- Associated Press - Friday, September 3, 2010

WACO, TEXAS (AP) - Remember Robert Griffin?

This time last year, Griffin was the up-and-coming sophomore quarterback whose powerful throws and dazzling runs were going to help Baylor start settling some grudges against Big 12 powers. That is, until he tore a knee ligament in the third game and the Bears remained also-rans.

Well, on Saturday, Griffin returns for the season opener at home against Sam Houston State. Baylor is expecting about 50,000 fans to welcome Griffin back.

“I’m going to be excited, nervous, anxious, ready to go,” he said. “I don’t really feel like I have anything to prove but I am definitely excited to get back out there on the field. It will be exciting and my teammates and coaches will help calm me down and my parents and everybody. It will be a big moment for me, but I’m not going to try and look it that way. I just want to go back out there and have it be another game and come ready to execute.”

Griffin has been hailed as the catalyst for Baylor’s long-awaited revival ever since the former state hurdles champion committed to coach Art Briles’ program. Expectations surged during a freshman season in which he threw for 2,091 yards and 15 touchdowns, with only three interceptions, and ran for 843 yards and another 13 touchdowns.

Then, last September, on the opening drive of a home game against Northwestern State, Griffin was stopped on a fourth down run. Before he was even hit, he heard a pop in his right knee. It was his anterior cruciate ligament.

“As soon as I planted, my foot got stuck and it just snapped,” Griffin said.

The damage wasn’t verified until an MRI the next day. Griffin actually kept playing until halftime, leading the Bears to 41 points, their highest-scoring first half in 15 years.

Baylor went 2-7 the rest of the season, 1-7 against Big 12 foes.

If Griffin can somehow pick up where he left off, or even come close, Baylor could reach a bowl for the first time since 1994. At 15 straight bowl-less seasons, the Bears are tied with Duke for the longest drought among schools from BCS conferences.

Baylor has a schedule made for soaking up early victories, including the home opener against Sam Houston State, an FCS school that went 5-6 last season and is breaking in a new quarterback (senior Bryan Randolph) and a new coach (Willie Fritz). The offense is also replacing its top six receivers and doesn’t have a running back who gained a yard in a game last season.

Even if the Bearkats are outclassed, they’re bound to hit Griffin a few times. He’s ready for it _ more than ever, actually, as he’s now carrying close to 220 pounds on his 6-foot-2 frame.

“Getting hit is a part of football,” he said. “I got hit a lot my freshman year and it was never a problem. I’m not a soft quarterback so whenever I get hit it will happen and I’ll get up from it and wave to the crowd.”