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October 3, 2009Waco High alum Jarred Salubi summed it up best - the Bears being without Robert Griffin on Saturday night against Kent State, it was the talk of the town.
"Knowing what we lost," Salubi said, "It was going to make us play better."
And anyone who tells you that the Bears didn't miss Griffin in Saturday's 31-15 victory over Kent State it selling you something.
But for what Nick Florence did on this night, as a third-string quarterback starting his first game, well, it was just what Baylor needed.
"He did what we asked him to do," Briles said Sunday. "That's all you can ask of a player."
Florence showed poise, a knack for running that surprised his teammates and a passion for the game that unified the Baylor sideline.
Did the offense struggle in the second half with three three-and-outs and a safety? Yes, but as far as getting a win, Florence played a tremendous game, especially in helping the Bears build a 21-7 halftime lead.
"Overall, I did good enough to get a win, which is what matters," Florence said. "We definitely have a lot to work on. I am still getting the offense down a little better.
"I still have to get a little better, so by no means did I do an excellent job tonight. I did well enough to win, that is what matters. I actually wasn't that nervous... Getting in last week was really good."
Baylor toyed around with the "Bearcat offense" with both Jerod Monk and Kendall Wright taking snaps - Monk tied the score at 7-7 with a 1-yard plunge with 9:08 left in the first quarter - but it was Florence who led the next two scoring drives.
"We felt pretty confident with Nick," Baylor coach Art Briles said. "We thought he was making good decisions. He was aware of what was happening. And we were behind. It's hard to grind when you're behind. We felt like we had to open up a little and try to create a few things on the perimeter."
Florence completed 10 of 14 passes for 138 yards in the first half, guiding the Bears on nine-play, 89-yard drive to take a 14-7 lead early in the second quarter. He completed a pass for 44 yards to Kendall Wright. And he finished things with a 6-yard touchdown run that ended with Florence diving into the end zone, reaching out with the ball and scoring with 13:02 left in the first half.
The play surprised his teammates.
"Nick never runs in practice," Wright said.
Then there was Florence's 29-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.
"A hole opened up and I took it and then our receivers made blocks down field and outside and it worked," Florence said. "I am just learning from him (Robert Griffin). I got to watch him for eight months, so I am picking up on what he does."
Did Florence's poise for his first start surprise Briles?
"He didn't," Briles said. "He's a very confident kid, very poised, very aware, and those are all good qualities of a quarterback. He's got a little, moxie isn't a bad word, is it? Ok, alright, he's got a little moxie to him. He's not afraid to get dirty, dive around and create something."
"He did exactly what we though he would do."
Florence's sharp play in the first half seemed to catch the Golden Flashes off guard.
"We knew they were going to get (Kendall Wright) the ball a lot," Kent State coach Doug Martin said. "We didn't know it was going to be from screens or as a 'Wildcat' quarterback. Coach Briles does a good job of mixing things up anyway, so that it even more of a chore.
"Obviously we hadn't seen (Nick Florence) play before so we didn't know what we were getting. He is really mobile and he can run. (Baylor) has a good player there."