Sept. 4, 2010
WACO, Texas (AP) - Robert Griffin was thrilled simply getting to run out of the tunnel instead of walk.
Soon, his teammates and a huge gathering of Baylor fans were feeling even better.
Griffin threw a 68-yard touchdown pass on his second series, ran 30 yards for a touchdown on his next possession and led Baylor to a 34-3 victory over Sam Houston State on Saturday night in his first game since tearing a knee ligament early last season.
"I'm just happy to be back out there," Griffin said.
A freshman sensation in 2008, he played only 2 1/2 games last season. He came back bigger and stronger, but also wearing a brace on his right knee.
He proved right away that his arm was fine, completing his first three passes and drilling the short pass that turned into the longest TD throw of his career. The big tests were running and taking his first hit.
Both came at the start of the third drive. He scrambled right for 15 yards, getting jerked down by his legs. He jumped right up, drawing a huge cheer. A few plays later, he scrambled left, saw an opening and zipped through the defense, holding up his right index finger as he crossed the goal line. He had another TD run in the fourth quarter called back because of a penalty.
"That shows everybody I still have the burst I used to have," Griffin said. "Running around felt good with people trying to take my head off. In practice, its like (they take it easy). In games, they're serious. They're really trying to destroy you."
Griffin stretched the lead in the second quarter. Two plays after freshman Tevin Reese narrowly missed a juggling touchdown catch, Griffin saw Terrance Williams break free toward the goal line and hit him for the easy score.
The Bears went up 28-0 when Jay Finley, who is coming back from offseason ankle surgery, ran 44 yards up the middle for a touchdown on the first play of the second half.
"We lost some of our mental toughness after that," coach Art Briles said.
Griffin went 19-of-36 for 242 yards, playing all but Baylor's final drive. He was sacked once and didn't have any turnovers. He also ran six times for a team-best 59 yards.
"I threw the ball well early, then tapered off," he said.
Sam Houston State -- an FCS school breaking in a new coach and quarterback, and with unproven running backs and receivers -- hardly put up a challenge.
The Bearkats didn't break Baylor's 20-yard line until the fourth quarter, then had to settle for a 27-yard field goal. They gained just 195 yards.
"We are learning how to play hard," Sam Houston State coach Willie Fritz. "We are still not there yet, but we are learning how to do it and we are competing on every single play."
Baylor's defense enjoyed a first-half shutout for the first time since 2006. Sam Houston's only points came with 10:35 left.
"The D-line up front was getting such a push, a lot of time I came to the ball and it was behind the line of scrimmage," Bears linebacker Elliot Coffey said.
The Bears are hoping Griffin's return and a soft schedule will end a 15-year bowl drought, which matches Duke for the longest among schools in BCS conferences. Anticipation was so high that this game drew a crowd of 42,821, the third-largest for an opener in school history.
The crowd also got to applaud the men's basketball team, which came on the field during a second-quarter break to receive rings for reaching the Elite Eight in the NCAA tournament this past season. The group included Ekpe Udoh, the sixth overall pick in the NBA draft.
"It was an outstanding crowd, the way college football is supposed to be," Briles said. "It made our players feel responsible, to a certain extent. We had a lot of people pulling for us, loving us. We need to return the favor."