Texas Christian linebacker Tank Carder reacts after sacking Wisconsin… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)
Tank Carder's best trick sounded like something befitting the former BMX world champion: wide dogs blitz.
Not that the Texas Christian linebacker executed flawlessly on perhaps the biggest play in school history.
Carder was supposed to hurtle toward the Wisconsin backfield from the left side as the Badgers tried a tying two-point conversion with two minutes to play Saturday in the Rose Bowl.
When his progress was impeded by a beefy lineman, Carder leaped and knocked Scott Tolzien's pass to the turf. His handiwork secured the Horned Frogs' 21-19 victory and first undefeated season since 1938.
"Fortunately, I jumped and swatted it away," Carder said. "From what everyone was saying, the [receiver] was wide open."
It was another surreal twist for the junior from Sweeny, Texas, who won the BMX title at 9 before experiencing burnout and quitting the sport. He nearly died a few years later when he was ejected from a car.
"I feel like everything definitely happens for a reason," Carder said while standing on a podium on the Rose Bowl field.
His football career had humble beginnings — as a kicker. Still recovering from injuries in the accident, he was relegated to grabbing his tee and racing off the field on kickoffs because he was not allowed to engage in contact.
That's no longer an issue for the 6-foot-3, 237-pounder whose given name was Ricky Jr. Nicknamed Tank for his size as a baby, Carder has blossomed into one of the most ferocious defensive players in the country.
Just ask Tolzien. Carder flattened the quarterback for an eight-yard loss midway through the third quarter, ending a drive that had started at the Badgers' five-yard line and reached the Horned Frogs' 37.
"Tank's a big leader on our defense," defensive end Wayne Daniels said. "Whenever he makes plays, it drives everybody."
Carder finished with six tackles, including three for losses, and the sack. His play helped the TCU defense measure up against a Badgers offensive line that averaged 6 feet 5 and 321 pounds.
"Speed beats power," Carder said. "They were definitely big, but once we got into the speed of the game and kind of figured out really how big they were, we kind of slowed down a little bit and started doing what TCU does on defense."
That is, make stops. The Horned Frogs held an offense that had averaged 43.3 points and splurged for 83 points against Indiana and 70 against Northwestern and Austin Peay to two touchdowns and two field goals.
Carder wasn't the only defensive hero for TCU. Daniels tipped a pass at the line of scrimmage on third down to thwart Wisconsin's first drive of the fourth quarter. Safety Tejay Johnson stopped running back Montee Ball for a two-yard loss on their first drive of the game and Wisconsin had to settle for a field goal.
But Carder delivered the play everyone will remember. He acknowledged being surprised when Wisconsin lined up in a spread formation on the two-point conversion. The Badgers had moved the ball with relative ease on the ground, averaging 4.9 yards per carry.
"When we stepped up there, we prepared for the run," Carder said. "We called a blitz and I came in there and got blocked on my pass rush, so I just stopped and jumped and I was in the right place at the right time."
It was a familiar refrain for someone who has made a habit of winning titles.
"We're not the national champions," Carder said. "We're the Rose Bowl champions. That's just as good."