CONNECTICUT 31, BAYLOR 28: Bears fall to Huskies in Friday night heartbreaker

by dentonramsey

CONNECTICUT 31, BAYLOR 28: Bears fall to Huskies in Friday night heartbreaker

By Denton Ramsey, NCAA Sportswriter/Big 12 Fans Baylor Correspondent

WACO, Texas – Despite a three-point loss to undefeated Connecticut on Friday night, Sept. 19, the Bears showed up to play – and brought some fireworks along for the ride – in front of a Huskies crowd and an ESPN audience.

With a freshman quarterback bearing a name no one had ever heard of until last week, Robert Griffin led Baylor’s football team like a veteran – while his counterparts did a near perfect job in both the secondary as well as the offensive and defensive lines.

And with a sports-frenzied hype surrounding Griffin entering Friday night’s affair – a coach’s worst nightmare – Griffin brought everything he had in him, and then some, to face the Huskies.

“You really can’t compare him to anyone else,” Baylor tight end Justin Akers said following Friday night’s loss at U-Conn. “The things that he does, the way that he cuts back, moves his body and the way he can throw on the run very accurately is something we really need in this offense.”

However, and regardless of the fact that Baylor fought to the finish and continued to keep a final drive alive until the game’s closing seconds, the Bears came up just short in a 31-28 setback at Connecticut.

“Any time you don’t win, it’s hard,” Baylor head coach Art Briles said following the Bears defeat. “That’s why we play the game. I feel terrible for our seniors and our guys who are fighting to be a bowl-eligible team. We had a great opportunity tonight to take a positive step toward bowl eligibility, a positive step toward the respect that we’re after and we came out where it didn’t work out right there in the end.

“I don’t think I did a good job right there at the end of the game of allowing our guys to get in position to get a field goal. I was thinking ‘touchdown’ and not thinking ‘field goal’ because we didn’t come up here to tie and go into overtime.”

After taking a 14-14 tie into the locker room at the break, Connecticut took a brief three-point lead before Griffin and company stepped up to lead the Bears down the field for a go-ahead touchdown with 6:48 remaining in the third quarter and Baylor on top, 21-17.

But Baylor’s lead was short-lived, as the Huskies answered the Bears score with a touchdown of their own, giving Connecticut a 24-21 lead heading into the fourth and final quarter.

Baylor took a 28-24 lead with 11:13 remaining in the game, and were primed to hold onto the lead until a late stop by Connecticut midway through the quarter forced the Bears to punt out of their own end zone – giving the Huskies a short field with the game on the line.

“It was a bad sequence of events,” Briles said. “The defense did a great job in stopping [Robert Griffin]. We’re starting out of our end zone and they make a couple of plays defensively. We almost popped a screen then had to punt out and then everything happens on top of it. A call not going our way and we get a 15-yard penalty tacked on to it which puts them at our 32-yard line, on a short field. That was the worst part of it.”

Shortly thereafter, the Huskies made one final push – and one final score – to give Connecticut a 31-28 lead with 6:04 left in the game.

But the Bears weren’t through fighting, and neither was their freshman play-caller.

Griffin, sometimes single-handedly, drove Baylor into Connecticut territory and had the Bears setup to score with just minutes left on the game clock.

This time around, though, the Huskies defense stopped the Bears in their tracks – and after having to burn their last two timeouts on a fourth-and-11 attempt inside the Connecticut 40-yard line, Griffin couldn’t connect with his received as the Bears fell in a heartbreaker.

“It’s a tough loss; everyone was out there playing as hard as they can,” Akers said. “Obviously, there are a lot of good things we can take out of it and also, there are a lot of bad things. There’s a few plays we should have had, a few costly penalties and stuff we usually don’t do. In an atmosphere like this, things kind of get into your head; you always want to play up to your potential – all the time – but one thing we have to strive for is to keep our head’s up.

“We have Oklahoma two weeks from now so we just have to stay focused for that. Any time you can play a team like this, play them this close for this long and come down to the last few plays on national TV, someone’s going to notice us. Obviously, someone’s going to have at least a little more respect [for us] than at the beginning.”

Denton Ramsey may be reached via email at denton.ramsey@gmail.com

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