NORMAN, Okla. - Bob Stoops would rather face a lifetime of mass interview sessions than pick a favorite player. Given truth serum, the Oklahoma coach might fess up and admit that Landry Jones is probably on the short list.
Among the many things that Stoops and his senior quarterback has in in common is they are treated like a piñata at a birthday party.
When Oklahoma State jumped to a 14-0 lead Saturday, a national writer Tweeted that Stoops' agent needs to look at some major coaching opportunities because the OU program has gone "stale." Since Jones' interception led to that two-touchdown lead, no doubt a number of Sooners "fans" were thankful this was Jones' final game at Gaylord Family/Memorial Stadium.
Bedlam being Bedlam, four hours after kickoff plus an overtime, Stoops was standing on the field watching his players and the fans rocking to House of Pain's "Jump Around, which made its debut in 2008." That's because Jones engineered a game-tying drive that led to Brennan Clay's game-winning, not-to-be-denied 18-yard touchdown run that gave the Sooners (9-2, 7-1) a 51-48 overtime victory.
"We just do what we do," Jones said on the field during a post-game national radio interview. "These last two weeks have really been fun."
Last week, Oklahoma won at West Virginia 51-49 as Jones drove the Sooners to the winning touchdown with 24 seconds remaining (Jones audibled to the play that produced the 5-yard scoring pass to Kenny Stills). Against the Cowboys (7-4, 5-3), Jones was 46-of-71 (school records for completions and attempts) for 500 yards and three touchdowns. In his last two games, Jones is 84 of 122 for 1,554 yards and nine touchdown passes (and just two interceptions).
"It's incredible. That's something you do in a video game," said OU receiver Jalen Saunders.
"What more do you want from the guy," Stoops said. "He was fabulous out there. He threw it all over and he threw it well. Landry was great."
For the first time in school history, the Sooners had three receivers with 100 yards in receptions. Justin Brown had 15 for 146, Saunders 10 for 162 and Kenny Stills nine for 103. It was also the first time in school history that two receivers had 10 or more receptions.
The receivers made receptions, the running backs took handoffs, the offensive line blocked (Jones was sacked just once) and the defense made enough plays to provide a winning margin. But the quarterback, especially in the Big 12 Conference, is under the spotlight ... always.
Jones became the became the first player in FBS history to have 3,000-plus passing yards and 26 or more touchdown passes in each of his four seasons. He also is the Big 12 career leader in total offense and passing yardage. Jones passed Texas Tech's Graham Harrell with a 17-yard pass to Saunders in the second quarter and Jones was blasted by blitzing Oklahoma States linebacker Alex Elkins.
He missed one snap.
Earlier this week, Stoops had heard enough Landry Jones bashing. "There's a lot of ignorant people out there," he said. "They might be bright when it comes to whatever they do but they're not very bright in football."
When Oklahoma lost at home to Kansas State and then to Notre Dame - two top 10 teams with a combined one loss - Stoops and then Jones got the heat. When the Sooners have grittily won in Morgantown and then beat its in-state rival, the coach and the quarterback deserve some credit.
"Coach and I have been through a lot, some good, some bad ... mostly good," said Jones, who was not aware of Stoops' mid-week comments. "He's always been a huge supporter of me and it's been huge for my career."
Oklahoma needed its senior quarterback to be brilliant. Oklahoma State, which set its own Big 12 record by having three quarterbacks pass for over 1,000 yards, stood toe-to-toe with the Sooners. Junior Clint Chelf threw for 253 yards, ran for 63, receiver Josh Stewart had 11 catches for 150 yards and running back Joseph Randle gained 113 yards and scored four touchdowns.
"There are going to be a ups and downs throughout a game," said Chelf, who also had a 36-yard reception on a throw-back from Randle. "We were prepared for that. We just tried to answer every time they did something. They just made one more play than us."
There were three-and-outs, fourth-down failures, deflating turnovers, special team lightning bolts (Saunders' 81-yard punt return for a TD and a two-point conversion helped the Sooners rally from an 11-point second-half deficit) and one-play shockers (Chelf to Stewart for 75 yards on the first play of the second half broke a 24-all halftime deadlock.)
Trailing 45-38, Oklahoma gained possession at its own 14 with 6:18 remaining.
"We always practice like we're gonna need a big drive like that," Brown said. "Landry is real calm, he's the best. He gets fired up, he shows emotion. You guys might not see it but we do."
18 plays and 6:14 later, Blake Bell was bulldozing in for the touchdown that forced overtime. The Sooners got there because Jones was 10-of-13 for 77 yards, overcoming second-and-11, second-and-15 and third-and-eight situations.
"We knew we had to score a touchdown," Jones said. "You always remember a game like tonight or last week when you come from behind to win. It's one of the reasons you play the game. For my last home game to end up like it did was really special.
"Being a leader and the quarterback, it's important you don't ride the wave. You can't get too high, too much on edge. And then you can't get too low so that no one feels your presence. You've got to find that middle ground."
Jones wound up playing his freshman season when Heisman winner/favorite son Sam Bradford had his 2009 season trashed by injuries. He led the 2010 team to the Big 12 championship, throwing for 468 yards and four touchdowns in Bedlam and then throwing for 342 yards as the Sooners rallied from a 17-0 deficit to send Nebraska to the Big Ten Conference with consecutive losses in the Big 12 title game.
Then Jones spent the last two seasons being kicked and ripped because he was blamed for the Sooners' shortcomings last season and this season. And last season and this season, he has been a good soldier as Bell became the Bell Dozer and a fan favorite for his short yardage touchdown runs that more than likely cost Jones some touchdown passes.
And this season, Jones was without All-American receiver Ryan Broyles, he was operating behind an offensive line missing two veteran starters and he had to adjust on the fly as Brown (from Penn State) and Saunders (from Fresno State) were late-addition transfers.
"Landry has been a rock," Oklahoma co-offensive coordinator Josh Heupel said. "There have been a lot of moving parts around him. He's been a rock in our offensive meeting room, for our offensive unit. He has continued to play better as the guys around him have been executing better."
Fans and viewers see the players on the field during a game but they don't see the practices, the off-season workouts, the position meetings, the locker room interaction. There are unseen reasons, good and bad, that can determine winners and losers.
Landry Jones has and continues to prove he's a winner (the most victories in school history) and one of the best quarterbacks in college football history.
"No better way," said Jones of his final home game which was the first Bedlam game dramatized in overtime. "God blessed me so much tonight to be able to go out like this.
"There's no better way to go out."