Jones and defense are OU's winning formula
BY JOHN KLEIN Senior Sports Columnist
Sunday, December 05, 2010
12/05/10 at 3:55 AM
Sports Editor Mike Strain’s blog: The top five questions after another OU championship.
OU blog: Kevin Wilson discusses Indiana rumors.
John Klein’s blog: OU has good answers to the questions.
Dave Sittler’s blog: Could the Bedlam football game move away from the Thanksgiving weekend?
Fiesta Time: OU beats Nebraska for Big 12 title.
Sooners get it right: Win title and deny Huskers.
Sooner defense clamps down on Huskers.
OU report card for Nebraska game.
OU notebook: Kenny Stills stars.
ARLINGTON, Texas - The season came down to the fourth quarter of the last two games, and Oklahoma was saved both times by its defense and quarterback Landry Jones.
After disastrous fourth quarters in their two losses this season, the Sooners were fabulous at the end of their two biggest games of the year.
Jones, who rescued the Sooners in the final moments against Oklahoma State, did just enough at the end to do the same against Nebraska.
The Sooners needed a hero at the end of this season, and Jones emerged the past two weeks, including a clinching drive midway through the fourth quarter of a 23-20 victory over Nebraska in the Big 12 Conference championship game on Saturday night at Cowboys Stadium.
"I thought Landry made some good throws," said Nebraska coach Bo Pelini. "He's a good football player."
Although Oklahoma scored just two touchdowns, Jones was effective for the final three quarters. The Sooners finished with 454 yards and 19 first downs, an excellent night against one of the nation's top defenses.
"I'm proud of the way our players were stepping up and making plays," said OU coach Bob Stoops.
Jones hit big passes and put Oklahoma in a position to kick two field goals in the second half, the only offense the Sooners would need to win this game. He threw for 342 yards and one touchdown.
"That's a good offensive team," said Pelini.
After a horrible start, the Sooners were rock solid on defense.
"It's a good team win," said Stoops.
The Huskers were shut out in the second half.
"It was a great defensive effort," said Stoops.
The health of Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez was a hot topic all week but he started. "He practiced all week," said Pelini. "He was fine."
Martinez was not very effective, hitting 12-of-24 passes for just 143 yards. He was no factor as a runner.
"Our defense I thought played well," said Pelini.
But Jones was able to work his own Sooner Magic.
He rallied OU out of that 17-0 hole to get back even at 17-17 before halftime.
Then, trailing 20-17, Jones hit Ryan Broyles with a 47-yard pass midway through the third quarter that resulted in a 20-yard field goal.
But, in the fourth quarter, Jones put together the most brilliant drive of the season.
During the drive, he hit 4-of-7 passes. However, it is what he did on two plays that saved OU in this game and propelled the Sooners to another Big 12 title.
He converted a third-and-24 by hitting Cameron Kenney for 23 and then following it with an 11-yarder to Kenney for the first down.
Magic. Miracle. Call it what you want. That was amazing.
Eventually, that drive died at the Nebraska 10, but that was close enough for a 27-yard field goal and the 23-20 lead.
Jones, who has endured more than his share of criticism this season, made the big plays in the two biggest games of the season.
As a result, Oklahoma won another Big 12 title and is headed to the Fiesta Bowl, most likely against Connecticut, 8-4 but champion of the Big East.
"It's just great to get another championship," said Stoops.
It also sends Nebraska out of the Big 12 like most Big 12 fans wanted - without a trophy.
Yet, this was not easy by any stretch.
The Sooners had a terrific second quarter to turn what appeared to be a rout-in-the-making into a game.
However, the Huskers got to halftime with a 20-17 lead because of Alex Henery, the overlooked kicking star of the Huskers.
Henery, who didn't make the all-conference team and wasn't in the Groza Award finalists, knocked home a 42-yarder just before intermission for the lead. He earlier had hit a 53-yarder.
But, it was Oklahoma's rally that kept this game interesting.
When Jones finally got warmed up, he was fabulous in the final 11 minutes of the first half. He hit a 49-yard TD to Kenny Stills and followed with a long drive for a short field goal to trim the lead to 17-10.
After a Nebraska fumble, Jones hit Stills for 30 yards. One play later, Jones snuck it in to the tie the game at 17.
In just 9 minutes, 35 seconds, Jones had dug OU out of a 17-point hole and into a tie.
Oklahoma's Roy Finch cuts while running under pressure from Nebraska's Jared Crick on Saturday. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World