AMES, Iowa — Oklahoma coaches were about ready to let the clock run out on a frustrating first half Saturday inside Jack Trice Stadium.
With 1:04 before halftime, the Sooners — despite a solid overall offensive effort — had scored just once, and clung to a 1-point lead after back-to-back Landry Jones interceptions gave way to back-to-back Iowa State field goals.
“When you're backed up, you don't want to get a ball tipped or something to happen,” said OU coach Bob Stoops.
“But we always say that if we a get first down, we're going fast. ... We got in a hurry-up mode and found some big plays.”
Indeed his Sooners did.
Brennan Clay rushed for 9 yards and a first down before running out of bounds, stopping the clock; Jones hit Justin Brown for a 40-yard gain, then Kenny Stills for a 21-yard touchdown just seconds before the break.
Twelfth-ranked Oklahoma (6-2, 4-1 Big 12) carried that momentum to a 35-20 win.
“I don't think we went into it thinking we were after a touchdown,” Stills said of the late first-half drive. “But that's the way it turned out for us.”
Jones completed 32 of 45 passes Saturday with 405 yards and four touchdowns — both season highs. It was the four-year starter's 10th career game with more than 400 yards passing.
But then there were the back-to-back picks.
With about five minutes left in the first half and OU holding a 7-0 advantage, Jones tossed a deep ball intended for Jalen Saunders near the Sooner sideline.
Cyclones safety Durrell Givens came from seemingly nowhere to pick the pass off, running it back 47 yards to the Sooners' 17.
“We tried to hit them on an out-and-up, and the safety just came over and made a really good play,” said co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell.
Two plays into Oklahoma's next series, Jones' pass was tipped and again found its way into Givens' arms.
For Jones, it was his third-career game that included interceptions on consecutive possessions; his first two — against Texas, and at Nebraska — were in 2009, his redshirt-freshman season.
“Statistically we played really well,” Jones said. “Had two picks today, but I think as an offense, we came back and handled that really well.
“Defense did a great job holding them to field goals on both those.”
Rather than a tenuous 1-point lead, the Sooners took a more comfortable advantage into halftime because of the 56-second scoring drive.
“There wasn't anyone in any panic mode,” Stoops said. “Fortunately, we found some big shots at the end of the half and then into the second half.”
The Sooners emerged from the locker room after halftime and marched 75 yards in a methodical, poised series that ended with a 20-yard Jones-to-Brown touchdown. Jones completed 7 of 10 passes on the drive.
“Landry Jones,” Iowa State defensive lineman Jake McDonough said when asked for the secret to OU's offense.
“He was on fire ... He was putting the ball where the receivers were able to make plays; it was frustrating.”
Jones' performance is more impressive when you consider who he was without Saturday; leading rusher Damien Williams and senior tackle Lane Johnson were each hobbled by bum ankles.
“He's the center of the offense, so him being poised, even after throwing a pick, he just always comes back and shows us he can sling the ball around,” said true freshman receiver Sterling Shepard, who caught 5 passes for 77 yards and a first-half touchdown.
Asked if it was the best game of his career, Jones said it was “one of the best; that's for sure.
“We've had a lot of good games around this place, a lot of good games this year.”