By Tyler Alley
Senior running back Terrance Ganaway rushed a school-record 42 times for 246 yards and two touchdowns Saturday, leading Baylor (8-3, 5-3) to a 66-42 win over Texas Tech at Cowboys Stadium and earning him Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week.
The big story come Monday, however, is the level of doubt on Heisman-candidate junior quarterback Robert Griffin III being able to play against Texas this Saturday.
“Zero. He is cleared. He is 100 percent ready to go,” head coach Art Briles said. “The doctors said he is OK It does not go by what I say; it goes by what they say. He will be playing Saturday.”
Griffin took a hard tackle face-first in the first half and did not return to the field in the second half after suffering an apparent concussion. Junior quarterback Nick Florence stepped in to lead the offense, giving up his redshirt for the season. Florence had 151 passing yards and two touchdowns in the second half.
“It’s huge,” Florence said. “Ultimately, when your star guy goes out, there could be a lot of head drops. I don’t think I saw any guy drop his head at all Saturday night, not even the defense. I told them in the huddle, ‘Hey, believe in me and we can do this.’ And they were like, ‘we believe,’ and you could see it in their eyes. This team this year, something special is going on. We’re a team that believes.”
The victory ended what is now being called No. 17 Baylor’s “November to remember.” The team went 4-0 in November. From 1996 to 2010, Baylor won four total November games.
The win streak came on the heels of a two tough double-digit losses to Texas A&M and Oklahoma State.
“I can look back on it because I really think the key for us was the way we responded after the Oklahoma State game,” Briles said. “We went up there and did not produce like we felt like we could have or should have on either side of the ball. We did not allow ourselves to hang our heads and get despondent and feel like we aren’t capable, and that is the whole thing. If you don’t believe in yourself, nobody else will.”
The defense has stepped up over the span as well. While each of the four opponents in November gained more than 400 yards and at least 30 points, the defense has come up with stops at key points and big turnovers, including sophomore cornerback Joe Williams returning an interception 90 yards for a touchdown against Tech.
“It’s exciting to see what we’re capable of doing,” senior inside linebacker Elliot Coffey said. “We have made big plays that we needed to make. Joe’s pick-6 was the backbreaker of the game, the absolute turning point. It’s great to see guys that I’ve seen work, guys that I’ve seen grind, get yelled at by Coach [Phil] Bennett, go out there and make those plays. It just shows these guys are working, but they can make plays.”
Griffin managed to still score three touchdowns against Texas Tech despite only playing one half. Though he said he felt like he could have gone back in, Griffin was happy to see to the team do well without him.
“I think it was huge,” Griffin said. “When I was told that I couldn’t go back in, a lot of the guys, both offense and defense, told me that they’ve got it. It makes you feel good when your team can go out there and win a game even when their leader can’t be out there with them. We’ve experienced it before where I couldn’t play and the story was a lot different. It gives those guys a lot of confidence. I’m glad that we are a confident team right now. We’re on a roll and looking to stay on that roll.“
Griffin was named a finalist for the Davey O’Brien Award, given to the most deserving quarterback of the year.
He currently ranks third on ESPN.com’s Heisman watch list and first on Sporting News’ Heisman watch.
“I seen him do stuff that most player and quarterbacks can’t do,” Wright said. “I’ve seen it with my own eyes. I hope he wins it. It would be great for him and the program.”
Baylor’s five Big 12 wins are its most ever. The Bears look to add a sixth at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Floyd Casey Stadium against Texas.