Saturday, September 11, 2010
Oklahoma's Landry Jones answers critics
By David Ubben
NORMAN, Okla. -- Landry Jones says he wasn't listening to his critics. There was talk about his lackluster performance against Utah State during the season opener -- a game in which Jones completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes and he had as many interceptions, two, as he had touchdowns.
Why did Oklahoma make a late recruiting push for Cam Newton, the quarterback with the keys to Auburn's offense who has made an impressive debut this season? If Jones struggled again, will Bob Stoops turn to backup Drew Allen?
Landry Jones had 380 yards and four touchdowns in Oklahoma's win over Florida State.
Turns out both questions were a waste of breath. Oklahoma's sophomore captain and quarterback didn't need to hear the questions to answer them loudly. Facing a Heisman candidate across the field in Florida State's Christian Ponder, Jones racked up 380 passing yards, completed 75 percent (30-for-40) of his passes and threw four touchdown passes in No. 10 Oklahoma's 47-17 runaway win over No. 17 Florida State. A victory that also extended the nation's longest home-winning streak to 32.
Stoops is hesitant to make any comparisons between Jones and his predecessor, Heisman winner Sam Bradford, but at the end of the first half, there was no one but Bradford left for comparison. Jones' 320 first-half yards and three touchdowns were surpassed only by the No. 1 pick in this year's NFL Draft -- numbers that came in a 79-10 laugher against North Texas in the 2007 season opener.
"It was an excellent day for him," Stoops said. "He's a young guy that's just going to get better. He just has to keep learning. He's doing well."
While last week was a learning experience for the youngster, he still showed flashes of the potential that surfaced in 2009. Jones was forced to start 10 games as a redshirt freshman and he developed as his first season on the field carried on.
He didn't face much pressure Saturday -- in part because the Seminoles did not blitz often and in part because of a solid game from his offensive line -- but his decisions were sound and Stoops lauded him after the game for taking care of the ball. He was sacked only once. His only turnover came on a freak play after the ball slipped out of his hand on an attempted pass and was inadvertently kicked to the defense by his running back for a lost fumble.
The highlights were plentiful. A pump fake freed up his favorite receiver, Ryan Broyles, on a slant-and-go route for an 18-yard touchdown. A strike up the seam in the middle of the field to tight end James Hanna, who rumbled the final 20 yards for a 46-yard score -- the first of his career. And a ball whipped down the left sideline -- albeit under thrown -- toward Cameron Kenney, who jumped over a defensive back and slipped into the end zone from a few yards out for a 36-yard score.
"I didn't think he played too bad last week," said Broyles. "Everyone made a big uproar about that, but I knew. We had confidence in him."
Most of his other yards came on a barrage of bubble screens and short passes that dared Florida State to make open-field tackles. Even when they did, Oklahoma still had sizeable gains. It all added up to the Sooners outgaining their opponents by almost 300 yards before scrubs cleaned up the fourth quarter of the blowout.
"Everyone knew that we had to be better," Jones said. "I had to play better. Our offense as a whole had to play better ... Everyone was just like, 'We need to step it up in practice.'"
They did and it showed. Early in the first half, Jones completed 12 of 13 passes over one stretch. When the stretch was over, Oklahoma led 27-7 and the pregame nervousness in the stadium had given way to a mocking rendition of the Florida State War Chant.
"It gives you momentum, and as I said a week ago, we held a lot. We had a lot of different mixed up formations and shifts and motions and a lot of different plays that we hadn't shown," Stoops said. "We brought it all out tonight."
Oklahoma's stated goals each season are "Win the Big 12 South" and "Win the Big 12 Championship." To do either, Jones will need to perform like he did Saturday -- or something close to it -- in a matchup with Texas on the first weekend of October. He'll have to do it away from Norman. He'll have to do it against a Longhorns secondary that boasts three likely NFL draft picks facing pressure from a front seven that likely has a few more.
Though Florida State is the best opponent Jones has faced in Norman, its defense did little to disrupt the Sooners' rhythm. Texas has done so in the past. In losses to conference foes Nebraska and Texas, two of the nation's top defenses in 2009, Jones left both games without a passing touchdown. He threw two interceptions against Texas and five against Nebraska.
This time Jones says he will be ready and that the key to beating them starts in the film room.
"It goes into your preparation during the week. How you prepare, how much film you watch, the way you practice is a huge part of the game," Jones said.
He grew up on Saturday with a primetime performance in a big game when his team needed him to be at his best.
But the real measure of Jones' growth -- a measure that will impact whether Oklahoma achieves its goals -- will be how he fares on Oct. 2 in a frenzied atmosphere in Dallas.