- Jake Trotter, ESPN Staff Writer
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LUBBOCK, Texas -- By the third quarter, Texas Tech's "blackout" had become a "bleacher-out."
Saturday on the road, Oklahoma hammered Texas Tech 41-20 to jump back into the Big 12 title conversation while also recapturing some of its long lost swagger heading into next week's showdown with Red River rival Texas.
"This was a must-win for us," said cornerback Aaron Colvin, who picked off one pass and tipped another that led to Harris' interception.
"Before the game, we were in the locker room, saying, 'Let's go out there and play with a swagger. We wanted to come out here … and play that way."
After the game, coach Bob Stoops downplayed the need for generating momentum, confidence or even swagger. But to anyone paying attention, the Sooners were in desperate need of all three coming off a disappointing defeat at home to Kansas State two weeks ago, and a discouraging finish to the 2011 season.
In Lubbock, the Sooners got just what they needed, starting with quarterback Landry Jones, who played his best game by far since losing receiver Ryan Broyles to a knee injury last November.
Jones completed 25-of-40 passes for 259 yards and tossed a pair of third-down touchdowns. He could have had a third touchdown, but wide receiver Justin Brown couldn't hang on to a 38-yard pass in the end zone. Jones also spread the ball around to seven receivers and, perhaps most critically, didn't turn the ball over.
"Landry made some fantastic throws where you had to stop and stay, 'Wow, that was a beautiful throw,'" said center Gabe Ikard. "He showed what kind of guy he is, battling through the bye week while he was getting killed by the media and played strong."
Against the Red Raiders, Jones was strong throughout and played like the quarterback that led OU to the 2010 Big 12 championship. On third-and-10 on the Sooners' opening possession, Jones stepped into the pocket and delivered a pass between the cornerback and safety to Brown for a 13-yard touchdown.
He came right back in the second quarter and led the Sooners on a 75-yard scoring drive, completing all six of his pass attempts, capped with a 13-yard strike on third down to Kenny Stills in the corner of the end zone.
"It was critical to play this," said Stills, who finished with seven receptions. "It was exciting to get back, to having fun and winning again – the way that Oklahoma is used to playing football."
It wasn't just Stills carrying the offense this time. The Sooners received production up and down the lineup from freshman slot receiver Sterling Shepard to fullback Trey Millard to running back Damien Williams, who generated 130 yards of total offense in first career start. All told, 10 Sooners touched the ball as Jones gashed a Red Raiders defense that was ranked first in the country.
"This gives us good confidence, realizing what we can do," Jones said. "You can hear what people think about you, but when you go out there and play the way you're capable of playing, then you really start to believe you can do some good things on offense, and some good things on defense and realize what kind of team you are."
The Sooners seemed to finally find their offensive identity in the post-Broyles era. But also, played defense like the Mike Stoops days of old.
Going into the weekend, OU was tied for last in the country in tackles for loss and forced turnovers, despite having played reasonably well. Against Tech, the Sooners didn't play just reasonably well. They were dominant.
They forced five tackles for loss and three turnovers, had one defensive touchdown and came close to another, nosetackle Jamarkus McFarland fumbled a first-quarter interception as he was barreling toward the end zone.
"This was a big win for us and I feel like it's going to bring a lot of confidence to the whole team," Colvin said. "But it's all over after this weekend.
"On Monday, it's on to the drawing board -- and to Texas."
15hEthan Sherwood Strauss