve never been somebody that’s been out there griping about how it is, and I’m not going to start now.”

Maybe Patterson’s saying all this because TCU is leaving the Mountain West Conference for the Big East and its ridiculous automatic BCS bid, but this guy ain’t Lombardi.

“This is a great stage,” he said. “The Rose Bowl deserves a lot more than that. To us, this was a national championship-caliber ballgame.”

You won’t even hear me say the Rose Bowl isn’t great, and Saturday’s game was fine theater, but in years such as this, it is not the decider. That will come Jan. 10 in Glendale, Ariz., and I can’t see how anyone can tell me Oregon and Auburn would be slam-dunks against TCU.

TCU quarterback Andy Dalton, the game’s offensive MVP, who ran for a touchdown, threw for another and managed the game precisely against a bigger and more physical football team, basically echoed his coach.

“It’s a dream come true,” Dalton said. “I think the way the system is, it didn’t give us a chance to play in the game. It didn’t do any of that.”

Of course it didn’t. That’s the problem. It didn’t. It doesn’t. The Rose Bowl is wonderful. But it isn’t final.

I believe every TCU player was instructed to remain politically correct out here when it came to discussing the national championship. Their answers were too pat.

“I feel that TCU has proven that we can play with the best of them,” said linebacker Tank Carder, who knocked down the two-point conversion pass attempt by Badgers quarterback Scott Tolzien near the end that sealed the win. “All the critics don’t feel like the non-AQ (automatic qualifier) teams should have a shot.

“It feels a little better knowing that the non-AQ teams can play with them.

Wisconsin is a Big Ten team. They’re really good, and I feel like we came in and made a statement today.”

Right. Wisconsin is a Big Ten school. Five Big Ten teams played in bowls Saturday. All of them lost.

The statement was made, but it wasn’t finished. There was no period.

TCU, you made a case, dadgumit. Man-up to it.