By Tyler Alley
Down by 18 at one point, it appeared the magic of Baylor football’s 2011 season would end Thursday night in San Antonio against Washington. A team with a Heisman winner, however, did not give up that easy, and at the end of the night, confetti and balloons were raining down on head coach Art Briles and the Bears.
“When you surround yourself with good people that care and love each other and believe the same thing, you’ve got a chance to have success,” Briles said. “When you’ve got people all pulling the same direction, you’ve got a chance to get there, and fortunately we’ve been able to get there, and this is a tremendous win.”
Baylor defeated the Washington Huskies 67-56 in a Valero Alamo Bowl that shredded the NCAA record books for offense. The teams combined for 123 points and 1,397 offensive yards.
“We walked into walk-through a few days ago, and the scoreboard said 72-72, and we’re thinking, oh, no way,” junior quarterback Robert Griffin III said. “Pretty close. I’m just glad we won the game, and defense stepped up big there at the end when we needed them to.”
Griffin may have the Heisman, but senior running back Terrance Ganaway received Offensive Most Valuable Player for the Valero Alamo Bowl. Ganaway carried for 200 yards and five touchdowns in his final game as a Baylor Bear.
“If you don’t mind, I would like to close out our career as a team,” Ganaway said. “It’s all about Baylor. Offensive line played really well, Robert, all the receivers, took a lot of pressure off me. So just going out there and fighting for a win, that’s what we all did, and luckily I was able to put my stitch on the end of the season.”
“I’d call it a big piece of yarn,” Briles said to laughter. “I’m not sure it’s a stitch, but I appreciate your humility there, Ganaway.”
Griffin added another play to his Heisman-winning highlight reel near the end of the first quarter when he eluded two potential tacklers in the backfield and ran it in from 24 yards out to put the Bears up 21-7. Griffin finished with, for him, an average night; he threw for 295 yards, rushed for 55 yards and had two touchdowns.
The Huskies scored 28 unanswered points thanks to penalties against Baylor on both sides of the ball, as well as a strong performance by Washington quarterback Keith Price. Price had 438 passing yards and five total touchdowns, leading Washington to a 42-24 early in the second half.
“We had to go in there and just regroup,” Griffin said about halftime. “It’s not a finger-pointing game, offense do this, defense do that. And they guys realized that. They got their composure back, and we went out there and we played as a team. We won as a team.”
Baylor’s defense allowed 620 yards of offense, but it caused a big fumble in the third quarter that led to Ganaway scoring an 89-yard touchdown run. That touchdown brought the game to within 3 points.
Washington would try to pull away with another touchdown, but Baylor would score with back-to-back one-yard touchdown runs by Ganaway to take the lead.
With a 60-56 score, Washington had a chance to take the lead in the fourth quarter. On fourth-and-8 from Baylor’s 39-yard-line, the defense forced an incomplete pass, and Ganaway would score one more time from 43 yards out to seal Baylor’s first bowl victory since 1992.
“It’s funny because the two touchdown runs that Ganaway had, he actually called it before he ran it, and he magically did it,” senior center Philip Blake said. “I don’t know how he did it, but he did it.”
This was the final game for many key Baylor seniors, including Ganaway and senior receiver Kendall Wright, who said he was saving his emotions for another event.
“When the time comes, whatever [Griffin] does, that’s when I get emotional, so I’m not emotional right now until he makes his decision because a smart GM would draft him and me,” Wright said with a smile on his face.
With the Heisman and bowl game won, the next big event for Griffin is the decision he must make before Jan. 15 on whether to declare himself eligible for the NFL draft. For now, however, he wants to celebrate.
“I want Baylor Nation to enjoy this,” Griffin said. “It’s not about me. Obviously I have a decision to make, I guess, within two and a half weeks of the deadline, but we’re going to enjoy tonight. We’ll enjoy tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day, and the next day and then whenever I have to make that decision, I will.”