Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Baylor could be preparing to start third-string freshman quarterback Nick Florence Saturday against Kent State, Baylor coach Art Briles said Monday.
Starting quarterback Robert Griffin III sustained a season-ending knee injury against Northwestern State that likely will require surgery. And backup Blake Szymanski is not healing as fast as Briles would like from a shoulder injury sustained later in the same game.
“If Blake can’t go then right now, Nick is going to be the guy,” Briles said. “What Nick brings to the table is a lot of intelligence, a lot of youth which a lot of times in these situations aren’t bad, because he just wants to do whatever he can do to help the team win.”
Griffin sustained an isolated tear in his anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in the first quarter of the Bears’ 68-13 victory when he was stuffed for no gain on a fourth-down play early in the game. He returned to action after the injury occurred and finished with 226 passing yards and three touchdown passes before he was taken out at halftime.
Szymanski suffered a contusion on his right shoulder in the third quarter and is listed day to day, Briles said.
“It’s one of those things we’ll have to monitor as the week goes on,” Briles said. “We’re not sure how he will play. We’ll have to wait and see. We’re fortunate it was just bruising and swelling and we’ll see where he is in terms of his range of motion.”
The Bears are already nursing other significant injuries as cornerback Antareis Bryan is out 6-8 weeks with a broken foot and defensive back/kick returner Mikail Baker was lost for the season with multiple torn knee ligaments in the Northwestern State game.
“Physically, we’ll have to change how we approach some things,” Briles said. “We’ll process things through. Emotionally, this is when guys step up and what competitors do. We had a couple of our family members get sidetracked, so now, we have to cover them up and keep moving forward.”
Losing Griffin will be a huge blow for the Bears, who came into the season hoping to be able to snap the conference’s longest bowl drought. Baylor hasn’t played in a bowl game since losing to Washington State in the 1994 Alamo Bowl.
It is the first serious knee injury that Griffin has ever sustained.
“He’s handling it very well,” Briles said. “Robert is a very mature young man. He’s always had a plan and a vision and we’ve already got a plan in place. We’ll grow from it and in a few months, it will be fine. It’s unfortunate it happened, but we’ll deal with it in a positive way.”
Griffin made the freshman All-America team last year, passing for 2,091 yards and 15 touchdowns and rushing for 843 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Szymanski is one of the Big 12’s more experienced backup quarterbacks. As a sophomore in 2007, Szymanski passed for a school-record 2,844 yards and 22 touchdowns while also throwing 18 interceptions.
“What he brings is a weathered veteran’s mentality,” Briles said. “Blake is a guy who’s been through storms and has survived. He brings a workmanlike mentality to the game and has chance to prove himself. That’s what playing is all about.”
Briles expects the Bears will be ready to pick up the slack for their injured teammates.
“Our guys, they’ll adjust and they’ll fight,” Briles said. “We’re not going to come walking out of the dressing room on Saturday, we’re going to be charging out. We’ll be coming out with an intent to make a statement.”