WACO With the bronze idol of John Heisman hanging in the balance, Robert Griffin III walked off the field following his first interception at home uncertain if he had just cost himself and his team a shot at glory.
But, after watching Griffin and the Baylor offense save the day several times throughout the season, sophomore cornerback K.J. Morton wasn't going to let that happen.
Three plays later, the junior-college transfer took advantage of his own hero opportunity, stepping in front of a pass from Texas quarterback Case McCoy and returning it 28 yards to the 2-yard line. As Morton celebrated in the back of the end zone, Griffin was one of the first to greet him, sprinting from the sideline for a congratulatory chest bump. "It was huge," Griffin said. "He saved me. So, I wanted to go out and congratulate him."
Despite being a little out of breath, the Copperas Cove product punched it in from a yard out two plays later and the No. 19 Bears outscored Texas 34-3 over the final 31 minutes for a 48-24 victory Saturday at Floyd Casey Stadium.
"Robert likes to be perfect, and sometimes, when it doesn't go his way, he has the poise to just forget about it and keep on going," receiver Terrance Williams said. "And then the team picks up on that and that's how we were able to rally."
Beginning with his interception with 1:18 left in the first half, Morton and sophomore safety Sam Holl each picked off McCoy twice as the oft-criticized Bears defense forced the No. 22 Longhorns into six turnovers over their final seven offensive possessions.
"The last couple of games, we felt like the offense did their share, and we wanted to carry the offense," Morton said. "Once they make a mistake, we go out there and give him the ball back, because we're playing as a team."
It was the first time the Bears (9-3, 6-3 Big 12) claimed back-to-back victories over Texas (7-5, 4-5) since the 1991-92 seasons, and their first nine-win season since 1986.
Griffin combined for 352 yards of total offense and four touchdowns including 320 and two scores through the air.
As one of the few Heisman contenders playing in the final weekend before all ballots are to be turned in, his performance in the win should all but solidify Griffin as a finalist, earning himself a trip to New York City for the Heisman Trophy ceremony next Saturday.
"Those guys realize if we won this game, played well and had a good showing on national TV there was a good chance we could win the Heisman," Griffin said, often referring to the Heisman as a team award.
Longhorns linebacker Keenan Robinson, for one, was more than convinced.
"I think he is. Tonight he showed that and played great against a great defense," Robinson said. "He did his job, he did just enough to beat us. He scored 48 points on us, so I think he is (worthy)."
After opening the game with back-to-back scoring drives, including a 58-yard touchdown to a streaking Kendall Wright on the second play of the game, the Bears quickly saw a 14-0 lead dissipate into a 21-14 deficit on three straight touchdown drives by McCoy, who finished with a career-best 356 passing yards and three touchdowns.
But it was repeated mistakes, including the four interceptions and a fumbled snap with three minutes to play in the second that ultimately started the Longhorns' downward spiral.
"It's real frustrating. You're not going to win football games when you turn the ball over (six) times anywhere, anyhow," Texas coach Mack Brown said.
Leading 24-21 at halftime after Griffin's 1-yard touchdown, the Bears offense carried the momentum into the second half as Griffin picked apart Texas' defense with a six-play, 75-yard scoring drive, capped with the second of Terrance Ganaway's two touchdown runs to make it 31-24 early in the third.
Holl, who had been chewed out much of the first half for missed assignments, intercepted a third-down throw from McCoy on the following drive and returned it 62 yards to the Texas 11-yard line.
Two plays later, Griffin called his own number, slipping through three Longhorns before gliding into the end zone for a 10-yard score and a 38-24 lead.