BOULDER Jay Finley rushed for a career-high 143 yards, and Chance Casey batted down a last-second pass in the end zone, helping Baylor to a 31-25 win over Colorado on Saturday in the final meeting between the two schools as members of the Big 12.
The Bears (5-2, 2-1) fended off a late charge by the Buffaloes (3-3, 0-2), who had the ball on the 19-yard line with 5 seconds remaining, only to have Casey knock away a pass intended for Toney Clemons.
I was having a lot of games flash through my head right there at the end, Baylor coach Art Briles said. When I saw the back judge give the safe signal, I thought, Boy, good.
It wasnt a gift. We had to fight hard and earn every bit of it, Briles said.
Robert Griffin was his typical hard-to-defend self, high-stepping his way to 137 yards rushing and throwing for another 234 as Baylor moved within one game of bowl eligiblity for the first time in 17 years.
It puts a smile on your face, but we have to bunker down, make sure we stay consistent with our preparation, Griffin said.
Rodney Stewart had a big day for the Buffaloes, gaining 125 yards and scoring twice.
Quarterback Tyler Hansen bounced back from being benched late in last weekends 26-0 loss at Missouri. He finished with 207 yards passing and one touchdown, a 7-yard strike to Scotty McKnight with 5:14 remaining to draw the Buffaloes to within 28-25.
But the Bears responded with a drive that resulted in a 38-yard field goal by Aaron Jones, his third of the night.
Griffin has been the focal point of Baylors attack this season, having a hand in 20 of the teams 25 offensive scores.
However, Finley gave the Buffs fits on Saturday, scoring twice. It was part of a huge day on the ground for the Bears, who finished with a season-high 309 yards rushing.
I just didnt expect them to run like that on us, Colorado defensive lineman Marquez Herrod said.
Baylor took a 21-15 lead it wouldnt relinquish late in the third quarter on a 17-yard run by Finley and Griffins scramble into the end zone on a 2-point attempt.
It was quite a momentum shift after the Buffs were on the cusp of increasing their lead moments earlier. But as tailback Will Jefferson was stumbling toward the goal line, Baylor stripped the football from him, forcing a touchback.
Usually a receiver, Jefferson was switched to the backfield this week after Brian Lockridge was lost for the season to an ankle injury.
The speedy Stewart showed off his elusiveness in the first half, darting right and then cutting back left for an 18-yard score in the first quarter. He later made a Baylor defender miss near the goal line and dove for the pylon for a 6-yard TD.
After Stewarts first score, coach Dan Hawkins gambled and attempted a 2-point conversion. He sent out his son and backup quarterback Cody, whose pass was low and incomplete.
Colorado went for 2 points again in the second quarter, only to have Hansen tackled short of the end zone.
I was OK with it, Hansen said. It didnt go our way. But if it did were saying, Hey, thats a great call. Thats kind of a tough deal, but I liked it.
The Bears were held scoreless in the opening period, breaking a string of 12 consecutive quarters in which they had put points on the board. They fumbled once in Colorado territory and turned the ball over on downs during another trip.
That trend didnt spill over into second quarter as Griffin found tight end Jerod Monk for a 9-yard TD score.
The teams traded field goals in the final minute, Aric Goodman connecting on a 45-yard attempt and Jones hitting from 50 yards with no time left.
The Buffaloes were without leading tackler Anthony Perkins, whos out for the season with a knee injury.
Dan Hawkins also was under the weather Saturday, battling an inner ear ailment that had him feeling wobbly.
In addition to injuries and a stinging loss at Missouri, Colorado also dealt this week with the fallout from a Sports Illustrated article in which an agent said he paid college football players, including three off the 1990 national championship team. One of the players, Kanavis McGhee, has denied the accusation.