AMES — The mere mention of his numbers brings raised eyebrows and slow head shakes.
Eightteen touchdowns. One interception. A NCAA-leading 230.3 passing efficiency rating.
An 82-percent completion rate. Only 20 uncaught passes all season.
The list of stat-based accolades goes on and on for Baylor’s electrifying play-caller Robert Griffin III, who Iowa State must at least slow down to have a chance to win tonight’s 6 p.m. Big 12 game against the No. 25 Bears at Waco, Texas.
“We’ve gone against athletic quarterbacks before, but I wouldn’t say anyone close to the type of athlete he is,” said Cyclone linebacker Jake Knott, who ranks 18th nationally with 10.3 tackles per game. “You can’t really compare him to anybody because we haven’t played anybody with his athletic skills.”
Or with as many potent weapons.
Front and center: Wideout Kendall Wright, who’s hauling in a national-best 155.3 yards of catches per game.
He snared three of Griffin’s five touchdown throws in last week’s 36-35 loss at Kansas State and combines high-climbing athleticism with breakneck speed.
But three other Bears — Tevin Reese, Lanear Sampson, and Terrance Williams — have caught at least one touchdown pass spanning 42 or more yards.
“It’s definitely not a one-man show,” said ISU Coach Paul Rhoads, whose team (3-1, 0-1) beat a Griffin-less Baylor 24-10 in 2009. “They are very deserving of their top-25 ranking.”
The running game’s dangerous, too.
Terrance Ganaway leads with 336 yards and three touchdowns.
The Bears (3-1, 0-1) are the only Football Bowl Subdivision team averaging more than 300 yards passing and 200 yards rushing.
“It’s a three-headed monster, basically,” Knott said.
And it starts with Griffin, who is as deadly with his ultra-accurate arm as he is with his uncannily nimble feet.
“He is a premier athlete,” said Cyclone defensive end Patrick Neal, the team leader in sacks with 1.5. “You don’t see a lot of guys like that around the nation and when you play against guys like that you have to make sure you’re disciplined with your technique — making sure you keep contain, otherwise bad things can happen.”
Ask TCU, Rice, or Stephen F. Austin.
Even Kansas State, which managed to outscore Griffin and turn his lone interception of the year — which came while being hit in the backfield — into a stunning game-winning field goal.
“Robert puts the ball in the best place you can possibly put it with people hanging on top of him,” Wildcats Coach Bill Snyder said in Monday’s Big 12 teleconference. “He may even be better than I thought.”
Griffin has thrown one interception in his last 173 pass attempts and owns three five-touchdown games this season.
“It’s crazy,” said ISU quarterback Steele Jantz, who has led his team to three fourth-quarter comebacks. “That’s why it’s amazing. I’ve never seen numbers like that.”
Get to Griffin. Easily said, virtually impossible to do. But K-State’s comeback hinged on a near-sack that led to a game-changing pick. ISU must bother Robert Griffin in the pocket and contain him when he’s outside of it.
Double-up. Leonard Johnson’s an NFL Draft pick. But it’s unwise to leave him alone on Baylor’s Kendall Wright, who is dangerous enough to be worthy of a downfield double team.
Confuse them. ISU can stunt, mix up coverage packages and bring strategic blitzes to disrupt the Bears’ offense. The Cyclones will need to — Baylor average more than 550 yards of offense.
Pin ‘em deep. The Cyclone offense can help by moving the ball just enough on unproductive drives, thus allowing punter Kirby Van Der Kamp to drop kicks inside the 20-yard line.
Poke and prod. It’s been a weekly plea — force more turnovers, but it could finally come to fruition against the Bears. They’ve fumbled 11 times, losing six. ISU must gather up a few.
Pound. James White is emerging as at least a 1b to Shontrelle Johnson’s 1a status at tailback. Both should have room to roam against a defense allowing 166.5 yards per game on the ground.
Protect. Two straight games of three first-quarter turnovers must be followed up with a mistake-free opening frame (and, hopefully, game). Griffin will convert turnovers into touchdowns, period.
Wise up. A pair of holding penalties called in Darius Reynolds negated big runs, including a long touchdown, by White. The penalty bug must be exterminated for the offense to thrive.
Calm down. ISU’s kickers are 2-for-6 on field goals this season. Granted, two misses have come from 50-plus yards, but three misses have come on kicks of 38 yards or less. Mental slate must be wiped clean.
Protect, take 2. Baylor has seven sacks through four games. ISU’s offensive line — and Steele Jantz’s elusiveness — must keep the Bears’ pass rushers in check again, particularly early.
ISU will move the ball, but like everyone else — including a stout Kansas State defense — will struggle to keep Robert Griffin from scoring, or passing for, touchdowns.
Baylor 35, ISU 24.