Oklahoma football: Whitney Hand on upset watch as Sooners played Kansas State

COMMENTARY — Landry Jones' performance against Kansas State was hard to watch, almost as hard as watching his bride watch him. Jenni Carlson spends game night with the Sooner quarterback's wife, OU basketball star Whitney Hand.
by Jenni Carlson Published: October 1, 2012

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.

Sucks.

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.

“Yes!”

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.

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by Jenni Carlson
Columnist
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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