No matter what you say, it is pure fact that last season’s football team was solely dependent on Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III and his ability to make plays either with his feet or his arm.
This season, however, presents a more dynamic Baylor football team that is dependent on both sides of the ball.
A struggling offensive first half was strengthened by a sturdy defensive second half to bring an ugly win, but a win nonetheless, to Baylor, 48-23, over the Sam Houston State Bearkats on Saturday.
“I think we are still trying to find our identity as a football team,” Baylor head coach Art Briles said. “The first week against SMU there was a lot of emotion, hype and energy. I thought there was a little lull in the first half trying to get back into the flow. We didn’t have quite as much energy as we needed because they are a good football team. They have 19 of their 22 starters back and went 14-1 last year.”
Entering the 2012 season, many people said that Baylor football would suffer due to the loss of Griffin, wide receiver Kendall Wright and running back Terrance Ganaway.
“Like my brother says, ‘When you have a team around you, you can do a lot of things,’” senior quarterback Nick Florence said. “You can do what people think you can’t do.”
Speaking of doing what people don’t think you can do, former walk-on, junior kicker Aaron Jones became the all-time scoring leader in program history, passing Alfred Anderson’s career total of 220 points with 230 of his own.
He broke the record two minutes into the game off a 33-yard field goal to give the Bears the early advantage.
What the Baylor defense didn’t expect, or anyone else in Floyd Casey Stadium for that matter, was for Sam Houston State to come back and tie the ball game with a field goal of its own.
“At first when we went out there and got a three-and-out we were like, ‘Oh, this is about to be an easy game,’” junior nickelback Ahmad Dixon said. “Then the offense goes out there and gets stopped. We came back out and got another stop, and then they kicked a field goal and got three points after we had our three points. It was 3-3, and then we realized we were in a fight.”
A minute into the second quarter, the Bearkats took the lead with another field goal.
Senior wide receiver Terrance Williams would step up to make a big catch for the Bears in the end zone for the last first half points for Baylor.
Sam Houston, however, would go on to score two more touchdowns.
The last play of the first half ended with Florence’s first interception
of the 2012 season, and Baylor entered the locker room trailing 20-10.
“I mean we all knew the first half was ugly,” Florence said. “Not a lot was said, honestly [in the nowlocker room.] What I’m proud of is no one pointed fingers. That’s the type of team we have. We’ve got each others’ backs. We just had to come out and play our game.”
In under a minute to start the second half, junior defensive end Terrance Lloyd sacked Sam Houston quarterback junior Brian Bell on the 17-yard line, forcing a fumble recovered by redshirt freshman defensive tackle Trevor Clemons-Valdez, who returned it for eight yards to the Sam Houston 9-yard line.
“Being on the defense, if the ball is on the ground, we’re supposed to pick it up,” Valdez said. “I saw the ball in the air, and it hit the ground. My first instinct was to pick it up and try to score. Getting that pressure really set the tone for the second half.”
One down later, a nine-yard pass from Florence to junior tight end Jordan Najvar made the score 20-17.
A touchdown reception by Williams would give Baylor a 27-17 lead.
Two offensive possessions later, another Florence pass was intercepted.
That mistake seemed to spark a different side of Florence than was expected.
The next offensive set, with the ball on the Baylor 35-yard line, Florence found a gap through the offensive line and took off down the Baylor sideline, running the ball 60 yards before getting caught at the five-yard line.
“Honestly, I wanted Glasco [Martin] or Jarred [Salubi] to score,” Florence said, smiling. “I’m kidding. I ran out of gas as you can tell. We got a touchdown off of it and that’s all that matters. That was probably the longest run of my career.”
The Bears would go on to score two rushing touchdowns, a field goal and a pick-six by junior corner back Darius Jones.
“We had great turnovers at the right time,” Briles said. “I think those guys are really getting confident.
I think they’re doing a great job.” Sophomore linebacker Bryce Hager led the Baylor defense with 10 tackles followed by senior safety Mike Hicks with nine.
Offensively, Florence led the Bears throwing 24-41 for 312 yards with three touchdowns and a pair of interceptions.
Williams recorded 131 yards and a pair of touchdowns, putting him at 3,124 total yards for his career.
Senior running back Jarred Salubi ran for 83 yards, putting him at 1,018 yards for his career.
With a streak of 32 games with a reception, senior wide receiver Lanear Sampson is No. 3 in the nation.
After an appalling start to the game, Baylor dominated the Bearkats in the second half 38-3.
“It was definitely a team win,” Dixon said. “The first half, we were all a little shaky. When we got in the locker room, we told the coaches that it was up to us.