Against Notre Dame, advantage at QB goes to Jones and the Sooners
BY GUERIN EMIG World Sports Writer
Thursday, October 25, 2012
10/25/12 at 5:17 AM
NORMAN - Oklahoma starting quarterback Landry Jones goes into Saturday's Notre Dame game having won 34 games in 3 1/2 seasons. He has beaten Texas three times and Florida State and Oklahoma State twice. He has won three bowl games. He owns a book of records.
He also comes in hot, having thrown seven touchdown passes versus one interception during OU's three-game winning streak.
Irish quarterback Everett Golson is about to start his sixth game. He has been replaced, because of ineffectiveness or injury, in three of them. He has thrown four touchdown passes and three interceptions.
He has also played in one true road game, Notre Dame's 20-3 victory at Michigan State Sept. 15.
In the biggest game of the year for two national championship hopefuls, one of them appears to have a decisive edge at the most important position on the field.
"You would think so," Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly admitted. "You would think an experienced quarterback - somebody that has been there, done that, has won a lot of games - would have the edge over a young, inexperienced quarterback.
"But you don't know until Saturday hits."
True that. And Golson is an enticing talent. His 151 touchdown passes at Myrtle Beach (S.C.) High rank sixth all-time in U.S. prep history. His legs can get him out of jams.
"It's been said a lot and it's true - he can make something happen when there isn't much there," OU coach Bob Stoops said.
For all of that ability, however, the Irish aren't putting Saturday's game in Golson's hands. It would be a lot to ask of a second-year sophomore who spent his freshman season on the scout team. If they win, they'll do so on the strength of defense and a running game starring tailbacks Cierre Wood and Theo Riddick.
The Sooners are in much better position to ask their quarterback to win. Jones has won so often in the past, including five times out of six this season.
His wheels came off in a loss to Kansas State Sept. 22. But then he reattached them, aired them up and beat Texas Tech, Texas and Kansas.
Jones admitted this week he feels "a lot different now" than he did a month ago.
"I've been playing a lot better," he said. "Obviously after games like Texas Tech, Texas and last week against Kansas, you're going to have higher confidence."
Jones has always been more assertive and effective when given protection up front and playmaking outside. He got neither during OU's 2-1 start, when both his offensive line and his receiving corps were still adjusting to massive transition.
When the line settled and receivers like Justin Brown, Sterling Shepard and Jalen Saunders emerged, Jones stopped being the nervous quarterback he was against K-State and started winning again.
"I feel like Landry's just getting more comfortable in the pocket, getting comfortable with the offensive line," said Kenny Stills, who remains Jones' favorite target. "That's enabled him to be able to relax and feed the ball to us."
That, in turn, has enabled the Sooners to relax and feel confident about their quarterback again. That becomes crucial in a setting like Saturday's.
"It makes me feel good," said OU left tackle Lane Johnson. "We've gone into big games against Florida State the past two years and Landry has played well for us."
Jones threw for 579 yards and five touchdowns against the Seminoles, his biggest nonconference foes until Saturday. It's doubtful he'll put up those numbers against Notre Dame's treacherous defense.
But, given the time and help, he can certainly do enough to win. He can make some plays his opposing quarterback isn't quite ready to make.
"He definitely gives us an advantage," Shepard said. "He knows what he's doing, and he's been making really good throws lately. He's playing really well."
BY THE NUMBERS
Landry Jones' performance has been better since OU's loss to Kansas State. A look at his last three games.
Oct. 6: at Texas Tech
Stats: 25-of-40, 259 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs
Result: OU wins 41-20
Oct. 13: vs. Texas (Dallas)
Stats: 21-of-37, 321 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT
Result: OU wins 63-21
Oct. 20: vs. Kansas
Stats: 20-of-29, 300 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs
Result: OU wins 52-7
Vs. Notre Dame
7 p.m. Saturday
Radio: KMOD fm97.5, KTBZ am1430
Original Print Headline: Advantage at QB goes to Sooners
Guerin Emig 918-581-8355
OU quarterback Landry Jones threw for two touchdowns in the Sooners' 63-21 win over Texas on Oct. 13 in Dallas. JOHN CLANTON / Tulsa World