By Jim Vertuno
Associated Press Sports Writer
AUSTIN — The Texas Longhorns can help Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin’s Heisman Trophy campaign. They can probably end it, too.
The Longhorns and No. 19 Bears will play Saturday in Waco in Griffin’s last game before the trophy is awarded in New York on Dec. 10. A big game against the Big 12’s best defense could sway some undecided voters to make him their top choice.
Or the Longhorns could ruin everything by shutting him down.
“We don’t plan on letting anyone win the Heisman against us,” Texas linebacker Emmanuel Acho said Monday.
Griffin, who sat out the out the second half of last week’s win over Texas Tech after taking a blow to the head, is expected to play against Texas.
“He just had concussion-like symptoms and so he’s fine,” Baylor coach Art Briles said Monday. “We’re thankful that Robert’s OK.”
Expect for the injury that sent him to the sideline, Griffin has been all but impossible to stop this season, even in Baylor’s losses.
His 34 touchdown passes rank fifth nationally and his 334 yards per game rank sixth. He is one of only four players in major college history with at least 9,000 passing yards and 2,000 rushing yards in a career.
Texas coach Mack Brown said a lot of teams have probably talked about trying to shut down Griffin and couldn’t do it.
“He still puts up numbers,” Brown said. “He is just a phenomenal player.”
Baylor (8-3, 5-3 Big 12) used to be a punching bag for Texas (7-4, 4-4), but Griffin and the Bears earned the Longhorns’ respect last season when he ran for a touchdown and passed for two more in a 30-22 Bears win, their first in Austin since 1991. Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro said he’s known Griffin since he was about 9 years old in youth track programs and the two used to square off in the 400 meters.
“I thought he was going to run in the Olympics,” Vaccaro said. “We’ve raced and raced. It was neck and neck but I wouldn’t ever beat him.”
Texas may be the one team that can slow Griffin down.
Since getting blitzed by Oklahoma’s passing attack in a 55-17 loss back on Oct. 8, the Longhorns have been the best defense in the Big 12 under first-year coordinator Manny Diaz. The Texas defense leads the Big 12 in scoring, rushing, passing and total defense and ranks in the top 10 nationally in the last three categories.
Diaz was hired after one season at Mississippi State in part because of how his Bulldogs contained Auburn’s Cam Newton, last season’s Heisman Trophy winner, in a 17-14 loss. The Bulldogs limited Newton to 206 total yards rushing and passing in that game.
“If he (Diaz) can corral Cam Newton, I think we can get Robert Griffin,” Vaccaro said.
Baylor has the offense to challenge any defense. The Bears have gone over 600 in six games this season and average 43 points. Kendall Wright averages 128 yards receiving and Terrance Ganaway rushed for 246 yards last week against Texas Tech.
The Bears got a scare when Griffin was tackled and his head bounced hard off the ground. He came back in to run for a touchdown just before halftime but sat out the second half while backup Nick Florence finished off the 66-42 win.
Acho said Texas has to hit Griffin hard to take away any ideas of tucking the ball to run.
“You’ve got to make him pay,” Acho said. “Make him think twice before he wants to run.”