Loss of Griffin could doom Baylor's bowl hopes

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

The loss of Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin to a season-ending knee injury dealt a cruel blow to the Bears’ hopes of snapping the longest bowl drought in the conference.

The isolated tear of the anterior cruciate ligament in Griffin’s right knee occurred on the first drive of the first quarter of the Bears’ 68-13 victory against Northwestern State Saturday night. Amazingly, he played through the end of the first half on one good knee as he passed for 226 yards and three touchdowns after the injury.

Maybe those Griffin Superman t-shirts you see in Waco might be accurate after his performance last night after he played through that injury.

And it can be argued that there’s no player in the Big 12 who is more valuable to his team or its chances than Griffin. His scintillating playmaking abilities caught the attention of the nation last season as a freshman. After a slow start earlier this year, he bounced back to have the big game last night, flashing the skills that made him one of the nation’s most exciting young players.

Losing him is a kick to the stomach for Baylor coach Art Briles, who appeared to have the tools necessary to give Baylor a chance to contend for its first bowl trip since playing in the Alamo Bowl in 1994. Along with Duke, that drought is the longest of any team in a conference with an automatic berth in the BCS.

The Bears’ hopes against Kent State on Saturday are further scrambled as backup quarterback Blake Szymanski suffered a contusion to the right shoulder when he was hit hard in the third quarter against Northwestern State. Szymanski’s condition is listed as day to day, according to Baylor officials.

Baylor’s third-string quarterback is freshman Nick Florence and their fourth-stringer is junior Tyler DeLoach. The condition of Szymanski could determine whether Baylor coaches decide to use the redshirt of freshman Brody Trahan, who they had originally hoped not to use this season.

They also lost senior defensive back/kick returner Mikail Baker with a season-ending knee injury. A Sunday examination revealed that Baker suffered an ACL tear and a tear to his medial and lateral meniscus.

The Bears won’t have nearly the improvisational abilities with Szymanski in place. But remember that Szymanski might be the most experienced backup quarterback in the conference after breaking many Baylor single-season passing records in 2007 before Griffin won the job last season as a freshman.

With a suddenly explosive Texas A&M offense looming in College Station, it might be difficult for the Bears to beat out the Aggies to stay out of the South Division cellar without Griffin.

The Bears still have an All-American at linebacker in Joe Pawelek and other top players like safety Jordan Lake, running backs Jay Finley and Jarred Salubi and wide receiver Kendall Wright.

But losing Griffin might be a blow that this Baylor team won’t be able to recover from. Briles is one of the nation’s most underrated coaches. It will be interesting to see what he does with his team during the rest of the season.

Griffin’s hopes of obtaining an injury redshirt might be problematic because he played into the third game of the season -- 25 percent of the season. Injury redshirts are typically given only if a player has played 20 percent of the season or less.

But Baylor could have a shot at a hardship waiver, since the injury occurred in the first half of the season.

It will be a long week for Briles and his staff, as they prepare the Bears for life without Griffin and Baker and possibly without Szymanski for the immediate future.