Jones' passing, composure key in OU victory
BY DAVE SITTLER World Sports Writer
Friday, January 01, 2010
1/01/10 at 5:33 AM
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EL PASO, Texas — It was altogether fitting that Landry Jones picked this west Texas town to do something Saturday that he needs to keep doing well for a long time.
The English translation for El Paso is "the pass." And that's the tactic Jones used to lead Oklahoma to a 31-27 win over No. 21 Stanford in the 76th annual Sun Bowl.
The Sooners' redshirt freshman used "the pass" so well, he produced a career performance that just might have been worthy enough to save his career as OU's starting quarterback in 2010, not to mention 2011 and 2012.
The new year we celebrate today was also supposed to be the year that Jones finally became the starter after waiting for two seasons until 2008 Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford skipped his senior year to enter the 2010 NFL draft.
But a not-so-funny thing happened to the Sooners, Bradford and Jones in this troubled season's first game.
On the final day of 2009 in OU's last game, Jones made a couple of statements with his play against the Cardinal — the Sooners' troubles are over and he's the one who will lead them back to national prominence.
Jones earned a ton of admiration from the OU coaching staff for the valiant way he stepped up when Bradford went down with a shoulder injury that limited his play to only six quarters the entire season.
With no experience behind Bradford, coach Bob Stoops had no choice but to hand the keys to the game's most important position to the untested, inexperienced Jones.
While Jones gained their respect, he obviously didn't gain their total trust. After all, he did throw 13 interceptions for a team that lost five games, the most regular-season defeats in Stoops' 11 seasons at OU.
So immediately after the final regular-season game, a 27-0 Bedlam win over Oklahoma State, Stoops and some of his top recruiters attempted to convince junior college All-America quarterback Cameron Newton to become a Sooner.
Jones obviously knew of OU's interest in the versatile Newton. After all, Newton visited the Sooner campus last month and was so impressed he added OU to his short list, which included Mississippi State and Auburn.
Newton's recruitment created an intriguing situation for Jones. Would it put him in a funk or motivate him to use the Sun Bowl to show his coaches they already had their quarterback of the future.
Jones selected the latter approach. His hard work in a month of bowl practices paid off when he passed for a career-high 418 yards to break OU's bowl game passing record. It was also the fourth-best performance in OU history, as Jones turned three of his 30 completions into touchdown passes to wide receiver Ryan Broyles.
"Landry played like an MVP today," said Broyles, while holding the MVP hardware. "If I didn't get this trophy, I think Landry would have deserved it."
Jones' play impressed more than his coaches and teammates. OU President David Boren sought out Jones on the Sun Bowl turf to offer congratulations and express concern about the injury Jones suffered on the game's final play.
"It's just my ankle," Jones said. "I just rolled it. I'm OK."
Oh, he's more than OK. With Broyles as his main target, Jones' precision allowed OU to consistently move the ball in the second half, keeping it away from Stanford when the Cardinal was fighting for one more possession and a comeback win.
"That was the difference in the game," Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh said of Jones' passing.
Perhaps Newton saw the game. He announced yesterday afternoon he had selected Auburn over OU and Mississippi State. Jones downplayed the effect the recruitment of Newton may have had on his inspired play against the Cardinal.
"I just kind of didn't really pay much attention to it," Jones said. "If they bring (Newton) in, that's great. And if they don't, that's fine, too. I just focused on Stanford."
OU quarterbacks coach Josh Heupel, whose bowl-game passing record was broken, said Jones "prepared as well as any quarterback I've been around for a bowl game."
Stoops shot down the theory that his recruitment of Newton motivated Jones to play like a veteran instead of a first-year player.
"I don't think that had anything to do with it," Stoops said. "That would mean it made Landry work harder and he already works as hard as you can work."
Stoops answered naysayers who said Jones' ineffectiveness in road games was the main reason for OU's five losses.
"That was crazy to put all that on Landry," Stoops said. "One guy can only do so much."
But Stoops discovered in a city linked to "the pass," that Jones is capable of doing so much more in the passing game as he leads the Sooners into the New Year and back on the road to appearances in BCS bowls.
Landry Jones’ Sun Bowl highlights
- Setting a career-high
with 418 passing yards
- Breaking OU’s bowl record
with 418 yards (Josh
Heupel set the old mark
with 390 in the 1999
Quarterback Landry Jones passed for an OU bowl record 418 yards and three touchdowns against Stanford. Stephen Pingry/Tulsa World
OU quarterback Landry Jones celebrates with fans after the Sun Bowl on Thursday. Stephen Pingry/Tulsa World