NORMAN — Midway through the fourth quarter of last year's Big 12 title game, Oklahoma trailed Nebraska 20-17.
When Landry Jones lofted a pass deep down the sideline, OU coach Bob Stoops' initial reaction was get ready for a critical third-and-10 call from midfield.
“I'm thinking, ‘Ah geez, it's overthrown,'” Stoops said. “Then I realize it's Ryan (Broyles). I say to myself, 'He'll get it.'”
Broyles turned on the jets and hauled in a 47-yard reception that led to a game-tying field goal. The Sooners eventually won to win their seventh Big 12 title.
For many quarterback-receiver combos, that play would be the highlight of the season. For Jones and Broyles, it's difficult to pick a top 10, much less a play of the year. Jones to Broyles could fill up an entire half hour special.
Last season, OU's Dynamic Duo connected 131 times for 1,622 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Jones led the nation in pass completions. Broyles was second in receptions.
“Landry is a great quarterback,” Broyles said. “We definitely have our timing down and confidence in each other. He'll put the ball in a place where he thinks I can go get it. The more times you do that, the more confidence it builds.”
They don't complete each other's sentences, but Broyles has run so many routes in practices, spring drills and summer seven-on-seven sessions, sometimes it's like they know what the other is thinking.
OU receivers coach Jay Norvell saw a similar connection as an assistant coach with the Indianapolis Colts when Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison first played together.
“Ryan and Landry see the same picture,” Norvell said. “That's what Marvin and Peyton had for so many years. They saw the same holes in the defense. Anticipated the holes together. That's what chemistry really is.”
Defensive coordinator Brent Venables over the years has called the perfect play only to watch a special quarterback-receiver combo complete the pass. He sees similar qualities in Jones and Broyles.
“Ryan can improvise a route better than anybody,” Venables said. “He recognizes coverage and Landry always seem to be on the same page with him. They have a special, special bond that's hard to coach. They've played a lot of football together.”
Jones has completed 217 passes to Broyles the past two seasons.
The first completion was a 3-yard pass in the third quarter of the 2009 season opener against BYU, a game Jones was pressed into duty at halftime after reigning Heisman winner Sam Bradford injured his shoulder in the first half.
It was that game Stoops knew his young quarterback had a chance to be special. As the Sooners exited the halftime locker room Jones was confident he could lead the offense.
“You can't fake it with guys who know it, guys who have played,” Stoops said. “Players can't fool players. As a coach I can tell when a guy is real and when he isn't. And he was ready to go. He genuinely couldn't wait to get out there. ‘Let me go play, finally.' ”
The following week Jones and Broyles connected for seven passes for 155 yards and three touchdowns. The third game, they connected for three more TDs.
Jones and Broyles have been frustrating defenses ever since.
Broyles uses nifty moves to create so much separation sometimes he's wide open. But there are times the duo doesn't need more than a small crack to move the chains or produce a big play.
“In tight man-to-man coverage, sometimes you might not be as accurate as you need to be,” Jones said. “With a guy like Ryan, he can go up and make a play for you. That really makes it a lot easier for a quarterback.”
Broyles' uncanny ability to get open builds trust, a valuable commodity, especially when a quarterback is under pressure, a mammoth defensive lineman charging like a bull.
“When you get to this level there's very little disparity talent-wise,” Jones said. “Ryan separates himself with a feel for the game, settling down in space or running by someone in man-to-man (coverage). Ryan has a great knowledge of the game.”
Broyles already owns 10 school receiving records. He could finish his career with 400 receptions, 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns.
Jones is on the brink of owning most OU passing records, passing Bradford and Jason White, who each won a Heisman.
If Jones is one of the top four candidates invited to New York for this year's Heisman ceremony it's a good bet he and Broyles connected on another 100-plus passes.
“Ryan probably thinks I'm going to go to him on every play,” Jones said, smiling. “But some of his catches are so amazing. It's pretty easy to throw to Ryan. Sometimes all you have to do is put it up there and let him run to it.”
DUO THEY MOST RESEMBLE
Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson
Landry Jones is Sherlock Holmes, a fictitious detective famous for his astute logical reasoning and his ability to use forensic science to solve difficult cases.
Jones uses checks and reads of defenses to break down difficult defensive schemes.
Ryan Broyles is like Watson, the highly intelligent sidekick, an excellent doctor and surgeon, the perfect complement for Holmes.
Broyles is highly intelligent and dissects defenses, the perfect complement for Jones.
OU'S ‘OFF-THE-FIELD' DYNAMIC DUOS
Landry Jones and Ryan Broyles aren't the only standout Dynamic Duo in Norman. Here's a look at two of the most important duos tied to OU football:
* Coach Bob Stoops and athletic director Joe Castiglione: Stoops repeatedly has said a key to the Sooners' success is consistent administration support. Castiglione hired Stoops a year after taking the job, a pivotal hire that launched Stoops' career and helped restore OU's rich tradition. Castiglione and Stoops disagree at times on scheduling, but they're arguably the best coach/AD duo in the nation.
* Defensive coordinator Brent Venables and offensive coordinator Josh Heupel: Brent Venables is one of only four coaches that have been with Stoops since the start 13 years ago. Entering his ninth year as defensive coordinator, Venables gives the program stability. His ability to work with several different offensive coordinators underscores his value. First-year offensive coordinator Josh Heupel has been with Stoops all but one season, two years as his starting quarterback and 10 years on staff, starting as a graduate assistant. Heupel has helped develop two Heisman quarterbacks and another that's a viable candidate this season.