LOS ANGELES &- The Horned Frog football team has won 24 straight regular season games, posted a 35-3 record over the last three seasons and reached back-to-back BCS games. Still, head coach Gary Patterson’s mindset has not changed in 10 seasons at the helm.
“Thirteen years ago we had to walk a mile and a half to the practice field; we had to put partitions in an old weight room to have meetings; we didn’t really have any office space,” Patterson said. “If you know where we came from, you understand why we play with a chip on our shoulder.”
Third-ranked TCU will take on No. 5 Wisconsin Saturday in the Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO, matching the up-and-comer Horned Frogs against traditional Big Ten power Wisconsin.
If the Horned Frogs aim to play with a chip on their shoulders, then Wisconsin head coach Brett Bielema said the Badgers know they will be on the front lines in the battle between the power conferences and non-automatic qualifiers.
“The thing that I’ve tried to stress all along, (is we’re) not only playing for Wisconsin,” the fifth-year head coach said. “Because of the opponent we’re playing, TCU, we’re obviously representing the BCS and all that goes into that as well.”
The most talked about matchup leading up to the Rose Bowl Game has been the size advantage that Wisconsin’s offensive line has against TCU’s defensive front four. Badger offensive linemen average 6 feet 5 inches in height and weigh 320 pounds.
The Frogs’ largest defensive lineman is the 6’2, 305 pound Cory Grant. Patterson said he is not worried about the size difference.
“Since we started 10 years ago or 13 years ago at TCU, everybody’s been bigger and faster,” he said. “We’ve been doing this a long time…so this won’t be our first rodeo.”
Patterson’s 4-2-5 defensive scheme helped the Frogs lead the nation is total defense, scoring defense and passing defense this season. As a former college linebacker, Bielema said he could appreciate strong defense no matter who played it.
“The way those kids play and the passion they play with is really fun to watch,” he said. “I have a lot of respect and our kids have a lot of respect about the way they play.”
The Horned Frogs could gain an edge in the return game, in which senior Jeremy Kerley ranked among the nation’s top 20 in punt and kick return during the regular season. Wisconsin allowed 11.1 yards per punt return this season, tied for the 27th most in the country.
“Kerley has done a great job in big games of making a difference in the punt game as far as changing our field position,” Patterson said.
For Wisconsin, All-Big Ten defensive end J.J. Watt finished second in the conference with seven sacks and was third in the FBS with 21 tackles for loss. When asked about the possibility of Watt, a junior, opting for the NFL next season, Bielema got emotional.
“He’s a kid that represents a lot about Wisconsin. We’re maybe not the most sexy school, but we go to work, we play hard, we give it our all,” Bielema said. “J.J. is J.J. because of what he is 365 days a year. To not coach him again would be a tough thing to take.”
The Rose Bowl Game is on ABC Saturday at 3:30 p.m. CST. Local radio coverage will be on WBAP 820 AM, 96.7 FM and KTCU FM 88.7.
TCU fans swarm LA’s Nokia Plaza
A TCU pep rally overtook Nokia Plaza in downtown Los Angeles Friday afternoon, as the Horned Frog Marching Band, Showgirls and cheerleaders were all on hand to lead the crowd.
The TCU radio team of Brian Estridge and John Denton emceed the event and the thousands of fans that turned out also heard from Chancellor Victor Boschini, athletic director Chris Del Conte and former Horned Frog offensive lineman Victor Payne.
“People keep saying something wrong,” Boschini said. “I hear everybody say “this is first time TCU is playing in the Rose Bowl.’ No, it’s “this is the first time TCU has won the Rose Bowl.'”
Nokia Plaza is located across the street from Staples Center and has a number of restaurants surrounding it. ESPN’s Los Angeles studio is also won of the buildings that surrounds the plaza.
Griffin to play
Senior defensive tackle Kelly Griffin will play Saturday in the Rose Bowl, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported Friday.
Griffin broke his ankle in the game against Air Force on Oct. 23. In eight games played in the regular season, Griffin made five tackle, two and a half for a loss, and recorded one sack.