WACO, Texas - Self doubt ... well, you know the word that follows. It rhymes with "ducks."
Last year Baylor was confident that it was positioned to build on the school's first bowl game in 16 seasons. When a team has a player like Robert Griffin III, confidence comes with a territory. RG3's magical performance in 2011 not only resulted in a Heisman Trophy but it sparked the Bears to one of the greatest seasons in school history.
The program's momentum is evident in the decision to build a $250 million stadium (scheduled to be ready for the 2014 season) adjacent to campus and across the Brazos River. And the Bears don't doubt that they can continue to win despite the departure of players like Griffin, leading rusher Terrance Ganaway and leading receiver Kendall Wright.
How do you replace a Heisman Trophy winner whose incandescent personality and talents are rare? You don't. Senior quarterback Nick Florence has been asked the question hundreds of times but he's not bothered that inquiring minds are uncertain of his answering The Question.
As a freshman in 2009, he replaced an injured Griffin and started over half the season. Last year, when RG3 suffered a concussion in the first half against Texas Tech, Florence gave up a redshirt season to come in and lead the Bears in the second half of a 66-42 victory.
"The thing about a quarterback's play is that you have to be consistent, aware and to a certain extent predictable," Baylor coach Art Briles said. "So what we are looking for is someone who is able to get the ball to the proper place at the proper situation.
"Nick certainly has the ability to do that as did Robert (Griffin III). The only difference was that Robert had the ability that when things broke down to make them special. Nick will have his traits that might not work as dramatically, but will be effective."
Baylor's 10-win season was built around its potent offense. The defense was basically along for the ride. Veteran defensive coordinator Phil Bennett is in his second season with the Bears. He noted that last season was a learning process; two of his corner backs made it to campus the Tuesday before the season opener and three days later played 90 snaps against TCU.
Despite giving up yards and points at an alarming rate, Bennett points out that the defense forced 19 turnovers over the last four games. Plus, there are 11 players on defense who started at least one game and eight starters return.
"Not only did we start getting turnovers, but we got them in bunches," Bennett said. "Those plays negate any yardage you might have given up. And if you can keep doing that and being
Coach: Art Briles, fourth season.
2011: 10-3 overall, 6-3 in Big 12.
Bowl: Defeated Washington, 67-56, in Alamo Bowl.
Returning starters: 6 on offense, 8 on defense.
Key players: Senior QB Nick Florence, senior WR Terrance Williams, senior RB Jarred Salubi, junior RB Glasco Martin, sophomore RB Lache Seastrunk, junior corner back K.J. Morton, junior cornerback Joe Williams, junior S Ahmad Dixon, senior C Ivory Wade, junior OL Cyrl Richardson.
Information, please: Baylor has won a total of 10 Big 12 games last 2 seasons. Bears won a total of 10 games the previous 7 seasons. ... Baylor's 10 victories in 2011 matched the 1980 Southwest Conference championship team for the most wins in school history. ... As a freshman in 2009, Nick Florence replaced an injured Robert Griffin III and passed for 1,786 yards and six touchdowns. ... Florence is majoring in economics and has a 3.79 grade-point average. ... Terrance Williams is the top returning receiver. In 2011 he had 59 catches for 957 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Numbers to note: Baylor was the first team in NCAA history to allow 30 or more points in four concsecutive games and win all four. During the Bears' six-game winning streak to close out the 2011 season, they allowed an average of 529.7 yards and 38.1 points per game. But over the last four games Baylor also forced 19 turnovers.
|Sept. 15||Sam Houston State|
|Sept. 21||at Louisiana-Monroe|
|Sept. 29||at West Virginia*|
|Oct. 20||at Texas*|
|Oct. 27||at Iowa State*|
|Nov. 10||at Oklahoma*|
|Nov. 17||Kansas State*|
|Nov. 24||Texas Tech* (Arlington, Texas)|
|Dec. 1||Oklahoma State*|
* - Big 12 Conference game.