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January 1, 2011PASADENA -- Asked how tough a two-point loss in the Rose Bowl was to deal with, J.J. Watt took a moment before answering, trying to collect himself and his thoughts.
"We know how much this means," Watt began before his emotions got the best of him.
Teary-eyed, Watt attempted to regain his composure and finish his answer.
"To everybody. To everybody involved," Watt continued, his voice now audibly revealing the fact that he could not stop from crying. Another deep breath, as some sniffles now accompany the tears.
"We work 365 days a year for this," Watt said, powering through the emotions, tears and sniffles. "And then we come out here and don't execute, and we..."
Finally, it was all too much for the junior defensive end. Watt sat back, and covered his face, attempting to hide the tears streaming down from his eyes. For seven seconds, everyone in the room sat silent, watching the display of emotion from Watt, and waiting for him to finish his answer.
Watt did not, and could not finish his thought at that time. But he didn't have to.
If there were any question about how devastating a two-point loss was after working so hard to get to the Rose Bowl for the first time in more than a decade, Watt's tears made it clear.
The Wisconsin Badgers didn't come to the Rose Bowl just for the experience, they came to win, and fell short of their goal.
"It's pretty tough," left guard John Moffitt said. "It's not really something you can describe that easy. I mean, I don't know. It's tough."
Moffitt, having played his final game in a Wisconsin uniform, summed the loss up pretty well, by not summing it up. How can you put into words the disappointment that comes from such a heartbreaking loss on such a big stage?
It wasn't supposed to be this way. Despite TCU's status as the three-point favorites, the Badgers were billed as big, bad BCS team ready to end the Horned Frogs' run.
Cinderella stories, by definition, are supposed to end when the clock strikes midnight, not make the game-winning play on the two-point conversion well into the early morning hours.
But therein lies the problem, TCU is no Cinderella.
"Give all the credit in the world to TCU, that is not just lip service," UW head coach Bret Bielema said in his opening statement. "That is a very good football team. They're undefeated for a reason."
Even so, that hardly takes the sting out of the loss for Wisconsin. They put together one of the best seasons in program history, but came up short when it mattered most.
They'll always own a share of the 2010 Big Ten title, but the 2011 Rose Bowl belonged to the TCU Horned Frogs.
But through the disappointment and frustration, the tears and the anger, the Badgers remain focused, and focused on the same thing that got them to the Rose Bowl in the first place. Wisconsin is prepared to take this loss, evaluate it, learn from it, and get better heading into next season because of it.
Even Watt, who had broken down just moments earlier, was not going to sit and sulk.
"The Wisconsin Badgers will be back to the Rose Bowl," Watt said definitively. "I haven't made my decision, but if I'm back [or] if I go, the Wisconsin Badgers will be back to the Rose Bowl. I don't know if it will be next year, but Coach Bielema is an outstanding football coach, the Wisconsin football program does things the right way, and Coach Alvarez leads the athletic department the right way.
"No doubt about it, the Badgers will be back. They'll be back better than ever, and when they come back, they'll win."