NORMAN — It's not a game for which Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones will necessarily be remembered. The Sooners lost, for crying out loud. How quickly the fan base is trying to forget the Baylor game, not hold on to it.
But don't miss the fact that Jones — the school's all-time passing leader, as of this season — just might have had one of the better performances in his three-year career, all things considered.
“He had a really good day,” OU coach Bob Stoops said, putting it succinctly on his TV show as he watched Jones find receiver after receiver — 10 of them — against the Bears.
Jones went 36 for 51 for 447 yards in the 45-38 loss. He didn't throw a touchdown, and he had one interception.
Of those 15 incompletions, there were about five drops mixed in. No one seems to blink at a number like 447 with Jones these days.
What stands out, too, was that this was the junior from New Mexico's first game since losing All-American Ryan Broyles to a knee injury. What would Jones be without his safety net? Even Jones admitted it wouldn't be the same without Broyles on the field.
There appeared to be a pronounced period of adjustment for the OU offense, as you'd expect without the NCAA's all-time leader in receptions. After scoring 10 points in the first half, the Sooners sparked and came alive in the second half for four touchdowns.
The Oklahoma offense scored 38 points in both of the team's losses, even if it started very slowly in each of the games.
Some of Jones' best passes of the night came after his worst. Early in the fourth quarter, with OU just inside Baylor territory and trailing by a touchdown, Jones tried to force a second-down throw to James Hanna.
Hanna, however, had not turned around, and the ball was intercepted by Bears safety K.J. Morton.
“We've seen his maturity all season, and now late into the season,” Sooners senior center Ben Habern said. “He throws that pick as a redshirt freshman, and it's a different story. His maturity level and all that stuff, it wasn't there yet.
“As a junior and a captain on the team, a leader, he's played a lot of football. He's gotten into that mode of knowing, ‘OK, I threw a pick and I can bounce back from there.'”
Baylor scored in four plays after the interception, to go up 38-24. Habern said Jones was still customarily cool on the sideline, encouraging everyone that a comeback was still possible — even with 12-plus minutes remaining.
That OU possession stalled at the Baylor 25-yard line, but the next two drives were some of the most polished the Sooners have had all season — Broyles or no Broyles.
Receivers Dejuan Miller and Trey Franks got involved, as did freshman running back Brandon Williams. Jones was on target and in command in the huddle.
Oklahoma went on scoring drives of 75 and 77 yards to tie the game in the final minute.
Jones' signature throw came on the first scoring drive. OU had second-and-10 at the Baylor 28-yard line.
The Bears sent a heavy blitz that quickly surged toward Jones. Jones offered a touch pass off his back foot that hit Franks in stride on a corner route. The 24-yard gain got OU to the 4, and Blake Bell bulldozed into the end zone on the next play to make it a one-possession game.
Quarterbacks are dissuaded from back-foot throws, but Jones still got enough on the pass to reach Franks.
“I think I've learned just to keep playing ball and not get flustered and not try to go out there and make every play,” Jones said. “You take what they're giving you and realize what you've got to do.”
Baylor's Robert Griffin III shined in the end, leading the Bears to the winning touchdown with eight seconds to play. OU failed to recover the ensuing squib kick, so Jones and the offense didn't even touch the ball again after the touchdown.
“We thought — we knew — we were going to win that game,” Habern said. “Our mindset was, with Landry leading, we were going to win the game.”
That confidence did not wind up winning the Baylor game, but it could lead to victories in the weeks ahead, beginning Saturday at home against Iowa State.