When Robert Griffin III announced he would be entering the NFL draft, the expectations for Baylor’s 2012 season took a harder crash than the stock market in 2008.
After two consecutive bowl appearances with Griffin that turned the face of the Baylor football program around, most critics thought the program would end just as quickly as it started when Griffin left.
Now, a year later, the Baylor Bears stand before their last regular season game against Oklahoma State having already claimed bowl eligibility for a third consecutive year. Without Griffin.
“That just goes to show that it wasn’t the players that got us there,” nickelback Ahmad Dixon said. “It was the coaches, it was the strength and conditioning staff and all of the others, all of the little things that got us there, not just one player or two or three guys.”
All-American receiver Terrance Williams said the credit needs to be given to everyone on the team. He said they worked hard, paid attention to the little details, and knew the struggle they were up against, but also knew there would be no drop off in production.
Griffin stood on the sidelines last week as he watched his former teammates make Baylor history by clenching bowl eligibility with a win over Texas Tech. Although Griffin was and continues to be a huge part of the Baylor family, this year’s team has proved that they can pull together as a whole unit and make improvements where needed.
Perhaps one of the most noticeable and effective improvements that have been made this season was in the defense. Throughout most of the season, Baylor had the worst ranked defense nationally.
The changes are noticeable. The Baylor defense had three turnovers in its upset of then top-ranked Kansas State. Last week against Texas Tech, the team forced four turnovers, helping to push them to victory in that game.
In addition, Baylor has claimed the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week two weeks in a row. First cornerback Joe Williams against Kansas State then middle linebacker Eddie Lackey against Texas Tech.
“I think when people across the conference and the nation look at us they think, ‘Hey, that’s a pretty tough football team,’” head coach Art Briles said. “These guys are going to fight hard, they’re going to play hard, they’re going to have some dynamic qualities to them on both sides of the ball. So I think we’re working hard to relevant, and that’s the thing you want to be in this business. You want to be relevant.”
This season, Baylor has been able to successfully find an identity without RG3. It is a different identity than the one developed with Griffin, but is an identity nonetheless; one that has kept the team motivated and ready to work hard, no matter at what point in the season or the opponent. -- Savannah Pullin