By Tyler Alley
A strong 28-0 start by Baylor made this game look to be a blowout. Although Baylor did win big, the Bears made some mistakes that allowed Rice to close the gap to 56-31.
“Kind of a workman-like win, which is the way we like to approach a win,” head coach Art Briles said. “We got in a little bit of trouble with special teams. We cant keep helping people, we can’t keep kicking out of bounds, we can’t keep fumbling the ball, and we can’t give mediocre returns. We’ve got to keep improving on.”
Junior quarterback Robert Griffin III once again proved why his name is mentioned among Heisman trophy candidates, throwing for 338 yards, completing 29 of 33 of his passes, and scoring six total touchdowns (five throwing, one rushing). He also had 51 rushing yards. After his third touchdown, Griffin now has more touchdowns than incompletions on the season.
“That’s an unreal stat,” Griffin said. “The guys on the sideline are trying to calculate it. ESPN comes out with all kinds of stats; I’m certain they can come out with a record for that. That’s just crazy, and they say it’s like video games. When we’re out there doing what we’re supposed to, the ball doesn’t need to be on the ground”
Other than their first drive that ended in four plays, Baylor owned the first quarter. The Bears’ defense forced two punts and a 55-yard field goal attempt Rice missed. Baylor completely prevented one of Rice’s drives when sophomore defensive Tevin Elliott forced and recovered a fumble on the kickoff in the first quarter with 0:35 left on the clock.
Baylor’s offense scored three touchdowns in the first quarter. Griffin hit three different receivers for touchdowns, including senior Kendall Wright for a 17-yard strike across the middle.
Wright had 108 receiving yards on the night, and his touchdown catch was the 20th of his career, a new Baylor record.
The second quarter saw senior tailback Terrance Ganaway in the endzone twice; one touchdown was a 4-yard run followed by a 10-yard catch on Baylor’s next drive. Ganaway had 78 yards and a touchdown on the day.
Rice took some air out of Baylor’s momentum by scoring 17 points in the second quarter Baylor and forcing a Baylor fumble on a kickoff when sophomore Darius Jones coughed it up on the Rice 33-yard line. Rice also killed a Baylor drive when Griffin took off on a big scramble but lost the ball attempting to dive in the endzone.
“You can go out in a blaze of glory and try to jump or you can look like a sissy and get on the ground,” Griffin said. “I chose the blaze of glory route, it was a blaze and the ball came out.”
For any momentum Baylor lost going into the half, it got it back when sophomore nickelback Ahmad Dixon intercepted a tipped ball and ran it back 55 yards for a touchdown.
“It was very exciting,” Dixon said. “It was just like God was like, ‘here Ahmad, you can have this play.’ I’m grateful for it. It gave us a big spark when we were flat in the first half.”
Griffin’s biggest pass of the night was a 64-yard touchdown throw to sophomore Tevin Reese. The touchdown was the first of Reese’s career.
“I can’t pick a word to describe it,” Reese said. “Amazing, awesome, incredible, you know, just all of them. All the hard work we put into it and the coach have faith to throw the ball to me. I just had to catch it.”
Reese had 106 yards on seven receptions.
Griffin would run in a 4-yard score in the third quarter before taking a seat for the night.
The defense largely shut the Owls down in the second half, forcing three punts and Dixon’s interception. Rice would add two more scores when the game was largely over, but the ability of the Owls to move the ball did show that the defense needs a little more work and time. That work, Briles said, will come as the season progresses.
“We haven’t played a lot of football,” Briles said. “We played 60 minutes against TCU. We played about 38 minutes last week. The first units tonight probably had, I don’t know, maybe 40 minutes, 45 max. We’re still learning. It’s a young part of the season.”
Baylor outgained Rice, 655 offensive yards to 416, and the Bears had 33 first downs to the Owls’ 24.