Freshman QB leads Baylor over Washington State
WACO, Texas (AP)—Robert Griffin is a natural under the Friday night lights— even in college.
Baylor’s freshman quarterback ran for a school-record 217 yards and two touchdowns on only 11 carries and the Bears beat Washington State 45-17 in a game played a day earlier than scheduled because of Hurricane Ike.
That is two starts for Griffin and consecutive 40-point games for the Bears, the first time they have done that since 1994.
“It’s a confidence boost,” Griffin said. “We came out and beat Washington State, a legitimate team. We didn’t just beat them. We beat them pretty good.”
Griffin threw for 129 yards, including a 27-yard TD pass to Ernest Smith, a play on which Griffin scrambled from one side of the field to the other before throwing off his back foot. He had TD runs of 1 and 58 yards, along with a 57-yard run that set up another score for Baylor (2-1) and a 58-yard sprint on his last play.
“That quarterback makes everybody look slow,” first-year Washington State coach Paul Wulff said.
The game was moved up from an 11:40 a.m. Saturday kickoff to beat the expected deteriorating weather from Hurricane Ike. The massive storm was approaching the Texas coast about 230 miles away Friday night, and was then expected to move through the state.
There was a steady breeze of 10-15 mph with some higher gusts later in the game, but no rain.
Washington State, forced to fly to Texas and play on the same day, dropped to 0-3 for the first time since 1999 and were coming off the worst loss in school history, 66-3 to California.
“We just got outplayed, made too many mistakes and we don’t give ourselves our chance,” Wulff said, refusing to blame the travel issues. “It was a combination of them outplaying us and our own mistakes.”
The Cougars returned to Washington overnight ahead of the storm.
Griffin, whose 19.7-yard per carry average was a Big 12 record, was pulled after he scampered for 58 yards midway through the fourth quarter with the Bears up 42-17. New coach Art Briles then put in Blake Szymanski, the starter last year when Griffin was playing regularly on Friday nights.
After leading Copperas Cove High to the Texas Class 4A Division I championship game last season, Griffin enrolled early at Baylor and took part in spring drills.
“He is always confident in his ability, but never overly cocky,” said linebacker Joe Pawelek, who had an interception and recovered a fumble. “This is huge for us. We dropped that first one at home, but have got a little momentum going in our favor.”
Griffin replaced ineffective senior Kirby Freeman, a transfer from Miami, in the season-opening 41-13 loss to No. 20 Wake Forest. Griffin then had 337 total yards and four TDs in his first start, a 51-6 victory last week over Northwestern State, from the lower-tier Football Championship Subdivision.
After Griffin’s 1-yard keeper on Baylor’s opening drive tied the game at 7, Washington State had the first of its five turnovers, when a shotgun snap to a surprised Kevin Lopina ricocheted off the quarterback’s face mask and was recovered by Pawelek.
Griffin’s scrambling TD pass came two plays later, when right tackle Dan Gay retreated to provide a crushing block that took out one of the pursing defenders just before Griffin threw.
“We had a screen call and Ray (Sims) fell down,” Griffin said. “I was thinking what to do, ran to the other side. It was a screen play, there were linemen down the field. But I threw it anyway, they didn’t call it, touchdown for us.”
Lopina, a Kansas State transfer making his first start, had an 8-yard keeper to tie the game at 14 midway through the second quarter. But Griffin immediately had a 57-yard run to set up Jeremy Sanders’ 13-yard TD on the next play that put the Bears ahead to stay.
Jay Finley, who ran for 119 yards on 10 carries, added a 46-yard TD run before halftime. Griffin and Kendall Wright (10 yards) ran for scores in the second half.
Lopina was 17-of-26 for 174 yards and two interceptions before being replaced by Gary Rogers, the previous starter, in the fourth quarter.
Next up for the Bears is another Friday night game, this one part of the regular schedule. They play next week at Connecticut, a nationally televised game and Griffin’s first road game.