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Wednesday, November 30, 2011
OU chances for Bedlam win rest with Jones

By David Ubben

One awkward landing and a torqued knee assured that Landry Jones' world would be very different from that play on.

Landry Jones
"It's just a little different feel out there, not having him there," Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones says of injured receiver Ryan Broyles.
It wasn't one of his own knees, but the Sooners quarterback lost the receiver who had caught about a third of Jones' career completions.

Oklahoma ran more than 100 plays against Oklahoma State last season. The Sooners might do it again this year.

Ryan Broyles, the FBS career leader in receptions, won't be on the field for any of them. Neither will the Sooners' leading rusher, Dominique Whaley.

That leaves Jones. If Oklahoma's going to pull the upset of the BCS-bound, in-state-rival Cowboys, Jones must be at his best.

"It’s just a little different feel out there, not having him there," Jones said. "I don’t know if I have to make any adjustment. It’s just hard to replace a guy like Ryan who’s been just a great player. I don’t really have to make adjustments because I’m just kind of going through my reads and trying to throw it to the open guy."

Not much "changes" for Jones, per se, but his margin of error certainly does. His new top receivers, Kenny Stills and Jaz Reynolds, won't be quite as open. Broyles exceeded either's ability to turn 10-yard catches into 25- and 40-yard catches.

There's an inherent dropoff. It's up to Jones to make sure it's a small one. He's gone without touchdown passes the past two weeks, but topped 400 yards in a last-second loss to Baylor on Nov. 19, and last week against Iowa State threw for 256 of the most impressive yards you'll ever see.

"There’s 50-, 60-miles-per-hour winds consistently through the day. We were throwing the ball in warmups, a pat-and-go drill where we’re just loosening the quarterbacks’ arms up and normally you complete 100 percent of them," coach Bob Stoops said. "I bet we completed 10 percent of them. That’s how bad the wind was."

Stills and Reynolds have undeniable talent. Neither has the level of undeniable chemistry Broyles and Jones developed over the past three seasons, when Broyles caught 303 passes before his injury, most from Jones.

"The one thing we miss: Ryan was really good with the ball in his hands, making people miss," Jones said. "He had a good feel for the middle of the field."

Broyles doesn't have the physical measurables of some of college football's more athletically gifted receivers, but his impeccable feel for space and precise route-running resulted in him getting more open more often than maybe any receiver in college football.

Adjusting to differences between Broyles and his replacements is still a growing process for Jones.

"We notice a time or two he’s on his second or third read over the middle and normally Ryan’s in that spot. He settles down. They were so on the same page, where the other day, the receiver keeps drifting and Landry throws it in back of him," Stoops said. "Those are the little subtle things that we see that maybe the person watching it that isn’t as familiar doesn’t see, how familiar he was with Ryan on where he would settle down. They were so on the same page."

Jones can't afford those kind of mistakes -- can you call them mistakes? -- against an offense like Oklahoma State's, which ranks first in the Big 12 at 49.8 points a game; Oklahoma is third at 43 a game.

Broyles won't be there. There's no guarantee the running game will be, either. Jones will be.

He'll have to be great.