The Robert Griffin III era has come and gone for the Baylor Bears.
The Bears are coming off a 10-3 season in 2011, and a Heisman Trophy winning quarterback in Griffin III, but the success hasn’t exactly translated into the 2012 season.
Baylor is 4-5 and in survival mode. With three games left on the schedule, they need two more wins to be bowl eligible. All three of their remaining opponents are ranked, and it starts with BCS No. 1 Kansas State this Saturday.
Baylor coach Art Briles said the motivation going into the game can’t be about playing the No. 1 team, it has to be about getting a fifth win and keeping its bowl hopes alive.
“I wish it was, but it’s really not — it’s all about us,” he said. “We have to continue to fight hard to get our fifth win and it just so happens that Kansas State is coming to town. If you play in this league, you will play really great football teams, so we have to be one of them.
“I think we’re very determined, I think we’re hungry, and I think we’re getting better, and that gives me a lot of inspiration at this point in the season.”
You would think it would be a tough job to replace Griffin III at quarterback, a first round NFL draft pick, and it is, but the Bears have done a serviceable job with Nick Florence.
Florence, who started seven games with Griffin III out due to an injury in 2009, has thrown for 3,191 yards and 25 touchdowns this season, and the Baylor offense has been every-bit as high octane as it was last year. The Bears rank No. 2 in the country in total offense and passing offense, and No. 7 in scoring offense.
But the defense has been the problem, ranking No. 120 in total defense and 115 in scoring defense. On top of that, Baylor has lost three of its games by less than eight points.
Briles said the team feels like it is due for a turnaround.
“We expect to win the game, we don’t go to Texas hoping to be in the game or Oklahoma and be in the game or Kansas State and be in the game — we want to win the game,” he said. “We aren’t looking at it as if it was close and it just didn’t happen, we’re looking at it as if we should’ve won the football game. We have to find a way to coach better, play better, and make it a ‘W’ instead of the alternative. That’s our approach every week.”
His players feel the same way.
“We are just to that point where we are due,” junior linebacker Eddie Lackey said. “It’s time for us to turn this thing around and show the country what we can do, and I think that’s what excites us the most.”
Past Kansas State, the Bears have games remaining against Texas Tech and Oklahoma State, both ranked in the BCS.
But the Baylor defense faces yet another tough test in stopping the Wildcats, who rank as the No. 8 scoring offense in the country.
Lackey said the defense will have to be as mistake-free as the K-State offense seems to be.
“(It’s) just being disciplined and playing our assignments and being where I need to be,” he said. “I guess that’s just the biggest part of playing a team like Kansas State just because they don’t make a whole lot of mistakes being the number one team in the nation.
“You have to be disciplined, and you have to play a role and play every play like that’s going to decide the outcome of the game.”
A year ago the Wildcats stopped Griffin III and the Bears, intercepting the eventual Heisman winner for the first time all season. Now the Bears are tasked with stopping the presumed Heisman frontrunner in K-State quarterback Collin Klein.
And Briles said it’s a tall task to slow down one of the nation’s best.
“He brings maturity and production as well as being a good teammate,” he said. “He sacrifices when he needs to and sacrifices when he has to. He’s as good a dual-threat QB as there is in America.”