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Baylor sizzles, then fizzles

08:33 PM CDT on Saturday, October 25, 2008

By GREG ECHLIN / Special Contributor to The Dallas Morning News

LINCOLN, Neb. – For one half Saturday, Baylor showed it can play well in a difficult road environment. Unfortunately for the Bears, they couldn't sustain the momentum as Nebraska rallied for a 32-20 victory.

After putting up its most points in the first half of a Big 12 road game since 1996 en route to a 20-17 halftime lead, Baylor's offense was shut down in the second half.

"I think we came ready to play. Our guys are fighters and they've got a lot of belief," Baylor coach Art Briles said. "We felt like we were going to come up here and win the football game."

The Bears gave themselves reason to believe by rushing for 159 yards and three touchdowns in the first half.

But the Cornhuskers defense turned it up a notch in the second half, limiting the Bears to 57 yards rushing.

Nebraska's key defensive play came in the third quarter. On third-and-goal from the Huskers' 1, Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin came down the line on an option play but was met by defenders Zach Potter and Larry Asante for a loss of a yard. The Bears then came away empty after a 19-yard field goal attempt by Ben Parks hit the left upright.

"I saw the crease and tried to hit and they closed on me," said Griffin, who was the game's leading rusher with 121 yards on 16 carries. He also completed 9 of 20 passes for 134 yards. "If I would have pitched it, maybe we would have scored, but you can't live in the past."

After Parks' missed field goal, the Huskers assembled a 12-play drive capped by a 9-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Joe Ganz to wide receiver Nate Swift. That gave the Huskers the lead, 24-20.

Swift finished with 11 catches, a career high, for 121 yards. He also set a Huskers record for career receptions with 147 in four seasons, breaking the mark of 143 by 1972 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Rodgers in three seasons.

Ganz also hooked up with Swift on a 53-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter.

Nebraska converted 11 of 17 third-down situations, including a 15-yard reception by Swift on a third-and-10 play on the go-ahead drive.

A pair of big plays on the ground carried the Bears early. Jay Finley answered Nebraska's opening touchdown – a 6-yard pass from Ganz to tight end Ryan Hill – with a 43-yard touchdown run with 7:03 left in the first quarter.

Later in the quarter, on fourth-and-1, Griffin dashed 47 yards to the end zone, giving Baylor a 14-7 lead.

Nebraska scored 10 consecutive points. But Baylor then marched 80 yards in six plays to earn its halftime edge, with Jacoby Jones scoring on a 1-yard run. The PAT kick was blocked.

Greg Echlin is a free-lance writer in Kansas City, Mo.

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