Sunday, January 2, 2011
Jones matures again in Fiesta Bowl
By David Ubben
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The groans from the crimson-and-cream-clad fans were audible, the interception apparently inevitable.
Landry Jones' record-breaking performance earned him the Fiesta Bowl's offensive MVP award.
For the third consecutive game, Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones tossed a first-half interception. For the second time in those three games, Sooner fans watched a celebrating opponent coast into the end zone. Against Oklahoma State, Jones headed to the locker room with three picks.
He makes more mistakes than your average quarterback. Of course, he also throws more passes than your average quarterback. He was second among FBS passers in attempts this year -- 568 coming into the bowl season.
But for the third consecutive game, the unappreciated Jones bounced back in a big way. He finished with 429 yards and four touchdowns and led Oklahoma to a big win, beating Connecticut 48-20 in the Fiesta Bowl.
Most importantly, he didn't have another pass land in the hands of a Huskies defender.
"You're going to throw interceptions. In a football game, things are going to happen," Jones said. "Just thinking back on Oklahoma State and some of the games where we had multiple-interception games, just learning from those experiences. Guys just really brought me through a lot this season, playing bad on the road and then coming back and playing really well. And just remembering how it felt and just getting over that and letting it fly the next time you get it."
He did exactly that. On Oklahoma's next drive, he hit Ryan Broyles for a 35-yard catch and Kenny Stills for a 19-yard reception to add a field goal and put the Sooners up 17-7 in the second quarter.
Of course, he had some other motivation, too.
"I told him if he threw another one, I was going to beat him up," linebacker Travis Lewis said.
As a fresh-faced first-year starter a year ago, those rebounds didn't happen. Against Nebraska, Jones' interceptions (5) outnumbered the Sooners' points (3) in a loss to the Huskers. Away from home, where Oklahoma went 2-5 in 2009, he threw eight touchdowns to 10 interceptions. This year, the Sooners went 5-2 away from home and Jones tossed 20 touchdowns to 10 interceptions, and led his team to three wins to close the season. Oklahoma knocked off rival Oklahoma State in an upset in Stillwater, then dispatched Big 12 North champion Nebraska in Cowboys Stadium for the Big 12 title. Saturday night he had his second 400-yard performance in three games, this one against Connecticut with Oklahoma's national reputation -- and BCS bowl losing streak -- on the line.
A more mature Jones made the trip and took a win back to Norman with him, even if those interceptions were in tow, too.
"Landry just keeps getting better and better," senior receiver Cameron Kenney said. He and fellow receiver Broyles combined for 20 catches, two touchdowns and 324 of Jones' yards through the air. "He is having the confidence in us to make the plays whenever we need them on crucial downs." Kenney said.