WACO It was just a simple wrap-up tackle. But for Robert Griffin III, it was confirmation he was in fact back.
"I don't like to go into any game thinking about getting hit," the former Copperas Cove standout said. " ... But after the first one, which was a low hit on my legs anyway, it just took all of the anxiousness out of me and I was ready to go play."
In his first game in 11 months, after he suffered an "isolated tear" of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his right knee against Northwestern State, Griffin finished with 307 all-purpose yards (242 on 19-of-36 passing and a game-high 65 on six carries) as Baylor rolled over Sam Houston State 34-3 on Saturday. "I thought he made some plays. I thought he kept some stuff alive (with his legs), especially early in the game," third-year Bears coach Art Briles said. "Overall, I thought he really played well for being out the game for a year."
On par with his rockstar status on campus, Griffin made his reintroduction to action by sprinting out of the tunnel with his hands held high, soaking up the moment of his long-awaited return to a roar of applause from the Bear faithful. Griffin was awarded a medical redshirt after appearing in just the first three games last season.
"You don't get to come back from an injury like this more than once in college football, ... so I just ran out and soaked up the moment and enjoyed it, and then let it pass by," Griffin said.
With fellow former Bulldawg alum Tim Atchison roaming the secondary, the Baylor defense held Sam Houston State under 100 yards of total offense for much of the game, as the Bearkats finished with under 200 yards much of which came late.
"For me as a safety, it was kind of frustrating because I couldn't make any plays," Atchison said with a grin.
In the first half, the former freshman All-American quarterback accounted for 270 of Baylor's 292 yards of total offense passing for 218 yards and two scores while rushing for 52 yards and another while having a hand in all three first-half touchdowns.
The Bears (1-0) struck first on their second possession as Griffin hit tight end Brad Taylor on a quick slant over the middle that Taylor took 68 yards for the touchdown. On the next possession, Griffin displayed the pure athleticism that he's been known for since his days at Cove.
Seeing nothing open in front of him, Griffin rolled to his right and cut up field, but once past the first down marker, Griffin cut back inside rather than step out and avoid the hit from the Sam Houston defender.
"After he got his first hit, I saw him get up quick and I knew right then and there he was ready to go, that the knee wasn't going to be a problem," Atchison said.
Five plays later, Griffin showed everyone in Floyd Casey Stadium exactly what they missed over the final nine games last season when he optioned to his left, tip-toeing the left hashline before as he broke back toward the Baylor "B" for a 30-yard touchdown scamper. The scoring run the 16th of Griffin's Baylor career capped a six-play, 70-yard drive that made it 14-0 with just under 5:00 left to play in the first quarter.
"Running-wise, it felt good out there against people that were trying to take my head off," Griffin said. "In practice (his defensive teammates) are just like, 'Hey, we got ya.'"
He added to his totals when he connected with sophomore receiver Terrance Williams on a 23-yard strike to cap a 10-play, 70-yard drive that made it 21-0 midway through the second quarter.
On Baylor's first offensive play of the second half, Bears senior tailback Jay Finley broke loose for a 44-yard touchdown run.
Both teams traded short field goals midway through the fourth quarter to make it 31-3 before Baylor kicker Aaron Jones capped the night's scoring with a 36-yard shot with a little over two minutes left in regulation. Jones was 2-for-3 in the game, also connecting on a 29-yarder earlier in the fourth after Bearkats kicker Miguel Antonio began the made the first of his three attempts on the night from 27 yards out.