The 2011 college football season may have been marred by some off-the-field issues from coast to coast, and you may not have been in favor of the way it all ended with a rematch in the BCS Championship Game, but there were quite a few games that will go down in the memory banks of us all for a long time to come.
We are going to take a look back at the 2011 college football season and pay one last tribute to some of the greatest games, from start to finish. We have ten games ready to discuss over the course of the next two weeks, with a closer look at what the game ultimately meant through the course of the college football season.
Where else should we start than week one of the regular season, when a Heisman favorite emerged in the southwest.
Baylor vs. No. 14 TCU
Week One, September 2, 2011
The Quick Slant: Robert Griffin III sets the tone for his Heisman season as Baylor stuns TCU in shootout.
Game In Brief: Baylor 50, No. 14 TCU 48
TCU was coming off a perfect season and a Rose Bowl victory from the season before but had some answers to find with the loss of Andy Dalton under center. In week one they walked in to a buzz saw with a hungry Baylor team ready to learn from their growing pains in 2010, where the Bears could not win the big game. And they had just the solution at quarterback that TCU did not, Robert Griffin III.
Griffin III entered the season as a player that was given some slight Heisman consideration nationally but he drew plenty of attention with his first performance of 2011. Griffin III tore up a usually confident and stern TCU defense for 359 passing yards and five touchdowns, going 21-for-27 in the process without throwing an interception. RG3 added 38 rushing yards for good measure as TCU's defense was slow to adjust and catch their breath in Waco.
Each team scored a touchdown five minutes in to the game, setting the pace for a wild opener for both teams. Baylor stunned the Horned Frogs with a 34-point first half as season after TCU allowed more than 20 points just three times and allowed a season-high 35 points.
TCU made the halftime adjustments, as expected under Gary Patterson, and stormed back in the fourth quarter, causing many Baylor fans to start dreading that their beloved Bears still had some growing up to do. Baylor did extend their lead before the visiting Horned Frogs could stage their comeback. Griffin completed a 64-yard touchdown pass to Lanear Sampson midway through the third quarter and struck again for a 42-yard score to Terrance Williams.
Down 47-23 at the start of the fourth quarter, the Horned Frogs scored the next 25 points to take a 48-47 lead with just under four and a half minutes to play. Casey Pachall threw three touchdown passes and converted two of three two-point conversions to erase the sting of a bad first half.
But the RG3 would not be beaten on this night. Griffin and Baylor moved 60 yards in three minutes and 23 seconds to set-up an Adam Jones field goal attempt of 37 yards with just over a minute to play. It was a gutsy decision to play for the field goal with the kind of night RG3 was having. After completing three straight attempts on the drive Baylor took the ball out of Griffin's arm and rushed for short gains starting with a first-and-ten from the TCU 26-yard line.
TCU's last chance to pick up the win was thwarted when Pachall's 3rd and 10 pass from the Baylor 40-yard line was intercepted by Mike Hicks at the 20-yard line with two seconds remaining in the game.
What We Said Then (Full Story)
"For Baylor, simply put, they are better than any of us could have imagined. If last night showed us anything, it’s that Art Briles has things rolling in year four in Waco, and that he has a surprisingly talented football team. Obviously most college football fans already knew about Robert Griffin III. As Rod Gilmore mentioned in last night’s broadcast (and I’m paraphrasing) “With all due respect to Michael Vick, Robert Griffin is the best athlete playing quarterback in college football right now.” And most casual fans even knew about Kendall Wright, who has had 50 receptions per year, in each of his three years in Waco. There might not be a more underrated receiver in all of college football."
"As a matter of fact, going forward, Baylor’s biggest hurdle isn’t talent; it’s believing that they’re a winning football team. It takes time to build a winner, and even longer to build a winning culture, and Baylor fans learned that the hard way last night. As good as the Bears were for three quarters Friday, it all was nearly for nothing with an epic fourth quarter collapse. Up 47-23, TCU scored 25 straight points, before an Aaron Lewis field goal proved to be the difference. Closing out wins (when they don’t have nearly as comfortable a lead) will be Baylor’s biggest task this season. I firmly believe with the right breaks, and if they play like they did in the first three quarters yesterday, this can be a 9-3 football team. But if they don’t have the confidence to finish in the fourth quarter, 7-5 is probably more realistic."
Hindsight is 20/20
Robert Griffin III ended up winning the Heisman Trophy, but he would have more clips to add to his highlight reel before the season was over, and (spoiler alert) we'll be revisiting the Baylor Bears later in this series of posts.
Baylor set the tone for their season with this win, and proved that the shortcomings of the 2010 season would not necessarily be duplicated. While Baylor still fell short of the top of the Big 12 standings, they proved that for at least one season they would not be a pushover to be taken lightly. The performance by RG3 and others put together one of the best seasons in school history, but the challenge moving forward will be continuing to reach the bar, which has now been set a few inches up for the 2012 Bears and more.
As for TCU, the Horned Frogs turned out to be a pretty decent team, once again capturing the Mountain West Conference championship, which welcomed Boise State to the conference in 2011. The Horned Frogs lost just one more game in the 2011 season (SMU, 40-33 in overtime) but they made other headlines along the way by accepting an invitation to join the Big 12 in 2012. Long live the TCU-Baylor rivalry. It will be taken to a new level now that they are once again conference rivals.
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