My seat on the day in consideration; thankfully it was just beyond the obstruction of west stadium.
It was bemusing, listening to Jason Peter complain on radio about Nebraska’s sub-par performance as I walked down 8th Street toward Jack’s Pub. Peter, playing the former player bemoaning the way things change, was furious that Nebraska had only beaten a Big 12-bottom feeder by only twelve points. While I hadn’t been thrilled by the Huskers doing enough to win comfortably and no more (“We sure like to make it interesting” Bo Pelini said in his post0-game presser), I didn’t think the Huskers had to feel shamed. This Baylor team was much improved, fueled their freshmen quarterback, whose game I thought at the time rivaled Tommie Frazier’s.
It is a bit surreal now that quarterback, Robert Griffin III is being touted as the second pick in the NFL draft. Griffin that day was a spark plug that started to get a down-on-its-luck program to believe again, but he still had a ways to go.
That game broadcasted two programs, priming for rises under first year coaches. While Nebraska was obviously morphing into a more confident team, Baylor’s turning was much sublime. Indeed, Bear Country had scored a serious coup by nabbing Briles from the Houston Cougars, but the real credibility was RG3. Given that Baylor, the Big 12′s entitled brat who was allowed to stay in college football relevance because of a technicality, had landed an elite quarterback, showed that the private school Bears could grow some teeth
From my vantage point, I saw RG3 a smooth improviser with a noticeably good arm, apt to run first. His boyish confidence was the thrust of two scoring drives that answered Nebraska scoring drives with two of his own. The most impressive play-a 4th and 1, where RG3 trapped Nebraska’s defense inside on a fake sneak, and then ran around the left end for a 47-yard touchdown with shocking ease. (See it Below). After it, I remember cursing Bill Callahan for not recruiting him
But after taking a 20-17 just before halftime, Griffin and his cohorts hit a wall. The Bears pushed Nebraska to the limit, getting a first-and-goal from the seven. But, Zach Potter and Larry Asante penetrated and stoned the fab frosh on third down from the two, and then Ben Parks missed the short Baylor field goal. Nebraska took the lead on the next drive (Nate Swift broke Nebraska’s career receptions record with the go-ahead schore), and it became one of the first times that Bo Pelini’s teams made their own luck. But RG3 would have better days.
Cody Glenn Takes down RG3
Suprisingly that day, I didn’t think that RG3 wouldn’t be anything more than a great college running quarterback who maybe became WR-RB hybrid in the NFL, ala Brad Smith. Watching him against TCU in last season’s opener, Griffin throw the ball down field with an authority and command he didn’t have as a freshmen. And keeping the Bears fighting to beat Oklahoma showed how much his ability to lead had brought the Baylor program so far. While I still think Andrew Luck should have won the Heisman, that ability by RG3 to inspire others and lift a perennially bad program made him worthy of the trophy.
But looking forward, the mix of Griffin’s energy with Mike Shanahan and the dysfunctional culture of the Redskins promises a peculiar clash of personalities. Shanahan’s gruff, perfectionist nature has lead his former quarterbacks Donovan McNabb and Jake Plummer to criticize him publicly, and like RG3, both those quarterbacks were prone to run a lot. But both McNabb and Plummer were veterans who had been known for having the greatest work habits. Shanahan is getting RG3 straight off the tree, but while he can mold his habits, it won’t guarantee that Shanahan-Griffin marriage (forced because Shanahan has to win this year) will work. How patient will the coach be after putting hard work into a game plan that becomes irrelevant when Griffin takes off and runs half the time, then gets most of the credit when the team turns around?(A Tebow situation brewing?)
(Oddly enough, Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel also concluded that Griffin may not be the lock others think he is. Here is his assessment of the quarterbacks in this year’s draft. Link While I think Colin Cowherd was accurate when he said there isn’t much of a chance RG3 busts, he may indeed hit a wall in the NFL where his athletic ability can’t compensate for every flaw.)
The great part for me of having that debate now was, three and a half years ago, I walked out of Memorial Stadium thinking to myself how lucky Nebraska was not to have to face Griffin as a junior or senior, which, incidentally, conference realignment made sure of. But the chance to watch RG3 perform now with a quickly improving Redskins team is an exciting proposition indeed.
(Update after RG3′s rookie year: Like many, I was surprised when the rigid Shanahan imported Baylor’s offense to Washington, but again, he had to win this year. We’ll see if it continues to work and if RG3 can stay on the field. Getting rid of the ball and not taking hits are key to quarterback longevity in the NFL; ook at Tom Brady and Peyton Manning as opposed to Donovan McNabb, and more recently, Jay Cutler and Tony Romo. McNabb became great at the same time as Brady and Manning, but washed out sooner. Cutler and Romo falter this year due to the affect of cumulative pressure. RG3 needs to learn how to slid early and often, otherwise he could have eight to ten productive years and disappear.)