All eyes are on Heisman winner Robert Griffin III at the Alamo Bowl
The Heisman Trophy winner and Baylor quarterback is used to being in the national spotlight, where he'll be again on Thursday night.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Washington vs. Baylor, 6 p.m., ESPN
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SAN ANTONIO — Life has changed drastically for Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III since he won the Heisman Trophy a few weeks ago.
As he met the media on Monday for the final time before Thursday's Alamo Bowl game against Washington, he revealed that he sometimes has security (generally in the form of an athletic department employee) follow him around at Baylor basketball games to control the fan reaction.
And trying to have a quiet dinner out on the town in 120,000-population Waco?
"It's been awhile," Griffin said.
He's not complaining, though. He said he understands it comes with the territory.
"When you are doing great things, people are going to want to see you and get a piece of you," he said. "It's a good problem to have."
What Griffin hasn't changed is the way he is preparing for the next game.
He hasn't gotten to this point by leaving things to chance, and he said he's aware that Heisman winners have struggled in bowl games. They are only 4-7 since 2000.
So even on the nights when he was in New York to accept the Heisman, or in Orlando, Fla., to collect the Davey O'Brien Award as the best quarterback in the country, Griffin said he made sure he got in his daily workout.
In Orlando, that meant a midnight stint in an open gym with lots of people pointing and wondering what the heck he was doing.
"I guess I took that into consideration that some (Heisman winners) have played well and some haven't, and I wanted to make sure I was ready," he said.
One potential difference for Griffin? Of the last 11 Heisman winners, nine played in games for the national championship, going 3-6.
No offense to the Huskies, but even the staunchest UW fan would not argue that they are of that caliber. UW comes into the Alamo Bowl having allowed 426.3 yards (94th of 120 FBS teams) and 33.3 points per game.
That leaves the obvious question: How can the Huskies contain Griffin and Baylor enough to give the UW offense a chance to win the game?
Husky defensive coordinator Nick Holt acknowledged the obvious Monday when he met the media, saying it won't be easy.
Holt noted that Baylor ranks second in the country in total offense at 571.2 yards per game and was never really stopped all season. The Bears gained 500 or more yards in all but two games, their season low of 429 coming against Kansas State. Baylor gained 511 in a season-ending 48-24 win over a Texas team that is No. 15 in the nation in defense, and 616 against Oklahoma.
"Texas has good players and they (Baylor) are running by those guys," Holt said. "They put up gaudy numbers against everybody. Oklahoma, they had 600 or whatever on them and a bunch of explosive plays, and you would assume Oklahoma is good on defense. They (Baylor) average almost 600 yards on offense, so that just tells you it's going to be interesting."
That Baylor's defense isn't much better, allowing 477 yards per game, suggests it will be a high-scoring game. The Las Vegas over-under of 79 is the highest of any bowl game.
The Huskies, though, hope to surprise the pundits.
"I know I like it personally when people overlook us or don't give us much of a chance," said UW senior middle linebacker Cort Dennison. "I like that as a competitor and I know all of our guys are really excited for the opportunity. It's a very big challenge we have in front of us but it's something that all competitors cherish, and we do."
The tricky part is that Baylor's offense is far more than just Griffin.
While he rightly gets a lion's share of the attention, he is ably helped by a solid receiving corps led by senior Kendall Wright, who is second in the nation with 1,572 yards; a punishing running back in 240-pounder Terrance Ganaway, who rushed for 1,347 yards; and a big and veteran offensive line that features four starters who weigh 315 pounds or more.
"They're huge," Dennison said. "And you can tell on film that when they get up in people's pads they just engulf people and it's hard for defenders to get off."
And then there's Baylor's scheme, an up-tempo, no-huddle approach similar to Oregon's, which makes it hard for opposing defenses to substitute.
"At times they are faster than Oregon," Holt said. "So it's hard to do a lot against them and that's what's happening, they get some defenses in some predictable defenses and they get after them pretty good. It's going to be a very difficult task stopping these guys."
The trigger is Griffin, a fourth-year junior who may be playing his last college game. He deflected questions on that topic Monday, saying he'll worry about the NFL after the Alamo Bowl.
For now, he said, his focus is on the Huskies and getting Baylor a 10th win, which would match a school record set in 1980.
"I think everybody knows why we are here," Griffin said. "We came here to win our 10th game, and Washington just happens to be in our way."
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @bcondotta.
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