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Heisman finalist Griffin changed Baylor perception

By Stephen Hawkins

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Dec. 8 2011 4:35 p.m. MST

Robert Griffin III smiles Monday, Dec. 5 2011, after the Baylor quarterback was announced as a finalist for college football's Heisman Trophy, during a watch party on campus in Waco, Texas.

Waco Tribune Herald, Jerry Larson, Associated Press

WACO, Texas — Robert Griffin III has been too caught up in the moment to really consider how much he's done to change the perception of Baylor.

When Griffin finally slows down and thinks about it, he might realize just how unimaginable it all seemed when he first arrived on the private school campus nearly four years ago as a 17-year-old kid who graduated high school early.

"I know we've been creating a lot of history," Griffin said. "But it's tough to be within it and look back on what's happened. ... The way the program is going now, you expect good things to happen."

The next good thing could be the dual-threat playmaking quarterback and aspiring lawyer known as "RG3" becoming Baylor's first Heisman Trophy winner.

That is quite a thought considering that the Bears used to be a constant fixture at or near the bottom of the Big 12 standings and never had a winning record in the league before Griffin arrived.

There also were concerns each of the last two summers during realignment talks that Baylor could be left out of a major conference before the Big 12 twice revived itself.

Now the 15th-ranked Bears (9-3) have their most wins in 25 years and are going to their second consecutive bowl game after a 16-year postseason drought. With a win over Washington in the Alamo Bowl, they would match the school record of 10 wins set in 1980 during Mike Singletary's senior season.

"It's great whenever you can build something up from the ground up, because here at Baylor, things hadn't been good for a while," Griffin said. "The foundation had eroded away and we were able to get the grass back green."

Griffin, the nation's most efficient passer and one of the most exciting players, is one of five Heisman Trophy finalists who will be in New York for Saturday night's ceremony. He is the only one from the Big 12, whose last two winners have been Oklahoma quarterbacks, Sam Bradford in 2008 and Jason White in 2003.

"The Heisman to me has always been about excitement," Griffin said. "Anybody who wins it is deserving. But if you want to talk about excitement and what college football is really about, I think we're doing it here at Baylor."

All with the 6-foot-2, 220-pound Griffin at the helm.

Griffin has completed 267 of 369 passes (72 percent) for 3,998 yards with a Big 12-leading 36 touchdowns and only six interceptions, and run for 644 yards with nine more scores. He has averaged 387 total yards a game and his touchdown passes have averaged more than 36 yards each.

This season began with Griffin throwing for 359 yards and five TDs in a nationally televised Friday night game, when he even had a 15-yard catch on a third-and-10 drive that led to the game-winning field goal in a wild 50-48 victory over No. 16 TCU, the nation's best defense the previous three seasons.

There was the Saturday night special three weeks ago against then-No. 5 Oklahoma, a team the Bears had never beaten. Griffin set school records with 479 yards passing and 551 total yards in a 45-38 victory. On the final drive, Griffin had runs of 22 and 8 yards before his scrambling 34-yard TD throw across the field with 8 seconds left.

"The last play of the game, threw back of the end zone, which kind of defines to me him, and how he's matured into a great player," Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. "He not only has great athleticism, his accuracy at throwing, his arm strength, also his playmaking ability. ... He's a special one."

After a 4-0 November sweep by the Bears — who had won a combined four Big 12 games in November the previous 15 seasons — Griffin made his final statement for Heisman voters by throwing for 320 yards with two long touchdowns and ran for two more scores in a 48-24 victory over Texas.

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