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October 23, 2012
HD: Jones wants no more regrets on Owen Field
There wasn't a player on the roster who took the beating Landry Jones took after a 24-19 loss to Kansas State in the Sooners' conference opener against Kansas State.
Jones gifted the Wildcats their first touchdown when he fumbled away the ball at his own 2-yard line. Kansas State's Jesse Tuggle jumped on the ball in the endzone and Oklahoma was suddenly down 7-3.
Oklahoma clawed back to take a 13-10 lead before Jones made his next grave mistake.
Jones threw an interception from his own 22-yard line late in the third quarter. The Wildcats took over possession on OU's 38-yard line and punched in the go-ahead score with 13:09 remaining in the game.
Jones took the loss hard. He's never been a quarterback who has strayed from the script of coach speak after a tough loss.
But following the Kansas State loss, Jones tried honesty and introspection on for size in front of a microphone.
"I played pretty terrible. The majority of this game is in my hands," said a visually dejected Jones following the loss to Kansas State. "I didn't take care of the ball, I didn't make enough plays and so this one is probably on me."
From there, Jones took an incredible amount of heat from the fan base and the media.
Was it time to move on from Landry Jones? Time to move on from Josh Heupel?
OU's offense seemed rudderless, without direction. Jones was still searching for answers the following week during a bye.
"You do scratch your head. You wonder and you think," Jones said at the time. "It drives me nuts that we're kind of underachieving right now. I feel like especially for myself, I've definitely been underachieving this whole year."
But a funny thing happened over the next three games. Jones and the offense started to click. Jones started spreading the ball more evenly to receivers not named Kenny Stills. He started going through his progressions, looking more for his second and third options.
"I've been playing a lot better," said Jones Monday. "Just obviously after games like Texas Tech, Texas and last week against Kansas, you're going to have higher confidence. And I think everybody on this team is going to have higher confidence just the way that we've been playing."
It's hard to look into the numbers to see where things are going right for Oklahoma and Jones. Against Kansas State, the stats show Jones spread the ball around to eight different receivers. Shepard became the Sooners' leading receiver for the first time this season.
But the defense didn't cause any turnovers and Landry had his two gaffes. Blake Bell had another. Special teams didn't produce anything of substance.
The margin of error was razor thin.
The Sooners were 4-of-10 on third-down conversions while the Wildcats were 7-of-14.
The only thing left was for the criticism to envelop Jones. And it did.
But with a defense forcing nine turnovers in the last three games, with Jones only throwing one interception over the last three, and special teams taking a more dominating role, Jones and the offense look much better.
It's just that the Sooners now welcome in a team in Notre Dame that can create turnovers. They can pressure quarterbacks.
The Irish come to Norman with the nation's No. 6 defense. They have 19 sacks on the season and stand as the 11th ranked team in turnover margin.
This is Jones' chance to prove he is a new quarterback, that this is a new offense. His chance to prove he's not the panicked quarterback who was a big part of the loss to Kansas State.
"Every team has good defensive linemen. This team is better than some, for sure," said Jones. "They do a lot of good things in rushing the passer. They're really talented up front. Our protection needs to be good. That's no excuse for us to say our protection is going to be bad if we need to move around more than we want to. The offensive line is going to have to play really well for us to be able to compete and play good in this game."
It's also a chance at redemption for Jones. He's had some big wins in his Oklahoma career. The win against Oklahoma State in 2010 was one of them. The Big 12 Championship win over Nebraska that same year was another.
But last year's win at Florida State was the last time people looked at Landry Jones as an OU quarterback who had arrived.
He'll have another chance to raise his profile this Saturday against No. 5 Notre Dame.
"I think for sure these non-conference, big games like this, playing big teams, definitely you'll be remembered by some of these games," Jones said. "Typically around this place, you're remembered for championships, Texas games and then those big nonconference games like a Florida State or a Notre Dame."
Jones and the Oklahoma offense isn't going into this game feeling like they have it all figured out over their last three games.
That loss to Kansas State still stings.
It's something Jones is using as motivation. He doesn't want to wonder what might have been after this one is over.
"It still kind of hurts," he said. "You don't want to ever let a game slip away from you. You don't want to ever lose a game that early in the season. Yes, Kansas State is a good team for sure. No doubt about that. But it still hurts. You think about it and you can go `what if?' all you want but that game is behind us now."
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