In the end, Andy Dalton did what he does best 8212; win.
The TCU defense was as stout as ever, and the special teams units were solid too, but it was college football’s winningest active quarterback who led the Frogs to a 21-19 win over Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day.
Senior quarterback Dalton finished 15 for 23 passing for 219 yards and a touchdown. His statistics weren’t gaudy, they were just solid, much like every other aspect of Dalton’s decorated four-year career. It was how he got to those numbers that gave TCU the edge.
It was performances like the Rose Bowl that earned Dalton (along with wide receiver/return specialist Jeremy Kerley) an invitation to the 2011 Senior Bowl.
Dalton seemingly picked apart every coverage the Badger defense threw at him. His passes were sharp and on time, and in the run game he was just as effective operating the read option to perfection on several occasions. One resulted in a touchdown when Dalton drew Wisconsin defensive end J.J. Watt towards the middle of the field by faking a hand off to running back Ed Wesley and then scampering past Watt into the corner of the end zone.
Big-time players make big-time plays in big-time games 8212; Dalton’s performance in Pasadena, Calif. was no different.
The senior’s last game as a Horned Frog was his best. He controlled the game and ran the offense with nearly the same efficiency as he did against Baylor earlier in the year when he set the school record for completion percentage by completing 21 of 23 passes. This time he wasn’t facing a mediocre team at home; he did his damage against the Big Ten co-champions in a stadium that was about 65 percent Badger-red.
TCU legend Sammy Baugh may have won a national championship and TCU’s Davey O’Brien may have won a Heisman trophy, but Dalton helped complete the resurrection of a program that had been dormant from the national scene for nearly six decades. Had he not played at a near-perfect level in the Rose Bowl, TCU could have very well lost the game and right or wrong, the Frogs’ season would have been tainted.
Critics would have pointed to the fact that TCU was not fit for the week-to-week grind of playing among college football’s elite. The Horned Frogs still would have gone to the Big East where they could earn an automatic BCS berth, but their chances of making it to a future BCS national championship game would not have improved.
But instead, because of Dalton’s leadership, TCU had just enough to get past Wisconsin. Because of the Rose Bowl victory, TCU will be back in serious contention for a national championship in the future.
Hanging outside the east end of Amon G. Carter Stadium are five banners honoring some of the greatest Horned Frogs ever. Pictures of Baugh, O’Brien, Jim Swink, Bob Lilly and LaDanian Tomlinson hang from the side of the stadium.
Maybe a finishing touch to the current stadium renovations would be making room for a sixth banner honoring TCU’s winningest quarterback.
But if honoring Dalton was based on more than just numbers and records and was also based on the fact that he helped save the program from mid-major anonymity, perhaps a statue would be more appropriate.
Ryan Osborne is a freshman journalism major from Lawton, Okla.