NCF Nation: James Hanna

Big 12 recruiting needs in 2012

January, 24, 2012
1/24/12
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Signing day is coming fast. Next Wednesday, the next round of players will sign up for their respective programs and start what could be storied careers.

Here's what each team across the Big 12 needs. You'll find Texas A&M and Mizzou on the SEC blog and West Virginia on the Big East Blog.

BAYLOR

Quarterback: This one's pretty simple. Robert Griffin III is taking his talents to the NFL early. Nick Florence is waiting to take over, and the Bears have Bryce Petty behind him, but more reinforcements at quarterback are needed. Dual-threat quarterbacks, ideally.

Defensive tackle: Baylor already was one of the nation's worst teams (102nd nationally) at stopping the run. Now it'll need to replace both its interior linemen, Nicolas Jean-Baptiste and Tracy Robertson.

Offensive linemen: Baylor's offensive line, meanwhile, has been solid. It loses junior college transfer and two-year starter Robert T. Griffin, as well as All-Big 12 center Philip Blake. John Jones, a reserve guard, also has exhausted his eligibility.

IOWA STATE

Receiver: This has been a weak spot for the team for several years, and its top overall talent, Darius Reynolds, is gone. Darius Darks is, too. Aaron Horne and Josh Lenz will be the team's best weapons in 2012, but the pair of shifty slot guys will be seniors. This position needs reinforcements.

Defensive back: The DBs have been a quiet strength for ISU, especially in 2011. Cornerback Leonard Johnson and safety Ter'Ran Benton both have exhausted their eligibility, though, and defensive backs coach Bobby Elliott left for Notre Dame. You'll see plenty of new faces in the Cyclones' secondary next year.

Defensive line: Experienced starters Stephen Ruempolhamer and Jacob Lattimer are both gone, and Iowa State has struggled to stop the run consistently the past few seasons.

KANSAS

Quarterback: Kansas landed high-profile transfers Dayne Crist (Notre Dame) and Jake Heaps (BYU), but this is still a huge position of need. Last year's starter, Jordan Webb, left the team. Quinn Mecham is out of eligibility. Heaps is sitting out his NCAA-mandated year after transferring. Crist is the starter, but he badly needs a backup, especially if Brock Berglund's transfer appeal allows him to leave.

Wide receiver: Kansas lacks a big threat at this position. It needs a talent upgrade in a big way. Oklahoma transfer Justin McCay is joining the team, but he's no guarantee to a) be granted immediate eligibility or b) become an impact player.

Defensive tackle: Kansas is thin here, too. Richard Johnson, Patrick Dorsey and Michael Martinovich are gone, and Kansas couldn't stop much of anything on defense. Some push up front could help make everything look better. A late addition to the 2012 class from a junior college seems like a no-brainer. The Jayhawks need physically mature players to contribute immediately.

KANSAS STATE

Offensive line: K-State's offensive line was much better in 2011 and could be again in 2012. It needs help replacing All-Big 12 lineman Clyde Aufner, though. Starter Colten Freeze is also gone.

Defensive line: Kansas State is bringing back about as many starters as anyone in the Big 12, but the biggest losses are along the defensive line. Kick-blocking specialist (five in 2011) Ralph Guidry is gone, along with tackle Ray Kibble. Juco transfer Jordan Voelker exploded onto the scene this year, but he's gone, too.

Defensive backs: Cornerback David Garrett leaves a huge hole behind. Tysyn Hartman may not be as talented as teammate Ty Zimmerman, but his experience leaves a big hole. Zimmerman will have to mentor a younger safety in the near future.

OKLAHOMA

Receiver: The Sooners are thin here in a big way. That was obvious late in the season when Ryan Broyles' storied college career ended a few weeks early with a knee injury. The team also lost Justin McCay (transfer) to Kansas. Jaz Reynolds and Kenny Stills are the likely top two targets, but they need help.

Tight end: This position inspired a bit of panic at the end of the season. Seniors James Hanna and Trent Ratterree are gone. Austin Haywood wasn't allowed back on the team, and two more tight ends left the team for various reasons. That left the Sooners suddenly without a scholarship player at the position returning in 2012.

Offensive line: Starting tackle Donald Stephenson must be replaced, as will guard Stephen Good, who moved in and out of the starting lineup throughout his career. The Sooners bring back a lot of talent and aren't dying for depth there, but those two will leave holes. Three more offensive line starters will be seniors in 2012.

OKLAHOMA STATE

Offensive line: The Cowboys need a whole lot of help here to fill in behind young players stepping into the starting lineup. Starters Levy Adcock, Nick Martinez and Grant Garner are gone. Backup center Casey LaBrue is gone, too. Those are two All-Big 12 linemen who leave big shoes to be filled.

Receiver: Justin Blackmon surprised no one by leaving a year early, and Josh Cooper leaves with perhaps the most underrated career of any receiver in school history. In OSU's offense, there's always room for depth here. Nine receivers had at least 19 catches in 2011. Blackmon and Cooper combined for 192, though.

Defensive ends: The pass rush was solid for Oklahoma State this year, but both starters, Jamie Blatnick and Richetti Jones, are gone. Replacing both is a necessity.

TEXAS

Receiver: Texas lacks a true game-changer at the position, though Jaxon Shipley and Mike Davis may develop into that role in 2012. Former blue-chip recruit Darius White left for Missouri, too.

Quarterback: David Ash and Case McCoy didn't show a ton of potential at quarterback this year, though Ash may grow with an offseason to prepare as starter. Garrett Gilbert got a big chunk of the work in the spring, summer 7-on-7 and fall preseason camp. Even if Ash does grow, the Longhorns need reinforcements at the position.

Linebacker: Two senior impact players are gone. Texas is left trying to replace Emmanuel Acho and Keenan Robinson, though Jordan Hicks may mature into a star in 2012.

TCU

Offensive line: TCU's offensive line is headed for some major turnover. OT Robert Deck, OG Kyle Dooley and OG Spencer Thompson are gone. Two more starters, OG Blaize Foltz and C James Fry, will be seniors in 2012.

Defensive linemen: TCU isn't losing a lot at this spot, but Ross Forrest and D.J. Yendrey will be seniors in 2012. The Horned Frogs would be well-served to prepare, and offer some depth next year.

Specialists: TCU will have to break in a pair of new starters on special teams next season. Kicker Ross Evans and punter Anson Kelton have exhausted their eligibility.

TEXAS TECH

Receiver: The Red Raiders' offense requires a lot of depth here. Tramain Swindall is the only loss at the position, but three more (Alex Torres, Cornelius Douglas, Darrin Moore) will be seniors. Douglas moved to cornerback this year after the team was racked with injury, but we'll see whether he moves back this offseason.

Offensive line: Tech has a huge need here. Four players won't be returning in 2012. Lonnie Edwards, Mickey Okafor and center Justin Keown must be replaced.

Defensive linemen: Tech's Donald Langley and Scott Smith are both out of eligibility, and juco transfer Leon Mackey will be a senior.

Landry Jones pressured, not sharp early

December, 3, 2011
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STILLWATER, Okla. -- Oklahoma State didn't come after Sooners quarterback Landry Jones in a big way on the opening drive. Jones, however, did have one ugly overthrow to the sidelines and forced another pass deep to James Hanna that was nearly intercepted and got Hanna drilled by Markelle Martin.

Once the Cowboys turned up the blitzes, they worked.

Jones took two huge shots and got planted into the turf and had no time to throw. The result: A three-and-out.

We're still scoreless in Stillwater, but the Cowboys defense has shown up early, and it's clear Jones has noticed. He's 2-of-7 for 11 yards, and Oklahoma State's gotten the best of him so far.

After completing his first two passes, his next five have been incomplete.

Sooners' third-quarter magic continues

November, 19, 2011
11/19/11
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Oklahoma has been dominant in the third quarter all season.

Two quick touchdowns against Baylor and that streak has continued. Oklahoma has taken a 24-17 lead in just 3:39 of game time in the second half.

Oklahoma has now outscored opponents 132-10 in the third quarter this season.

Landry Jones has been on the money so far, too. He hit James Hanna for a 54-yard gain on the half's opening drive and found Kenny Stills for a 31-yard gain on the second drive.

Those were sandwiched around a fourth-down stop in Baylor territory that ignited a huge celebration on the OU sidelines.

The Sooners looked like they missed receiver Ryan Broyles badly in the first half, which featured just one touchdown.

All of a sudden, that doesn't look like the case.

What to watch in the Big 12: Week 6

October, 6, 2011
10/06/11
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Here's what I'm looking for in Saturday's first full slate of conference games.

1. Not what I'm eating. I suggest you do the same. Goodness. I love this weekend so, so much. I'll be at the fair on Friday and again on Saturday, and I will be consuming a whole lot of fried foods. It's all a part of one of the best weekends in college football, featuring two great teams and fans split at the 50-yard line cheering for either side. The Big 12 at its absolute best.

2. Texas' secondary vs. Oklahoma's passing game. Oklahoma will be chugging along at full strength with Landry Jones, Ryan Broyles, Kenny Stills, James Hanna, Trey Franks & Co. Texas' inexperienced corners will be charged with stopping them, and try to do it without safety Christian Scott, too. Can what may be the game's biggest underdogs make an impact?

[+] EnlargeMichael Lamothe
AP Photo/David J. PhillipThe Aggies have blown huge leads against Oklahoma State and Arkansas the past two weeks.
3. The Aggies ... after halftime. Good grief, A&M. You know the story by now. Texas A&M lost 17- and 18-point leads to Oklahoma State and Arkansas, respectively. All of a sudden, a possible top-5 ranking has turned into hanging onto a spot in the top 25. Texas A&M is better than Texas Tech. Can it prove it for 60 minutes?

4. Texas Tech ... before halftime. Tech, meanwhile, can't crack the top 25 despite being undefeated. The biggest reason has been unimpressive starts against Texas State and Kansas, in which the Jayhawks led 20-0 in the first quarter and Texas State led 10-9 at half. The Red Raiders also needed a clutch late drive to beat Nevada, 35-34. Any questions about the Red Raiders' legitimacy would be gone if they knock off A&M.

5. Some fight from Kansas. Nobody thinks the Jayhawks, 32-point underdogs at Oklahoma State, have a shot in this one. It's the largest gap facing a major-college underdog this weekend, and Kansas is taking on one of college football's best offenses with arguably the worst defense. But KU's offense is vastly underrated with a solid running game and an improving Jordan Webb at quarterback. Can it make things interesting?

6. Collin Klein's health. The big man is getting beat up lately. Can the Kansas State quarterback keep rolling through defenses? Klein has carried the ball 91 times this season, more than any ballcarrier in the Big 12.

7. Missouri's balance. Tigers quarterback James Franklin has carried the ball 72 times, a hefty number itself. Do the Tigers try to test Kansas State's much-improved front seven or look to pick apart the secondary and/or stretch the field? The easy answer is whichever is most effective, but which will that be?

8. Bounceback Bears. Baylor's offense was less than impressive late against Kansas State, but we'll see if the Bears get back to their blazing ways after being shut out in the fourth quarter of the loss.

9. Iowa State's decison-making. Steele Jantz has thrown seven interceptions, more than any quarterback in the Big 12. The Cyclones are last nationally in turnover margin. They can't continue to win putting up numbers like that. Ask Texas' 2010 team.

10. Darrin Moore? Texas A&M's secondary has given up 948 passing yards in two weeks, helping two schools break school records. That probably ends this week, but Texas Tech's big target may return after injuring his knee and ankle earlier this season. He was on an unbelievable pace before going down, and if he's back and effective, Tech's chances of springing the upset get a huge boost.
Here's what you missed over the weekend:

Sooners down another DB

Oklahoma announced safety Marcus Trice would be transferring, which usually wouldn't cause much of a ripple considering Trice played primarily special teams and didn't crack the depth chart last season, eventually being moved to receiver.

But as a freshman, Trice worked as a backup safety and looked ready to become a major contributor again as a sophomore. He didn't, and rumors swirled that he turned in defensive backs coach Willie Martinez for asking in a voicemail for an explanation of why Trice missed a voluntary workout, which is a secondary violation of NCAA rules. The violation forced Oklahoma to sit out a week during this offseason.

Reached by the Tulsa World, however, Trice denied the rumors.

"It wasn't me," Trice told the paper, "but I don't and won't throw anyone else under the bus."

He cited a desire for playing time, something that didn't look like it was coming any time soon at Oklahoma, a school Trice said he grew up dreaming of playing for.

A source at Oklahoma also told the paper that Trice wasn't in bad graces with the coaches. Oklahoma won't be hurt much by his departure, with Javon Harris, Sam Proctor or perhaps nickel back Tony Jefferson looking well prepared to take over for the Sooners' departed safeties, Quinton Carter and Jonathan Nelson. But it's certainly an interesting case, more so than a routine transfer.

The Sooners did get some good news, however.

Receiver Dejuan Miller's career picked up steam with strong outings in wins over Cincinnati (3 rec., 66 yards) and Texas (5 rec., 61 yards) before a knee injury ended his season. He's been cleared for action this spring, but won't compete in contact drills or play full speed.

Oklahoma's receiving corps already has two outstanding options in Biletnikoff Award finalist Ryan Broyles and sophomore Kenny Stills, who broke Broyles' freshman receiving record with 786 yards last year. Trey Franks came on late, as did tight end James Hanna and the Sooners signed a top receiver in Trey Metoyer in their 2011 class, but Miller returning to form could make them even deeper.


Two Cyclones arrested

Iowa State defensive end Jacob Lattimer and reserve tight end Ricky Howard were arrested over the weekend and suspended indefinitely.

Lattimer, 22, faces charges of assault on a peace officer and interference with official acts. Howard, 20, is suspected of operating a vehicle while intoxicated.

Lattimer moved from linebacker to defensive end last season and appeared in all 12 games, making 6.5 tackles for loss and four sacks. He also forced two fumbles.

Howard did not play last season.


Cowboys get punter back

Oklahoma State had to play without Ray Guy semifinalist and All-Big 12 punter Quinn Sharp in the Alamo Bowl. The game carried on without incident thanks to a solid performance from Lou Groza Award winner Dan Bailey's fill-in duties as kickoff specialist and punter, but the Cowboys won't have to worry about any hiccups in 2011.

The academic issues surrounding Sharp have been cleared up, and he's been reinstated to the team, taking part in offseason conditioning and preparing for spring practice, which begins today in Stillwater.

Barring any further changes, he should be ready to go for the season this fall. That's great news for a team with legitimate Big 12 title aspirations. You never miss specialists like Sharp until something goes horribly wrong. The Cowboys won't have to worry about that moving forward.
Valentine's Day isn't all chocolate and kisses and hearts. Plenty of those hearts get broken. The same is true throughout any Big 12 season. Here's who left a few opposing fans in tears in 2010.

1. Landry Jones. Oklahoma State had him backed up deep in his own territory with a two-point lead and a deafening crowd behind him with less than three minutes to play. He'd already teased them with a pick-six earlier in the game. But Jones connected with Cameron Kenney for an 86-yard touchdown to put the Sooners up by nine points. He later hit James Hanna for a 76-yard score to ice the game after the Cowboys returned the ensuing kick for a score. That's cold.

2. Kenji Jackson. It looked like a fairly harmless hit at the time, one that happens countless times in any game. But late in the first half, the Missouri safety came up to the line of scrimmage and laid a solid hit on Taylor Martinez's lower body. Martinez stayed in the game to finish the half, but didn't play in the second half. Nebraska won, but Martinez's sprained ankle changed Nebraska's season, and he was never quite the same player after he hurt the ankle. Jackson's hit was the gift that kept on giving. If it didn't happen, who knows where Nebraska's season would have finished.

3. The Ames wind. I'll give Iowa State backup punter Daniel Kuehl the benefit of the doubt on this one. If the wind at Jack Trice Stadium hadn't been absolutely swirling, he probably could have completed the pass that would have meant the Cyclones beat Nebraska and Texas in the same season and would go to a bowl game. But the pass floated in the wind, and Nebraska's Eric Hagg intercepted the fake extra point to preserve the win. If it had been completed, it would have put the Cyclones in the driver's seat of the Big 12 North, too.

4. Officials in The Bronx. Adrian Hilburn made the catch, made a defender miss and sprinted 30 yards into the end zone to cut Syracuse's eight-point lead to two with less than a minute to play in their bowl game. He shook off a defender after scoring and saluted a group of K-State fans in the stands who made the trip from one Manhattan to the other for the week before the Pinstripe Bowl. "Wrong move, buddy," one official reportedly told Hilburn. He tossed a flag and the Wildcats' lengthy conversion was incomplete. The dagger!

5. Oklahoma State's defense against Texas A&M. What a cruel, cruel win. The defense struggled a bit and let the Aggies jump out to a 21-7 lead at the half. Then a sack and fumble returned for a touchdown put them up 35-21 in the fourth quarter against the Aggies, a stretch of 28 consecutive points. The defense allowed the Aggies to tie the game, but Shaun Lewis intercepted Jerrod Johnson -- his fifth turnover of the night -- and set up a game-winning field goal to beat the Aggies at the gun. If Texas A&M had beaten the Cowboys, it would have won the Big 12 South outright for its first division title since 1998. What a painful way to go down.

Top 10 moments of 2010 in the Big 12

January, 18, 2011
1/18/11
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It's a difficult task to narrow down a season into 10 moments. My definition of the "top" 10 is the 10 moments that we'll look back on from this season and remember them, good or bad. So, here goes.

1. A&M makes the switch. College football can be a cruel game. Texas A&M entered the season with the Big 12's Preseason Offensive Player of the Year, Jerrod Johnson, hoping to lead the Aggies to their first Big 12 title since 1998. But offseason surgery sapped the zip from his throwing shoulder and produced an ugly start to his season, leading the Aggies to switch to Ryan Tannehill. Tannehill set the school record for passing yards in his first start, a win over Texas Tech, and helped the Aggies finish the regular season with six consecutive wins and a berth in the Cotton Bowl.

2. Texas' loss to UCLA. The red flags were there. Texas looked uninspired in wins over Wyoming and Rice, but looked dominant on defense in a road win over Texas Tech. Then the cellar-dwelling Bruins and their Pistol offense came to town. The Longhorns got rolled 34-12 in their own stadium. The loss shocked just about everyone, but it was a sign of what was to come: a 5-7 season the Texas faithful would rather forget.

3. Don't call it a comeback. Actually, you could probably call it a comeback. It was no Cam Newton in the Iron Bowl, but Landry Jones helped rally Oklahoma from a 17-0 deficit to Nebraska in the Big 12 Championship to knock off the Huskers, 23-20. The win gave Oklahoma its seventh Big 12 title of the decade.

[+] EnlargeTaylor Martinez
AP Photo/Charlie RiedelTaylor Martinez's career night included 241 rushing yards and five touchdowns.
4. T-Magic runs wild. Kansas State packed Bill Snyder Family Stadium for a Thursday night game with its eyes on an upset of the undefeated Huskers. Taylor Martinez had other ideas. The Nebraska quarterback ran for 241 yards and five touchdowns, injecting himself into the Heisman race and making people think very seriously about Nebraska as a national title contender. Who would have thought Martinez would go the season's final nine games without a rushing touchdown after scoring 10 in the first four? Yes, K-State ended up finishing the season as the Big 12's worst defense, but Martinez put on a show and previewed what Nebraska fans hope is to come in the future.

5. We got a tip drill. Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones thought he'd thrown it away cleanly. Not so, said Brodrick Brown. The Oklahoma State corner skied for Jones' pass headed for the sideline, tipped it back inbounds to his teammate, linebacker Shaun Lewis, who caught it as one of Jones' three interceptions in the first half of the Big 12 South's deciding game.

6. Taylor Martinez's injury. Nebraska already had a loss on its record, but one harmless-looking hit late in the first half of a big win changed Nebraska's season. Martinez was running laterally looking for a crease in the defense when Missouri safety Kenji Jackson flew in from the secondary and laid a hit on his lower body. Martinez sat the entire second half, and later revealed he had a sprained ankle. The freshman quarterback was never the same, and aggravated the injury again in a loss to Texas A&M.

7. Saluting your fans is bad, mmmmk. Adrian Hilburn made one of the biggest plays of Kansas State's season, catching a short pass and taking it 30 yards for a possible game-tying score with his team down eight. But after scoring, he saluted a group of Kansas State fans in the stands, and the official tossed a flag for excessive celebration after telling Hilburn he'd made the "wrong choice, buddy." The 15-yard penalty moved the Wildcats back, and Carson Coffman's pass on the conversion fell incomplete. Kansas State lost by two.

8. Moe's miracle. Missouri's season already looked off the rails. Blaine Gabbert threw a pair of fourth-quarter interceptions. The Tigers trailed San Diego State 24-20 with a minute to play and 68 yards between them and the end zone. Don't worry about it, said T.J. Moe. The sophomore receiver caught a short pass, made two defenders slam into each other and sprinted for the game-winning score that helped Missouri jump out to a 7-0 start to its season. Teammate Carl Gettis told Moe in the end zone, "Thank you for saving our season."

9. Last five minutes of Bedlam. Bedlam lived up to its moniker with a crazy finish that ended with the Sooners on top. Four touchdowns were scored within 92 seconds in the game's final five minutes. Oklahoma State scored to get within two points with just over four minutes to play, but on 3rd-and-long, Landry Jones found Cameron Kenney over the middle for an 86-yard touchdown pass. The ensuing kickoff? Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert took it 89 yards to get back within two. But 17 seconds later, Jones found tight end James Hanna down the left sideline for a 76-yard touchdown that all but sealed the Sooners' win.

10. The Jayhawks win one for the ages. Kansas and Colorado were the Big 12's only teams still without a win in conference play. Something had to give. Few figured the Buffaloes 28-point lead would be what buckled. Colorado led 45-17 with just over 11 minutes to play, but the Jayhawks scored a frenzied 35 points to finish with a 52-45 win, their only conference win of the season. Buffaloes coach Dan Hawkins never got to coach another game for Colorado after being fired following the loss.
One big mistake has made this somewhat of a game, but Oklahoma is getting it done on both sides of the ball and could run away with it in the second half.

Turning point: Oklahoma led 14-0 and had the ball near midfield, but Sooners quarterback Landry Jones was intercepted on a pass over the middle of the field by Dwayne Gratz, who returned the pick 46 yards for a touchdown to get the Huskies within seven. This would be a bona fide blowout if not for Jones' mistake.

Stat of the half: Just five yards of penalties have been doled out in the first half. Connecticut was flagged for an illegal substitution in the second quarter that turned a third-and-4 into a third-and-9, which the Huskies couldn't convert.

Stat of the half II: Connecticut's All-American back, Jordan Todman, picked up some momentum on Connecticut's final drive of the half, but he had just 14 yards on his first 11 carries while Oklahoma raced out to its early lead. Outside of a 19-yard run on the final drive, he has 15 yards on 13 carries. That's an impressive effort from Brent Venables' defense.

Best player in the half: Jones. His mistake aside, he's been fantastic. He completed his first 12 passes and finished the half 21 of 27 for 233 yards and a score to James Hanna.

Second guessing: Facing a fourth-and-1 on their opening drive, Connecticut punted the ball. Giving the Sooners the ball instead of trusting Connecticut's biggest strength, it's running game, sends a pretty poor message to your team, Oklahoma and fans on both sides. Of course, the Huskies were stuffed on a fourth-and-inches later in the first half, so maybe coach Randy Edsall knew what he was doing.

What Oklahoma needs to do: Prevent big plays and don't turn the ball over. The Sooners will need to do both to close this one out and produce the blowout everyone expected to see. Another big play early in the second half like Gratz's interception or a long Todman run could set a dangerous tone in the second half for the Sooners.

Sooners get exactly what they need

January, 1, 2011
1/01/11
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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Oklahoma didn't score a touchdown until the second half in its 20-point loss to West Virginia in the Fiesta Bowl in 2008. Against Boise State, the Broncos jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first eight minutes before eventually knocking off the Sooners.

No such slow start for the Sooners' offense -- or defense -- this time around.

Oklahoma forced the Huskies to punt in their own territory after just one first down, and then methodically marched 70 yards in nine plays for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead after the game's first five minutes.

The Sooners saw just one third down -- inside the 10-yard line -- and converted it for a touchdown.

Landry Jones hit James Hanna for the eight-yard score and he was 6-of-6 for 56 yards on the drive. DeMarco Murray also had three carries for 14 yards.

That's exactly the kind of start the Sooners needed, and if there's an upset to be seen here Saturday night, the Huskies will have to use a different formula than the Mountaineers and Broncos.
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."

[+] EnlargeJames Hanna
Tom Pennington/Getty ImagesJames 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.

Mission accomplished.

"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.

"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."

Bedlam lives up to its moniker

November, 27, 2010
11/27/10
11:47
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STILLWATER, Okla. -- Good luck finding a more aptly named rivalry this year.

Oklahoma has twice put this game on ice. But Oklahoma State has answered both times: with a lengthy touchdown drive and an 84-yard kickoff return by Justin Gilbert, who was clearly inspired from the last line of our earlier post.

Oklahoma has countered twice with long touchdowns to Cam Kenney and James Hanna and leads 47-38 with just over two minutes to play.

Barring a score and onside kick shenanigans, Oklahoma may have sealed it with the Hanna score. We'll have more later.

Oklahoma's Landry Jones answers critics

September, 11, 2010
9/11/10
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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?

[+] EnlargeLandry Jones
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesLandry 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 47-14 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 against a hostile, Dallas crowd.

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