AUSTIN, Texas — Robert Griffin III has one last chance to impress Heisman Trophy voters when No. 19 Baylor plays Texas on Saturday.
Whether it will also be the final home game for the Bears' program-changing quarterback remains to be seen.
Griffin has carried Baylor (8-3, 5-3 Big 12) to heights not seen in Waco in a generation, and just the idea of a Bears quarterback being mentioned in the Heisman conversation would have seemed preposterous. He will soon decide if he will return to school next season or go to the NFL.
Griffin says he hasn't decided his future yet. His play against the Longhorns (7-4, 4-4) could help a lot of Heisman voters decide just who is the best player in the country.
"I'm not trying to make a decision anytime soon. I'll push it off as long as I possibly can," said Griffin, a fourth-year junior who graduated in three years with a political science degree. "For me, I don't want it to be a matter of money, or whether or not I'm not a high enough (draft) pick so I need to come back. ... It's just about if it's time for me to go, then it's time to go."
In a season in which many saw Stanford's Andrew Luck as the standard for college quarterbacks, Griffin has been phenomenal at Baylor, passing for 3,678 yards and 34 touchdowns for a Bears team gunning for its first nine-win season since 1986.
A finalist for the Davey O'Brien Award given to the nation's top quarterback, Griffin's 34 touchdown passes average a whopping 35 yards per completion. He and former Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow are two of just four players in major college history with at least 9,000 yards passing and 2,000 yards rushing in a career.
Baylor coach Art Briles, who had recruited Griffin to Houston, persuaded the quarterback to follow him to Waco when he took the Baylor job. Now he's wondering whether Saturday and Baylor's bowl appearance will be their last games together.
"Oh, you're talking to the eternal optimist," said Briles, who clearly has enjoyed what he called his "journey" with the talented quarterback. "We'll sit down and talk and ultimately it will be Robert and his family's decision. But I know he's happy here. He's having a good time."
Texas coach Mack Brown sees Griffin as a once-in-a-lifetime player who can carry a program on his shoulders. Brown compared him to former Longhorns quarterback Vince Young, who was 30-2 as a starter and led Texas to the 2005 national championship.
"He's their heartbeat," Brown said. "When he walks in that huddle, they all believe they're going to win the game and that's something that culture has changed. That wasn't that way at Baylor (and) it started his freshman year."
Texas and just about everyone else in the Big 12 pounded the Bears until Griffin got there. Brown won his first 12 games against some awful Bears teams by an average score of 48-11 with four shutouts.
That changed last season. Griffin rallied Baylor from a 19-10 third-quarter deficit to a 30-22 win — the Bears' first victory in Austin since 1991 — running for a touchdown and throwing for two more.
Griffin was knocked out of Baylor's 66-42 win against Texas Tech last week when he took a hard blow to the head near the end of the first half. Baylor officials said Griffin had concussion-like symptoms, but Griffin has said he'll be ready to play against the Longhorns.
The Texas defense could be his toughest test yet this season. The Longhorns lead the Big 12 in total defense, scoring defense, and rushing and passing defense. Griffin has passed for at least 300 yards eight times this season and topped 400 yards four times. Another big game against the Longhorns could convince undecided Heisman voters that Griffin is the best player in the country.Comment on this story
Texas players say they want to knock him out of the Heisman chase, not help him win it.
"That's not going to happen because where our defense is at, he hasn't faced us," senior linebacker Keenan Robinson said. "He's played other defenses, but Texas defense, we have a name for ourselves and we have to protect that name."
Griffin downplayed the warning from Texas.
"It's not about trash-talking," Griffin said. "I've heard it before (and) will hear it again. It's our job to go out and execute and show them, not just show them, but put points on the board and let our play do the talking."