|Turnovers, Not Time, Tell the Tale
10:20 A.M. TUESDAY, Sept. 22, 2009
Here's just a couple observations from this weekend:
Is there a bigger factor in games than turnovers?
Two games, in particular, jumped out at me. Baylor, of course, was minus-3 in turnover margin and coughed it up twice inside its own 25-yard line, resulting in 14 points in Saturday's 30-22 loss to Connecticut. "You can't keep hurting yourself and expect to come out with a win," sophomore quarterback Robert Griffin said. One day later, the Dallas Cowboys turned it over four times in a 33-31 loss to the New York Giants before a record crowd of 105,121 packed into the Cowboys' new $1.15 billion palace. All three of quarterback Tony Romo's interceptions led to the Giants' only touchdowns of the game. "I have to get better at the mistakes I made," Romo said, "and I will."
Time of possession doesn't always tell the tale.
In Baylor's case, I think it was a huge factor. The Huskies had four scoring drives of 11 plays or longer and kept the ball for 39 minutes, 44 seconds. Baylor's offense had the ball for just 18 plays total in the first half and had all of two possessions in the fourth quarter, with the game still on the line. "We didn't ever stay on the field long enough to get things going," Baylor coach Art Briles said. But last night, quarterback Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts made a mockery of time of possession. The Miami Dolphins kept the ball for 45:07 - over three-quarters of the game - but Manning hit Pierre Garcon with a 48-yard TD pass with 3:18 left to lead the Colts to a 27-23 victory. "It was about being efficient when it counted, in the fourth quarter," Manning said. "That's really what the game's about."
No Time for Bears (Or Anyone Else) to Panic
9:27 A.M. SUNDAY, Sept. 20, 2009
As troubling as Saturday's 30-22 loss to Connecticut was, we can't lose sight of the fact that it was just one game.
"Of course this is a real disappointing loss for us," senior middle linebacker Joe Pawelek said. "But by no means is our season lost or are people freaking out in there (in the locker room). We've got to come in tomorrow, see the mistakes that have been made and try to correct them before next week."
With home games coming up against winless Northwestern State and a 1-2 Kent State team that just handed Iowa State its first road victory in four years, the Bears should be 3-1 heading into Big 12 play.
Which means they now have to win at least three Big 12 games to go bowling for the first time in 15 years. But remember, they did that just three years ago with a team that I believe was far inferior to this bunch.
The true test will be whether this team can bounce back. For nine months, the focus has been getting off to a 4-0 start in non-conference. Now that goal is out the window.
"It's football. You don't get all your goals all the time," sophomore quarterback Robert Griffin said. "We're 1-1 now. It doesn't make a difference. We'll be judged on the rest of the games this season, not just this one."
That's the right attitude. Strength and conditioning coach Kaz Kazadi constantly preaches for the players to "Clear it!" You have to forget about the last game, the last drive, the last play. Put tomorrow behind and focus on today.
"We understand that we'll be judged in December and not in September," coach Art Briles said. "We've got a lot of football in front us. What we've got to do is learn from this, regroup and get ready to go next week against Northwestern State."
So if you catch yourself starting to panic today, just stop and breathe. We're two weeks in with 10 games to play. Don't give up on that bowl game just yet.
Sports Illustrated Giving Griffin, Bears Their Due
5:00 P.M. THURSDAY, Sept. 10, 2009
Baylor's certainly had its share of negative publicity in Sports Illustrated.
Just off the top of my head, I can think of the March 20, 2000 cover that showed John Flippen getting dunked on by Iowa State's Marcus Fizer; the magazine's coverage of the 2003 basketball scandal; and running Guy Morriss comment following a 16-13 overtime loss in 2005 at Texas A&M in its "They Said" feature: "Playing close is like showering with your sister. It just ain't right."
So it was especially sweet when I opened up this week's edition and found close to a full-page spread on quarterback Robert Griffin. Mark Beech, who wrote the piece for the Inside College Football section, was in Winston-Salem, N.C., for the Bears' 24-21 win at Wake Forest on Saturday. Here's a few excerpts from the story, which appears on page 40 of the Sept. 14 edition:
"Robert Griffin can do it all - but he'd just as soon not have to. As a true freshman in 2008, Baylor's slashing, scrambling quarterback led the Bears with 13 rushing touchdowns and passed or ran for 65 percent of their yards from scrimmage. But facing a defense designed to contain him last Saturday at Wake Forest, Griffin let his teammates to the work in the Bears' season-opening 24-21 win. . . .
"Nobody's going to confuse Baylor's top-to-bottom talent with that of the big shots in the Big 12. But the Bears have enough playmakers on both sides of the ball to make a serious run at their first bowl berth since 1994. . . .
"There might be no bigger talent in the nation than the 6-3, 210-pound Griffin. He has world-class speed - he was a semifinalist in the 400-meter hurdles at the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials - and a powerful right arm. . . ."
And here's my favorite:
"When he was about eight years old, (his parents) say, he would stand in the front yard and throw a football as high as he could over their one-story house, and then race around to the backyard and catch the ball before it hit the ground."
I have to admit, even though I've followed the team on pretty much a daily basis since Griffin's arrival in January 2008, that's the first time I've heard that particular story.
In that same vein, did you hear that Robert Griffin is so fast that he:
# can flip the light switch and get in bed before it's dark;
# once called a fair catch on his own 50-yard punt;
# can read the book, "Gone With the Wind" faster than you can watch the movie.
The legend just keeps growing.
Bears Already Turning Heads of AP Poll Voters
2:40 P.M. TUESDAY, Sept. 8, 2009
The fact that I even checked the Associated Press Top 25 football poll today seemed so odd.
Other than taking note of where the other Big 12 teams are ranked, I can safely say that I haven't paid that much attention to the poll in the last decade and longer. Baylor hasn't been ranked in the AP poll since 1993 and I would guess has not even received any votes since the 1998 season, when the Bears upset North Carolina State, 33-30, after opening with a loss on the road at Oregon.
But I had to at least take a peek.
And there it was - right between UCLA and Boston College among others receiving votes - Baylor with 17 points. The Bears (1-0) are still a long way from cracking the Top 25 (at No. 38), but Saturday's 24-21 road win over Wake Forest at least made people take notice.
"Taking care of business up there Saturday just makes next week that much more important," coach Art Briles said of the Bears' home opener Sept. 19 against UConn. "It just keeps getting better and keeps getting bigger, and we've got to take care of business."
Until the Big 12 Conference opener at No. 13 Oklahoma, there's not a game on the schedule that will turn voters' heads the way Wake did . But if the Bears "take care of business" and sweep their home non-conference games against UConn, Northwestern (La.) State and Kent State and improve to 4-0, there's at least an outside shot that they will be in the top 25 when they travel to Norman, Okla., for the Oct. 10 game against the Sooners.
I know. I know. Don't get ahead of yourself or put the cart before the horse. But this team showed me something in the win over Wake.
It was certainly impressive that they took a 17-point lead on the Demon Deacons in the third quarter. But they had been here before. The Bears had a two-touchdown lead on then-No. 7 Texas Tech in last year's regular-season finale in Lubbock and lost. But this time, they had enough to finish.
When they absolutely had to, the offense, defense and special teams got it done. That's what can turn last year's 4-8 record into 8-4 and end the program's 15-year bowl drought.
As senior defensive lineman Jason Lamb said, "This isn't the same old Baylor."
Demolition Man or 'Esteban' Gettis?
1:40 P.M. THURSDAY, Sept. 3, 2009
No, that wasn't a newcomer or some alien sporting the bleach-dyed Mohawk at Baylor football practice this week.
Looking like Wesley Snipes' Phoenix character in the 1990s "Demolition Man" movie, senior wide receiver David Gettis is the Bears' own "Demolition Man."
But apparently, it was Gettis' answer to Cincinnati Bengals receiver Chad "Esteban" Ochocinco. After kicking an extra point in a Bengals preseason game, the newly named Ochocinco said, "Esteban Ochocinco is back - the most interesting footballer in the world. I've always said that soccer is my No. 1 sport. I think Ronaldinho would be proud of me right now."
When asked about his orange-colored Mohawk, Gettis said: "This is my Esteban swag. I was the original Esteban before Chad Ochocinco said he was. So I had to one-up somebody. All these people with Mohawks, I was the first one with a Mohawk. So this is me saying this is my style, this is what I do."
Gettis and junior free safety Tim Atchison were the first Baylor players to cut their hair into Mohawks, but they were joined this summer by all the offensive linemen, big slot Sam Sledge and junior transfer safety Byron Landor.
"It's a competition out here," Gettis said. "So don't be surprised if you see a lot of people with dye in their hair now."
Just to put my wife and children at ease, I won't be one of them. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't look good in an orange Mohawk.
Robert Griffin: The Face of the Program
4:55 P.M. WEDNESDAY, Sept. 2, 2009
This time a year ago, quarterback Robert Griffin was more hype than anything. He still hadn't played a down of football on the collegiate level and was going into the season opener as the backup to senior starter Kirby Freeman.
Now he's the face of the program. After earning Freshman All-America and Big 12 Newcomer of the Year honors a year ago, Griffin is on preseason watch lists for the Manning, Maxwell and Davey O'Brien awards and has his image planted on a huge billboard on Interstate-35 in Waco.
"I didn't actually see the billboard first," Griffin said. "My girlfriend was driving somewhere, and she was like, `Hey, there's a billboard up of you right by Subway.' And I'm like, `Oh, that's not good at all.' It's kind of weird. But you know it comes with the territory. Being the quarterback of a university, you're going to have a lot of hype. And if you don't have hype or a lot of excitement around you, then you're obviously not doing real well. It doesn't give me a big head or anything. I just take it for what it's worth and move on."
But maybe the ultimate "You've Arrived" moment came on Tuesday, when Fort Worth Star-Telegram writer Dwain Price informed Griffin that a Baylor alum and colleague at the newspaper was naming his son, Robert Griffin.
When he finally stopped laughing, Griffin was asked: So is this the first time you've had a baby named after you.
"I don't know. They don't usually send me those messages, `Hey, Rob, I'm going to name my kid after you. Is that OK?' I don't know what to say about that. It's not that weird or anything. I know there are people who named their kid after Dr. J and a lot of other professional athletes. I mean, I'm still in college. But if that's what they want to do, I'm fine with that."