By Jimmy Burch
SAN ANTONIO _ A record-setting offensive shootout came down to a defensive stop Thursday in the Alamo Bowl. Baylor made it, stifling Washington’s final drive with a fourth-down incompletion and following up with what worked best all night: a long scoring run by tailback Terrance Ganaway.
Ganaway’s fifth touchdown, a 43-yarder with 2:28 remaining, sealed a 67-56 triumph in the Alamodome in a contest that included more yards of total offense (1,397) than any bowl game in history. No. 12 Baylor finished with a school-record 777 of those yards, allowing the Bears to record their 10th win of the season despite allowing 612 yards to Washington.
With the victory, the Bears moved to 10-3 and matched the 1980 team, which finished with a 10-2 mark, for most wins in any season in school history.
“That was crazy. I’ve never been a part of anything like that … and I’d imagine a lot of other people could say the same thing,” said Bears’ coach Art Briles, who watched three different rushers top the 100-yard mark (Ganaway, backup tailback Jared Salubi, receiver Tevin Reese) while quarterback Robert Griffin III threw for 295 yards and a touchdown.
Griffin, the 2011 Heisman Trophy winner, joked that the Bears may have gotten a premonition of things to come when they arrived for a walkthrough in the stadium during bowl week and saw a 72-72 score emblazoned on the board.
“We’re thinking, ‘No way,’” Griffin said. “But we got pretty close. I’m just glad we won the game.”
It could have been the last game of Griffin’s college career. The fourth-year junior, who is projected as a first-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, said he will take his time and ponder his options before announcing a decision before the Jan. 15 deadline for underclassmen to enter the draft.
“I want Baylor Nation to enjoy this. It’s not about me,” said Griffin, who helped rally the team from a 42-24 third-quarter deficit. “We’re going to enjoy tonight. We’ll enjoy tomorrow and the next day and the next day … and whenever I have to make that decision, I will.”
The victory was the first in five bowl appearances for Briles, including a 1-1 mark at Baylor. He got it on a night when the Bears broke the record for most points scored by any FBS team and joined Washington in producing the most combined points (123) in regulation in any bowl.
But the victory was not secured until Washington quarterback Keith Price overthrew receiver Kasen Williams, who was double-covered, on a fourth-and-8 play from the Baylor 39-yard line with the Bears clinging to a 60-56 lead and 3:20 remaining.
It marked the only time during the game that the Bears double-covered Williams (3 catches, 19 yards) and the lone snap that the Bears’ defense rushed only three players and dropped eight into coverage.
Briles called the move a “great adjustment” at the ideal time by defensive coordinator Phil Bennett. Washington coach Steve Sarkisian said the move surprised the Huskies (7-6).
“So credit to them,” Sarkisian said. “Good job.”
Otherwise, neither defense showed much stopping power on a night when both offenses converted more than half of their third-down opportunities (Baylor was 7-of-14; Washington was 9-of-16). Both offenses also converted 3-of-4 times on fourth down.
Ganaway, a senior, did the brunt of Baylor’s heavy lifting with scoring runs of 89, 43, 4, 1 and 1 yards. All five came in the second half, when the Bears erased an 18-point, third-quarter deficit.
“We were just going out there and fighting for a win,” said Ganaway, who was named the game’s offensive MVP. “Luckily, I was able to put my stitch on the end of the season.”
Briles said Ganaway’s contribution represented much more than a stitch, in the grand scheme of Thursday’s victory.
“I’d call it a big piece of yarn,” Briles said.
By the end of the night, several Bears’ seniors were celebrating an upbeat conclusion to their college careers.
“I came here to help change the program with these guys, and I feel like we’ve done that,” said receiver Kendall Wright, who grabbed seven passes for 91 yards and a touchdown in his college finale.
Wright, who holds every significant Baylor school receiving record, said the emotions of what the team achieved with its history 10-win season probably will not hit him until later.
“Whatever ‘Griff’ does, that’s when I’ll get emotional,” Wright said. “A smart (NFL) GM would draft him and me.”
The response drew laughter, and Wright immediately offered clarification.
“Draft me this year and draft ‘Griff’ next year,” Wright said. “I’m hoping he stays.”
Regardless of what he decides, Griffin always will be the quarterback of record _ and the Heisman Trophy winner _ on a Baylor team that matched the school record for victories in a season.
Jimmy Burch, 817-390-7760