Sunday, November 28, 2010
Jones' calm carries Oklahoma to South title
By David Ubben
STILLWATER, Okla. -- Twice facing the most crucial drive of his young career, Landry Jones did what he knew to do.
He prayed. Jones envisions himself as a minister when football is over, but in moments like the ones he faced Saturday against Oklahoma State, he'll learn plenty about himself.
This was no Hail Mary in hopes of a Hail Mary, even if that's essentially what Jones ended up with -- twice.
"Praying to God to keep me calm and let me have a clear head and block out everything," Jones said. "Don't rush things."
James Hanna's fourth quarter touchdown put the game out of reach for Oklahoma State.
Jones found Cameron Kenney over the middle for a 40-31 lead and what he thought was a game-winning 86-yard knockout punch. But Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert returned the ensuing kickoff 89 yards for a touchdown.
So Jones did it again on the next drive, hitting tight end James Hanna down the left sideline for a 76-yard touchdown, giving the Sooners their final points in a 47-41 victory over the Cowboys to win the Big 12 South.
"We talk about it a lot. I have to be the calm in the storm," Jones said.
There were plenty of stormy waters before the final completion to Hanna tied him with Sam Bradford for a school-record 468 passing yards, as well as four touchdown passes. Jones said his first half was the worst he'd ever played. He had three interceptions to show for it, including a forced pass to the sideline that Oklahoma State's Shaun Lewis returned 52 yards for a score.
"God brought me through that situation," Jones said. "He gave me the patience and endurance to go through those hard times and sit in there and be calm in the pocket and make the throw. It was really satisfying to do that."
Rare are the occasions when Jones isn't calm and subdued, and on the sideline and in huddle before a game- -- and perhaps season -- defining drive was no exception. Kenney said Jones' message to the 10 teammates around him was simple: Have fun.
"That was one of the funnest games I've ever played in," Jones said.
The heartbreaking loss for Oklahoma State only continued Oklahoma's dominance in the Bedlam series. The Cowboys haven't earned the state's bragging rights since 2002, and with a record-breaking offense going up against an Oklahoma team that struggled on the road the past two seasons, 2010 looked like it was their time. Once again, they were forced to walk off the field amongst celebrating Sooners.
The Bedlam rivals traded blows in the fourth quarter, racking up four touchdowns in 92 seconds.
"I've never felt like that," said linebacker Travis Lewis. "I was having an anxiety attack. I was just so pumped up and was like, 'Oh my goodness, who's gonna make the play? Who's gonna make the play?' We made enough plays to win tonight."
Jones made plenty in the second half on two lengthy drives that ended in field goals to give Oklahoma a 30-24 lead. On those two drives that added up to 32 plays and 138 yards sandwiched around an Oklahoma State three-and-out, Jones completed 4 of 6 passes on third down for 39 yards. The offense converted seven third downs on those two drives.
LANDRY JONES COMES ALIVE IN 4TH
Landry Jones didn't throw the deep ball (throws of 15 or more yards) all that well through three quarters on Saturday, but he came up big in the fourth quarter to hold off rival Oklahoma State.
1st 3 Quarters
Yds per att
Source: ESPN Stats & Information
"We made big plays in the fourth quarter when we had to have 'em," said coach Bob Stoops. "Landry put the ball on the money. He had a few tough spots, but you love his resilience to come back and put the ball when he had to have them in some great spots."
Oklahoma converted 16 of 27 third downs. The Sooners defense played well, but the offense deserves the bulk of the credit for holding Oklahoma State's offense, ranked No. 3 nationally in scoring, to just 27 points -- minus a defensive touchdown and special teams touchdown.
Dana Holgorsen's unit couldn't get on the field. After those two monster drives from Oklahoma, the Sooners had run 98 plays from scrimmage. Oklahoma State had run 52, and still trailed by just six. The Sooners finished with 107 plays to Oklahoma State's 66.
"Credit goes to our offensive line picking up everything and our receivers and running backs making plays," Jones said. "We'd drop it down short to them and they'd make a person miss and go out and get the first down for us."
Oklahoma closed its season with a pair of road wins to capture the Big 12 South after sitting at home on championship weekend last season.
"A year ago, we weren't in that spot," Stoops told his players of a chance to play for a division title. "That kinda stinks."
Oklahoma captured its moment and with it, a chance to play for a fifth Big 12 title in seven seasons.
"Who better to play in the Big 12 Championship game than Nebraska, right?" Lewis said, stepping back before his declaration, a gesture as grand as the rivalry itself between the crimson and cream and Big Red. "The rivalry goes back since the Big 12, Big 8 started. Who better to play than those guys?"
The stakes will concern more than just the cities of Lincoln and Norman when the two tangle in Dallas next Saturday night, barring unforeseen BCS hi-jinks. Nebraska's exit from the Big 12 has never been more contentious, with questionable flags and absent commissioners and trophies fueling the anger of the Huskers and their fans.
Nebraska and Oklahoma's grand rivalry shriveled with the addition of Texas and divisional play in the Big 12, but the final game in the Big 12's current configuration will be between the old-time rivals with bragging rights on the line in Cowboys Stadium.
"What would be more fitting?" Stoops said. "To have one more go at Nebraska-OU would be pretty good."