John E. Hoover: OU's QB Jones connects in clutch
BY JOHN E. HOOVER World Sports Columnist
Sunday, November 18, 2012
11/18/12 at 6:37 AM
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Original Print Headline: Jones delivers clutch performance
MORGANTOWN, W. Va. - Landry Jones' career has come full circle. The little guy is all grown up.
Oklahoma's fifth-year senior quarterback looked every bit like a fifth-year senior quarterback on Saturday night - heck, this was Landry Jones the Heisman Trophy contender - as he led his very first fourth-quarter, game-winning touchdown drive at the end of an almost unbelievable 50-49 victory over West Virginia.
On a night when WVU called upon quarterback ghosts of past victories over OU to provide some pregame inspiration, it was Jones who haunted the struggling Mountaineers with his precision passing, clutch leadership and even slippery guile.
This West Virginia team joined the Big 12 Conference with an electrified offense constructed by a mad scientist coach and sparked by a pair of quicksilver receivers and a ready-for-bronze quarterback. And they are all that.
Receiver Tavon Austin, doubling as a tailback, rushed for 344 yards and amassed 572 all-purpose yards, six short of the NCAA record. Steadman Bailey gained 205 yards and four TDs on 13 catches. QB Geno Smith had 320 yards passing and four touchdowns. And WVU gained 778 yards total offense, a record by a Sooner opponent.
But all (except maybe Austin; he was just stunning) were outdone by Jones.
Jones completed 38-of-51 passes for a school-record 554 yards and six touchdowns (four to Kenny Stills).
As the Mountaineers' offense came alive in the fourth quarter, Jones - previously a victim to clutch situations - was never better. Twice in the final three minutes, he led touchdown drives, going 9-of-10 for 134 yards with two touchdowns.
Jones ended the first with a third-and-7 bullet over the middle to Stills in the back of the end zone.
On the final, game-wining drive, Jones completed 4-of-4, including a 5-yard fourth-and-3 slant to Stills for the clinching touchdown with 24 seconds left.
All night, against one of college football's worst defenses, Jones found receivers wide open. But he also threaded balls through narrow windows. He even threw a couple of receivers open - that is, they were initially covered, but he threw the ball into open space and let them run to it.
West Virginia players got a pregame visit and some encouraging words from the likes of Jeff Hostetler and Pat White, former WVU quarterbacks who delivered shocking upsets in their spotlight moments against OU - Hostetler in 1982 (41-27 in Norman) and White in 2008 (48-28 in the '07 Fiesta Bowl).
Trying to end a four-game losing streak, the Mountaineers were hoping Smith could become the latest WVU legend to beat the Sooners.
But on this chilly night in the Appalachian Mountains, dusting off past glories wasn't nearly enough.
OU's first offensive series started with Jones backed up against the north end zone, two strident student sections to his left and three sections of well-warmed WVU fans to his right.
In the past - at Stillwater or Waco last year, at Columbia or College Station in 2010, anywhere other than Norman in 2009 - Jones didn't have the mettle in these conditions. Turnovers, not touchdowns, were his calling card in clutch situations.
Not any more.
Jones was calm under pressure, accurate on third down, defiant to the yellow-garbed mountain folk and, frankly, better than he's ever been - in Norman or anywhere else.
Third and 15? No problem. Jones left the pocket, rolled right and threw to the left for a 16-yard gain to Kenny Stills.
Third-and-5? Easy. Jones escapes again, strides to his right and lobs a pass down the sideline to Brennan Clay on a wheel route for 25 yards.
Third-and-3? Whatever. Jones drops back and zips a 4-yard touchdown to a kneeling Trey Millard.
And that was all just the first possession. Jones actually saved his best work for last. He completed 5-for-5 passes on third- and fourth-down plays in the fourth quarter - all for first downs.
Jones' mistakes against Kansas State earlier this season were crucial elements of defeat. Many Sooner fans no longer trusted him. Critics said he was still making the same errors he made as a freshman when he was an emergency replacement for Sam Bradford.
But those days, like WVU's Sooner-killer QBs, are ancient history.
Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones attempts a pass during the third quarter of their NCAA college football game against West Virginia in Morgantown, W.Va., on Saturday. CHRISTOPHER JACKSON / AP Photo