NORMAN — In the days leading to Landry Jones' 32nd career win as a starter, the man Jones will soon surpass in OU record books listened, read and watched as the Sooners' quarterback was roundly — and sometimes mercilessly — criticized.
Saturday, Jones turned in a crisp, poised performance and led Oklahoma to a 41-20 rout at Texas Tech, where he tied Steve Davis' record for wins by an OU starting quarterback.
Two weeks before that, though, Jones turned the ball over twice — each leading to a Kansas State touchdown — and the Wildcats prevailed 24-19 on Owen Field.
“Landry's just gotten really blasted over the past few weeks,” said Davis, who led Oklahoma to a 32-1-1 record over his three seasons as starting quarterback nearly four decades ago.
“Some of the comments have been absolutely ludicrous. (The critics) have only opinion, no sensitivity to what Landry's experiences have been, or what he and his teammates are going through.”
So the two-time national champion Davis decided to do something about it.
During the week before the Texas Tech game, Davis wrote a letter to advise, encourage and praise Jones, who can break Davis' 37-year old record Saturday with a win in the Cotton Bowl over archrival Texas.
“For the past few weeks, Landry and I have been connected through the record,” Davis said. “Even though we're decades and generations apart, I felt compelled to write the letter because I've been in his shoes. I know what his frustrations are.”
Davis was OU's starting quarterback from 1973-75, winning more than his share of games and championships.
But when — during his senior year — the Sooners inexplicably had a 28-game win streak snapped by Kansas, the home crowd booed Davis and his teammates.
“November 8, 1975,” Davis remembered. “We got booed fairly aggressively. It broke my heart, my family's hearts, my teammates' hearts and my coaches' hearts.”
Davis' Sooners responded by winning their final three games, beating Michigan in the Orange Bowl and claiming a second straight national title.
The OU legend, who now lives in Tulsa, used that example in his letter to Jones.
“He just really wanted to encourage me,” Jones said. “Keep leading those guys and keep fighting, regardless of what happens in the next game or the last game.”
Davis said he's been impressed with Jones' maturity over the past few weeks. The OU senior stood in front of reporters and took full responsibility for the Kansas State loss several times before Saturday's record-tying performance.