Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Season recap: Baylor
By David Ubben
Record: 9-3 (6-3)
Baylor made history in 2010, qualifying for a bowl game for the first time since 1994. Quarterback Robert Griffin III said the Bears were coming back for dessert in 2011, and Baylor's pretty clearly dug into some delicious sweets all season. Instead of a four-game losing streak to end the season, Baylor strung together five games. A dramatic, fourth-quarter comeback against Kansas led to a double-overtime win to get the Bears bowl eligible and got them feeling like a team of destiny. A week later, Griffin ushered in the third field-storming of the past two seasons with a 39-yard touchdown pass to Terrance Williams to beat Oklahoma for the first time in school history. The first field storming came in an upset of TCU on a nationally-broadcast game on the Friday night of the season's first weekend.
Nine wins was unheard of for the Bears, whose six-win performance in Big 12 play was the highest total in school history, and chock full of memorable moments capped by a win over Texas on a rainy season finale. The result? A good shot at landing the school's first Heisman winner.
Offensive MVP: Griffin III, quarterback. This one's pretty simple. Griffin has been the best player in the country this season, though he throws to one of the nation's best receivers, Kendall Wright. Griffin set an NCAA record for passing efficiency at 192.31 and threw for 3,998 yards, 36 touchdowns and just six interceptions. He also ran for 644 yards and nine touchdowns. No player has transformed a program like Griffin has over his career, and he'll have a decision to make after the season about trying to do it again in 2012.
Defensive MVP: Elliott Coffey, linebacker. The defense struggled all season for Baylor; it's never a good sign when your top two tacklers are safeties. Coffey, though, was pretty solid up front, making 99 tackles, five tackles for loss, four pass breakups and a pair of forced fumbles.
Turning point: The dramatic win over Oklahoma. Baylor was a good team, but sort of slumming through a ho-hum season with lopsided losses to Texas A&M and Oklahoma State. The win over Kansas was nice, but everyone else had been blowing out the Jayhawks. But the win over Oklahoma made everybody sit up and notice the Bears over the pressure-packed final few games and thrust RG3 back into the Heisman picture.
What’s next: It all depends on what RG3 decides after the season. Losing Wright, who caught 101 balls for 1,572 yards and 13 touchdowns this year, is huge. Baylor accomplished all it did this year despite losing its No. 2 receiver, Josh Gordon, just before the season. Nick Florence showed flashes during a win over Texas Tech after Griffin took a shot to the head and sat the rest of the game. He's clearly developed a lot since a rough 2009 season without Griffin. It's likely Florence's team next year, and former blue-chip recruit and Oregon transfer Lache Seastrunk would be the likely starter at running back next year after Terrance Ganaway graduates.