Waco, Texas Robert Griffin III lifted Baylor to its best football in a generation.
On Saturday, in what may be the last home game of his college career, the Bears quarterback put on the kind of performance that could convince Heisman Trophy voters he's best player in the country.
Griffin ran for two touchdowns, passed for two more and led the No. 19 Bears to a 48-24 win over Texas in a statement game on national television. He passed for 320 yards with touchdown strikes of 59 and 39 yards.
The first touchdown pass, to Kendall Wright, came on the second play. His first touchdown run gave Baylor the lead just before halftime. The second scoring run put Baylor ahead by 14 and all but put the game away.
But will it resonate with enough Heisman voters to declare him the best in the game?
"We thought if we came out with a victory, we could win the Heisman. It's not just about me, it's about all of Baylor Nation," Griffin said. "I don't know if you can say we deserve it, but would definitely be warranted."
That Griffin is even being mentioned as a Heisman candidate is a testament to how far this once moribund program has come behind him and coach Art Briles over the last four years.
Baylor (9-3, 6-3 Big 12) got its first nine-win season since 1986, will be going to a bowl game for consecutive years for the first time since the early 1990s, and for the first time is considered among the Big 12's best, not the league doormat.
"No too many years ago, they said Baylor would never be 9-3, would never beat Texas, would never beat Oklahoma," Griffin said. "Why not (win the Heisman)?"
Griffin has accounted for 45 touchdowns passing and running this season to go with 3,998 yards passing. He is one of only three players in major college history with 10,000 yards passing and 2,000 rushing in a career.
"He's the most dynamic player in the NCAA," said Baylor running back Terrance Ganaway, who rushed for 152 yards and two touchdowns and became Baylor's single-season rushing leader with 1,347 yards this season.
Texas (7-5, 4-5) coach Mack Brown, who praised Griffin as "phenomenal" earlier in the week, was more subdued after the loss. Griffin led Baylor to win wins over Texas two years in a row.
"We have four or five of the top quarterbacks in the country (in the Big 12) this year and all of them should be considered for the Heisman because they're really good," Brown said. "He's a good player."
Briles naturally went a lot further than that when asked about Griffin and the Heisman. Briles said voters should look at everything Griffin has done, not just Saturday.
"When you judge somebody, you judge them over the long run, not the short run, and his long run has been pretty impressive this season," Briles said.
Baylor fans must now wonder if Griffin has played his last home game for the Bears.
A fourth-year junior, Griffin has already graduated and must decide if he will leave for the NFL. Griffin said he'll take his time with that decision and won't let it distract from the team's bowl preparation.
Chant of "R-G-3!" and "Heisman!" rained down from the crowd in the final minutes and Griffin waived a green and gold Baylor flag at midfield when it was over.
Griffin had to have another big Saturday to overcome a Baylor defense that squandered a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, though it forced six turnovers and held Texas to just three points after halftime.
Baylor had given up 30 or more points eight times this season, but tormented Texas quarterback Case McCoy into five turnovers after he threw for three touchdowns in the first half.
"We didn't panic," Briles said. "We have a very mature football team. We're not going to start kissing when we're up 14-0 and we're not going to start pouting when we're down."
Baylor ran up 557 yards against a Texas defense that had become the best in the Big 12 over the last six weeks. Wright had six catches for 166 yards. Baylor had the ball for just 1 minute, 25 seconds in the first quarter because it took the Bears just seven plays to score their first two touchdowns.
Texas, which struggled to throw the ball all season, ripped the Bears secondary behind McCoy in the early going and took a 21-14 lead on his 80-yard TD pass to Marquise Goodwin.
"We had them on the run," Brown said. "We were in great shape, then we gave them momentum going into the half."
McCoy, whose fourth-quarter scramble against Texas A&M set up the game-winning field goal on Thanksgiving night, had two turnovers late in the first half. Baylor's Kyle Morton returned an interception to the Texas 2 and the play set up Griffin's go-ahead touchdown just before halftime.
Griffin started picking apart Texas' secondary, which led to Ganaway's second touchdown and a 31-24 Bears lead in third.
McCoy then threw his second interception. Safety Sam Holl picked up three key blocks in a 59-yard return inside the Texas 15. Griffin the kept the ball on an option read and scooted straight up the middle for a touchdown.
"You look over at Texas and they are hanging their heads," Baylor linebacker Elliott Coffey said. "After that, it's like they don't trust their quarterback to throw any more."
Texas couldn't muster the same rally it did in the first half because of the turnovers. A fumble by Cody Johnson killed a drive deep into Baylor territory and the ensuing Bears drive ended in Griffin's 39-yard TD pass to Terrance Williams.
The Longhorns will return to a bowl for the first time since playing for the national championship after the 2009 season. Texas went 5-7 last year, its first losing season since 1997.