Big 12: Frogs-Bears-090211

Griffin proves his greatness on the big stage

September, 3, 2011

WACO, Texas -- Robert Griffin III whirled spirals to sprinting receivers for touchdowns five times on Friday night.

He sprinted shortly after to congratulate them.

He's the spokesman for the team, but Griffin's best show of leadership in Friday's 50-48 win over No. 14 TCU came when he was physically unable to speak.

A Griffin fumble set up a TCU go-ahead field goal that turned a 24-point, fourth-quarter lead into a one-point deficit with just more than four minutes to play.

Griffin said he was on the sidelines "in a hole." His receiver, Kendall Wright, encouraged him through his tears on the sideline.

"I didn't want my team to lose because of me," Griffin said, despite tallying 359 yards and five touchdowns on 21-of-27 passing.

It didn't.

[+] EnlargeBaylor's Robert Griffin III
AP Photo/LM OteroAt the end of the third quarter Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III had more touchdown passes (5) than incompletions (3). He finished 21-of-27 for 359 yards and made a key reception.
Griffin took the field, but the offense sputtered. Facing a third-and-10, Griffin whipped a pass to Wright, a former high school quarterback, near the sideline and then Griffin raced up the middle of the field. Wright threw the ball to Griffin.

"I'm about to get hit. Real hard," Griffin said. "As soon as I threw it, the middle opened up, but I saw the safety eyeing me, so I turned, and I knew he was going to knock the crap out of me."

He did. The play was good for 15 yards, but the hit caught Griffin in the back and knocked the wind out of him. He remained on the ground before being helped up by teammates. Except he couldn't talk and was struggling to breathe.

The answer? Have running back Terrance Ganaway call the next few plays while Griffin made fake gestures to his teammates as a decoy.

"If you get slapped around, you either fight back, or you go in a corner," coach Art Briles said. "We weren't going to go in a corner."

Briles was talking about his team. He might as well have been talking about Griffin.

Despite the respiratory drama, Griffin never left the field. Briles gave his quarterback a break with a pair of run plays following the big hit, but Griffin's play and what followed spoke much louder than anything he could have said at any point earlier in his career, which is now in its fourth year at Baylor.

"When you take shots, and you get up and still make plays? That's leader quality," said Ganaway, who finished the night with 120 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries. "A quarterback has to possess those qualities, and Robert Griffin has them."

He used them to move Baylor down the field and into position to kick a game-winning 37-yard field goal that later prompted a field storming, which once upon a time was a rarity in Waco.

"Those are classics," Briles said of Friday night's win, highlighted by the drama-filled fourth quarter.

After Friday night and last year's win over Kansas State that clinched bowl eligibility, these Bears are becoming field-storming veterans.

"He's a winner. He's a competitor, and he's a guy that rallies people around him," Briles said of Griffin.

Griffin has rallied his teammates for a win over a ranked team (TCU) for the first time since 2004 and a bowl berth in 2010 for the first time since 1994.

"That's two pretty big jobs," Briles said.

This night ended with Griffin trying to do a postgame interview to a national audience on ESPN while being mobbed by the student section as he leaned against the inside of the stadium wall.

"Can I have your wristband?" a fan yelled.

Griffin gave it to him.

Somehow, a fan ended up with Griffin's mouthpiece and interrupted the quarterback's impromptu autograph-signing session on the field after the game. He asked if he could keep it.

"You want it?" Griffin asked.

Griffin has brought this program to places it hasn't seen in decades.

Friday's crowd of 43,753 was the largest for a season opener at Baylor since 1975.

On Saturday morning, Griffin's heroics are scheduled to land him at the desk of ESPN's "College GameDay."

Baylor hadn't won on ESPN since 1986. On Friday night, Baylor captured its national stage and thrilled the millions watching with a high-flying offense that jolted alive just in time to prevent Friday from becoming one of the darkest nights in the program's history.

Instead? Jubilation in Waco, thanks to a big catch and a whole lot of big plays.

"I'm sure glad he's on our team," Ganaway said.

Video: Baylor's Aaron Jones

September, 3, 2011

David Ubben interviews Baylor kicker Aaron Jones, who scored the game-winning points in the Bears' 50-48 win over No. 14 TCU.

Video: Baylor's Kendall Wright

September, 3, 2011

David Ubben interviews Baylor receiver Kendall Wright following the Bears' 50-48 upset of No. 14 TCU.

Video: Baylor's Robert Griffin III

September, 3, 2011

Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III talks with David Ubben about his big night and the Bears' 50-48 win over No. 14 TCU.

Bears complete the comeback

September, 2, 2011
WACO, Texas -- Baylor was down, but one thing didn't change: It still had the best player on the field.

Robert Griffin III extended the winning drive with a gutsy catch on a double pass over the middle of the field and brought Baylor back into TCU territory.

Aaron Jones finished the drive with a pressure-packed 37-yard field goal that proved to be a 50-48 game-winner for the Bears, who squandered a 24-point fourth quarter lead.

Mike Hicks sealed the game with an interception.

My question: Which comeback was more impressive?

I'm headed down for interviews. We'll have plenty more right here as the night continues.

Baylor implosion is official

September, 2, 2011
WACO, Texas -- It didn't take long.

TCU trailed by 24 points to begin the fourth quarter.

It now leads, 48-47 with just more than four minutes to play.

Ross Evans missed two field goals from 41 yards earlier in the game, but he split the uprights with a 27-yard kick to unbelievably bring TCU back.

It's early in the season, but we've already got a classic on our hands.

No quit in the Horned Frogs

September, 2, 2011
WACO, Texas -- Baylor looked in control.

But past failures and a history of losing don't bring much confidence to the Bears' fan base or casual observers.

The big question: Is Baylor due for a collapse?

TCU sandwiched a Bears three-and-out with a pair of touchdown drives and two-point conversions to get within 47-39, making it a one-possession game.

Then, the defense forced another three-and-out to get the ball back.

There's still more than nine minutes to play, and this much appears obvious: 47 points might not be enough to win this game, as hard as it may have been to believe at kickoff.

If Baylor's offense can't wake back up, this could be one more embarrassment for the program.

Robert Griffin III putting on a show

September, 2, 2011
WACO, Texas -- Nobody would have been surprised if No. 14 TCU erased an 11-point halftime deficit to come back and beat Baylor.

In the third quarter, Robert Griffin III is making sure it won't happen.

On Baylor's first two possessions, he connected on deep touchdown throws of 64 and 42 yards to Lanear Sampson and Terrance Williams, respectively.

Baylor leads 47-23 after the two scores and Griffin is 17-of-20 for 327 yards and a career-high five touchdowns.

This was already a big stage for Griffin to showcase his skill to the nation.

Whatever expectations people had entering tonight's game, Griffin has by now far exceeded them.

And perhaps most interesting? If you didn't already know, Griffin's one of the league's most interesting personalities off the field, too.

Halftime analysis: Baylor 34, TCU 23

September, 2, 2011
WACO, Texas -- Some instant analysis from a dizzyingly entertaining first half that more closely resembled a tennis match. Outstanding.

Turning point: Baylor's opening drive. The Bears announced very early that they would be moving the ball consistently with a six-play, 72-yard drive that featured two carries for 19 yards from Terrance Ganaway and was capped by a double pass from Robert Griffin III to Kendall Wright to Terrance Williams for a 40-yard touchdown. This would not be a repeat of the 2010 game.

Stat of the half: TCU and Baylor traded scores on six consecutive drives in the first half, combining for 57 points in the first 30 minutes. Last year's game featured just 55 points, and the over/under for tonight's game was 52 points.

Best player in the half: Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor. Wright has nine catches for 168 yards, including an acrobatic 36-yarder to set up the Bears' final touchdown of the half and a 35-yard touchdown along the right sideline to put Baylor ahead early. He has two touchdown catches and threw another.

Best call: Called it. Baylor wanted to make a splash early, and did exactly that. On the opening drive, Art Briles called a double pass and it worked to perfection.

What Baylor needs to do: Keep getting stops when it needs them, like a crucial fourth down in its own territory with TCU charging late in the first half. The offense looks like it may score at will and is headed for 50, so the defense doesn't need to be great, but TCU's offense can hang with the Bears.

What TCU needs to do: Find a way to slow down the Bears offense. The young secondary is getting torched everywhere, and linebackers Tanner Brock and Tank Carder have been unable to slow Baylor's 240-pound bowling ball, Terrance Ganaway, who has 105 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries. The Horned Frogs can get blown out if that continues in the second half with Baylor needing to control the clock.

Baylor (and TCU) finally stop fireworks

September, 2, 2011
WACO, Texas -- Calling a football game a track meet is nothing new, but with the long touchdowns and even longer kick returns by both TCU and Baylor, Friday night's game at Floyd Casey Stadium looked about as similar as football can get.

After a missed field goal by TCU kicker Ross Evans, it's finally slowed down a bit.

The two teams scored on six consecutive possessions, but that streak ended with Baylor on top, 27-23 midway through the second quarter.

It's early, though, and with the way these defenses are playing, don't be surprised if another streak gets started before the night is over.

Kendall Wright is answering the bell

September, 2, 2011
WACO, Texas -- On Wednesday in the blog, I put Baylor receiver Kendall Wright "On the Spot."

The reason? TCU's secondary, albeit young, is tough. Baylor is missing its second-best receiver, the 6-foot-4, 220-pound Josh Gordon, who transferred to Utah after being suspended indefinitely in July following a violation of team rules.

Last year, Wright had just two catches for 10 yards in the 45-10 loss.

If Baylor had any chance to pull the upset, Wright needed to play well. So far, he has.

The senior, who has led the Bears in receiving in all three of his seasons on campus, has five catches for 85 yards and a touchdown through the first quarter. He just hauled in his second touchdown of the night -- a 28-yarder over the middle, to put Baylor up 21-16.

That was the 200th reception of his career.

Earlier, he hauled in a gorgeous deep ball down the right sideline for a 35-yard score.

He also threw a 40-yard touchdown pass to Terrance Williams on a trick play.

Baylor needed him.

They're getting him.

Baylor loses its starting corner

September, 2, 2011
WACO, Texas -- Baylor's new-look defense was in for a test against TCU's offense, but it looks like new coordinator Phil Bennett's side of the ball took an early blow.

On a 38-yard pass from Casey Pachall to Josh Boyce, Baylor cornerback Tyler Stephenson fell down behind the play and looked to be in serious pain.

Trainers attended to him for a couple minutes before helping him off the field. He was unable to put any weight on his left leg.

Stephenson, a sophomore, is the Bears' starting corner. Sophomore K.J. Morton is behind him on the depth chart.

On the play after Stephenson's injury, TCU's Matthew Tucker ran for a 4-yard touchdown and put the Horned Frogs up, 13-7 with 5:46 to play in the first quarter.
WACO, Texas -- In 2010's game, Baylor trailed TCU 14-0 before the first quarter hit its midpoint.

We've got a much different game this year.

Baylor marched 72 yards in six plays, capped by a 40-yard touchdown pass (on a double pass) from Kendall Wright to Terrance Williams to put the Bears up 7-0.

Baylor said it would be a more confident team this year, a team sure of itself after reaching a bowl game in 2010.

The early playcalling suggests that's the case.

Video: Previewing TCU-Baylor

September, 2, 2011

David Ubben previews tonight’s TCU-Baylor game from Floyd Casey Stadium in Waco, Texas.
WACO, Texas -- So what if football is about to debut and the national landscape might look markedly different a year from now?

The main conversation piece tonight?

The heat. It's 101 degrees here, and on the surface of Baylor's artificial turf, it's noticeably hotter.

As someone who lives in this state, trust me: It won't be cooling down much tonight, especially not by the 8 p.m. ET kickoff, when the sun will still be shining above Floyd Casey Stadium.

A few clouds dot the sky, but it's mostly clear, and it should be a gorgeous night for football, but make no mistake: Cramping is going to be a factor tonight.

Both Baylor and TCU are well inside their elements in the Texas heat, but that doesn't change the fact that conditioning is going to play a major part of tonight's game. I expect this to be close, and the team with the most gas in the tank by the fourth quarter is going to leave the field with a win.

This heat is going to make sure both teams' needle is teetering toward empty.

TCU's vaunted secondary, despite the loss of Thorpe Award Candidate Tejay Johnson, and its matchup with Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III is the main attraction in tonight's game, but after a lackluster set of games on Thursday night, we should have our first high-quality matchup of the college football season in just a few short hours.

I can't wait.