After playing two years behind Robert Griffin III, Nick Florence made sure he’ll be remembered in Baylor history as well. He might not be the kind of pro-prospect RG3 has turned out to be and always seemed to be, but he helped Baylor to another bowl win in very impressive fashion.
The Baylor – UCLA game was supposed to be the battle between the aerial attack of Baylor (6th in the nation, 340.5 yards per game) and the Bruins’ run game, led by Johnathan Franklin, who averaged over 130 yards per game on the ground this season.
It turned out to be an unfair contest. Florence threw for “only” 188 yards and two touchdowns, but there wasn’t much need for aerial heroics. Baylor were up 21-0 early in the second quarter and 35-10 by half time. The rest was just passing time. So Baylor turned to the ground where Florence added another touchdown and ran for 37 yards, while the big stars of the show were Lache Seastrunk with a touchdown and 138 yards and Glasco Martin with 98 yards and three touchdowns.
Franklin? He finished with only 34 yards on 14 carries. Baylor gave Brett Hundley the chance to win the game, but the quarterback completed only 52% of his passes, and gained most of his 329 yards and three touchdown passes in the long garbage time this game had. Baylor, one of the worst defending teams in the nation (113th in points against) managed to keep UCLA at only 26 points.
For me, I just wanted a chance to play. I just happened to follow a Heisman Trophy winner. I’m not Robert. I’m not 6-3. I don’t run a 4.3. You saw that tonight. Man, if I could run a 4.3, it would be nice. So I just had to be me. I tried to manage this offense and play within myself. He’s a heck of player, he’s done a heck of a job for this program, put us on the map. I’m humbled and honored to hold that record. He deserves it. I never thought that would have happened this year. I just wanted to win games.
You had to be happy for Florence, unless you’re a UCLA fan, as the senior quarterback, who had quite a lot of playing time during his Freshman season before the emergence of Robert Griffin III that made Baylor a bit more interesting and lucrative in the nation’s eye. A senior season and setting a new record for passing yards in a season (4309) gave him the opportunity to show forever and ever that he was another good quarterback that played for Baylor.
All season long there was the Griffin aura circling the team, waiting at every corner. People were actually surprised when the program didn’t crumble to dust once the Heisman trophy winner went to the NFL.
That was a question we asked all our players, ‘What was going to happen now that Robert’s gone? And our guys responded, fought together, believed in each other. They have always sustained and never lost focus.
Baylor are left hoping they keep getting Pac-12 teams in Bowl games to end the season, beating Washington and UCLA in consecutive seasons. The result: 116 points, 788 rushing yards and 13 rushing touchdowns in the span of 12 months.