TCU won the Rose Bowl for all those schools that never even imagined they could get there.
Andy Dalton threw a touchdown pass and ran for a score, linebacker Tank Carder swatted down a 2-point conversion pass attempt with 2 minutes to play, and the third-ranked Horned Frogs completed a perfect season with a 21-19 victory over No. 4 Wisconsin on Saturday.
Bart Johnson caught an early TD pass and recovered a late onside kick for the Mountain West champion Horned Frogs (13-0), who followed up their second straight unbeaten regular season by busting the BCS in dramatic fashion at the Rose Bowl.
Dalton passed for 219 yards for TCU, which won't win the national title -- that will go to either Auburn or Oregon after they meet in the BCS championship game in nine days.
These ferocious Frogs still proved they can play with anybody on college football's biggest stages.
"I've been saying for a while that parity in college football is here," TCU coach Gary Patterson said. "I got texts from everybody across the nation, from Boise State and schools all over. Today we played for us, and for all the schools that wanted a chance."
Montee Ball rushed for 132 yards and a late score for the Big Ten co-champion Badgers (11-2), whose loss capped a nightmare New Year's Day for their conference. The Big Ten went 0-5 in bowl games Saturday, and the Badgers fell just short of a late rally when Carder made a defensive play that will forever live in TCU lore.
TCU lost last year's Fiesta Bowl to Boise State, but that's still the only loss of the past two seasons for Patterson's remarkable Fort Worth power. TCU is the first school from a non-automatic qualifying conference to play in the Rose Bowl since the advent of the BCS, but the Frogs were right at home in Pasadena.
Luke Shivers' 1-yard TD run put TCU ahead, 21-13, early in the third quarter, but neither team scored again until Wisconsin mounted a 77-yard drive in the waning minutes. Montee Ball rushed for a 4-yard score with 2 minutes to play, but Carder made a perfectly timed leap at the line to bat down Scott Tolzien's throw. Jacob Pedersen was open in the end zone, but the ball never got close to the Wisconsin tight end.
Johnson easily grabbed Wisconsin's onside kick, and TCU rushed for a final first down to kill the clock.
Patterson stopped his players from dumping a Gatorade bucket on him before time ran out, lecturing them with a smile on his face. When the final seconds ticked off, the Frogs ran onto the field in a frenzy, eventually collecting near the TCU band and the quarter of the Rose Bowl stands filled with purple-clad fans.
And eventually the Frogs doused their coach, too.
Dalton went 15 for 23 and rushed for a first-quarter score, winning the game's offensive MVP award. But the defense deserved the credit for hanging on when TCU couldn't score in the game's final 26 minutes.
After a litany of big plays that included a de-cleating sack of Tolzien to kill a third-quarter drive, Carder was the leader all game -- and the man at the end.
"I saw him cock his arm back, and I jumped up and swatted it away," Carder said. "I was in the right place at the right time. They almost [wore us down], but we pulled it out at the end."