WACO — Nick Florence had to do his best Robert Griffin III impression to get it done.
And while he didn’t quite pull it off, Florence did just enough to lift Baylor to another victory.
Florence broke off a 60-yard run — before being pushed out at the 5-yard line — in the fourth quarter and helped the Bears defeat Sam Houston State 48-23 on Saturday at Floyd Casey Stadium in Waco.
“Honestly, I wanted Glasco (Martin) or (Jarred) Salubi to score,” Florence joked about not scoring. “It happened. I ran out of gas as you can tell. ... I was thinking if I got to the 3, I can leave my feet and jump for it. Now, we can laugh about it, but we got a touchdown and that is all that matters.”
Baylor (2-0) did not look like the bowl team it was under Griffin in the first half. After a pair of field goals in the first quarter, Brian Bell got the Bearkat offense into the end zone twice in the second quarter as Sam Houston State (1-1), ranked second in the Football Championship Subdivision, went into halftime with a 20-10 lead.
“That first half was ugly,” Florence said.
The first score came on a quarterback keeper from 1-yard out that was set up by a two receptions from Chance Nelson for 50 yards. The second came on a 26-yard pass from Bell to Tim Flanders that put Sam Houston State up 20-10 with 1:30 left in the first half.
Baylor’s lone touchdown of the first half came on a 22-yard pass from Florence, who finished the game 24-of-41 passing for 312 yards and three touchdowns, to Terrance Williams, who led all receivers with six catches for 131 yards and two touchdowns. The drive looked like it would get Baylor going. The entire drive lasted five plays, including a 38-yard catch by former Temple standout Tevin Reese, and took a minute and nine seconds. Reese had five catches for 91 yards.
But the Baylor offense went silent until the defense gave it the opportunity it needed.
Terrance Lloyd sacked Bell at the Bearkats 21-yard line for a loss of four yards. Former Copperas Cove standout Trevor Clemons-Valdez recovered the fumble at the 9 and gave new life to Baylor.
A play later, Florence hit tight end Jordan Najvar for a 9-yard score.
“We came in the locker room at halftime and we knew we needed to execute,” Clemons-Valdez said. “Terrance had a great pass rush off the edge and ... I saw the ball go in the air and hit the ground. My first instinct was to pick it up and try to go score.
“That really set the tone for the rest of the half.”
The Baylor defense kept coming up big, stopping a fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line late in the third quarter, and then holding the Bearkats to a field goal after a Florence interception set Sam Houston State up at the Baylor 38.
On the Bears’ next drive, Florence streaked down the sideline and put Baylor up for good.
“We have a lot of faith and belief in our guys,” said Baylor coach Art Briles. “Nick has the uncanny ability to make a play when you need one made.”
Baylor had two late interceptions that turned what was a close game throughout into a game that looked like a blowout. Demetri Goodson picked off a Bell pass at the 29 and returned it 14 yards and then ex-Temple star Lache Seastrunk scored his first touchdown as a Bear on a 15-yard run.
Darius Jones intercepted Bell on the Bearkats’ next drive and returned it 73 yards for the touchdown and 25-point win.
“I thought we had a little open-date lull in the first half as we kind of got back into the flow,” Briles said. “I have been in this thing long enough to know as long as you have more points than they do at the end of the game, you better be happy; because you don’t get to be too happy, too often.”
Contact Nick Talbot at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7569