NORMAN — Whitney Hand threw her hands over her eyes.
She'd already seen too much.
Sitting on the concrete steps in the aisle near her in-laws' upper-deck seats, she watched the horror unfold on Owen Field below. Landry Jones dropped back, then rolled right. He fled a Kansas State defender but didn't notice the one about to hit him from behind.
As he fell to the turf, he watched a Wildcat pounce on the ball.
Landry slapped his thigh pads and pounded his fists on the ground, but Whitney already had her eyes covered by then.
Think it was tough for Oklahoma fans to endure the Sooner quarterback's struggles a week ago against K-State? Think it was hard stomaching a first-half fumble recovered for a touchdown and a second-half interception that turned the momentum in the Wildcats' favor?
No one had it worse than the quarterback's wife.
On a night when the magical season Landry hoped to return for instead unraveled in his hands, Whitney struggled, too. An evening that started with smiles and laughs on the bustling sidelines ended with tears in an all but empty upper deck. Spending the game with her and seeing her agonize was almost as tough as watching Landry's performance.
When he struggled like never before, she did, too.
“It's nerve wracking,” Whitney said. “It's hard sitting here and watching.”
And the senior guard on the women's basketball team is convinced that being an athlete makes it worse.
“I'm used to being able to control the situation,” she said. “You have all these emotions as a competitor, and you want to help or do something, and you just can't.
“I just feel really helpless sometimes.”
* * *
Pam DeCosta caught Whitney's eye and smiled.
“How are you?” the women's basketball assistant coach asked as they walked across the field to their seats.
With a couple of women's basketball recruits making unofficial visits, all of the coaches and several of the players had been standing near the south end zone for almost an hour. They snapped pictures on their iPhones, they watched the intro video — “My favorite part,” Whitney said — then they headed for their seats in Section 30.
“This is about the time I get nervous,” Whitney told DeCosta.
She twisted her ponytail and swayed side to side.
“If they took my blood pressure when the offense is on the field,” she said, “it wouldn't be good.”
She jumped up and down during a big Roy Finch run. She pumped her fist after a nice catch by Kenny Stills. But when Landry threw behind Brannon Green and missed what would've been a sure touchdown, Whitney balled up her fists and put them over her eyes.
The stadium filled with groans and grumbles.
When Whitney left her teammates late in the first quarter to meet up with her in-laws in the club level, the first thing she heard was talk about that missed touchdown. It was the topic of discussion on the radio broadcast being piped into the concourse.
“You hope missing a wide-open receiver in the end zone does not come back to haunt them,” Sooner play-by-play man Toby Rowland said.
“Missed two open receivers,” color analyst Merv Johnson added, referring to another miscue on the Sooners' opening drive.
Whitney didn't react, but you know she heard the criticism.
You can't shut off your ears.
“His parents sit up in the stands with earphones on during the game listening to gospel music,” Whitney said. “I don't blame them.
“I just think the world of him and think he deserves the absolute best. I feel very protective of him — ‘You don't talk about him like that. That's my family.'”
She knows he can handle it.
That doesn't make it any easier.
* * *
Far from the Dippin' Dots stand and cold beer line, the Jones family gathered in the southeast corner of the club level at halftime. Landry's two sisters were there. So were their husbands and their kids.
Landry's mom, Kellye, came over and hugged on the boys.
“My tummy hurts,” she said.
“Mine, too,” Whitney said.
Landry had no touchdowns and that fumble that led to K-State's only touchdown in the first half.
Things didn't get much better in the second half.
After the OU forced K-State to punt on its first possession, Landry fumbled on the very next play. Roy Finch came in motion from the left, and when Landry took the snap and tried to flip the ball to him, Finch wasn't even looking.
K-State defenders pounced on the ball.
The angst among Sooner fans was audible. Having returned to her seat after halftime, Whitney looked behind her toward the glassed-in seclusion of the club level.
“I can't watch this anymore,” she said.
But she didn't retreat as the referees reviewed the play. Was it a fumble? Or was it an incomplete forward pass? A hush fell over the stadium.
“He never fumbles,” Whitney said in nearly a whisper.
Finally, the head official had a verdict.
“After further review,” he said, “the ruling is incomplete pass.”
“Yes!” Whitney yelled. “Yes!”
Even though that drive ended with a touchdown, the bad vibes returned. Landry threw off his back foot on the next possession, and the pass floated right to a K-State defender.
One word of displeasure bubbled up above the rest.
Whitney left her seat and went back into the club level. She sunk into a leather chair in the far corner, but even there, she couldn't escape. The audio from the radio broadcast is piped into the club level, too. Talk of the Sooners' turnovers was constant.
“That's where the difference is,” Rowland said.
Whitney sat almost motionless in that leather chair. When Landry's mom came over and put an arm around her, Whitney leaned into her and remained that way for several minutes, not moving, not speaking.
She watched the action on a nearby flatscreen TV hanging from the ceiling, but she didn't cheer. Not until Landry connected with Sterling Shepard for a touchdown that cut K-State's lead back to one possession did she get excited. She jumped out of that leather chair, clapping and yelling.
She went back outside even as many fans walked the opposite way heading to the exits. She cheered and clapped and hoping like crazy that Landry would have one more shot.
The Sooners never got the ball back.
* * *
All of the seats in Section 134 emptied except for three.
Whitney and her in-laws sat quietly as Wildcat fans the still-full section below them celebrated. The K-State players came over to salute the fans, then Wildcat coach Bill Snyder walked across the field, stopped in front of the section and blew the fans a kiss.
It's hard to say whether Whitney saw any of it.
Tears filled her eyes.
Landry finished 28 of 43 for 304 yards and one touchdown, but, of course, his fumble and his interception changed the game. He would say afterward that he played terribly and that he took the blame for the Sooners' loss.
“When he's playing great, it's really fun,” Whitney said earlier in the evening. “But when he's not playing well, it kind of stinks.
“It's really hard.”
Never harder than it was last Saturday night.