LUBBOCK, Texas – Landry Jones stepped up in the pocket to avoid the Texas Tech pass rush, and all of Soonerville held its breath. Landry on the move does not evoke pleasant crimson memories.
But Saturday, Landry stepped up, stopped, loaded and launched. He looped a pass toward the sideline, over the head of Tech linebacker Will Smith, who seemed in perfect position, and the ball gently fell, like a Mickelson wedge, into the hands of tailback Damien Williams, who zipped down the sideline for a 38-yard gain.
Yep, the good Landry was back. OU routed Texas Tech 41-20 Saturday at Jones Stadium, a field of horrors in recent trips to the South Plains, and college football's most beleaguered quarterback was pristine.
“I'm not surprised,” Bob Stoops said. “Landry's a great quarterback. He's going to go down as one of the greatest we've had here at OU, and that says a lot.”
Really, who among us should be surprised? We've seen it before. When Landry is bad, he can be very, very bad, like two weeks ago in a 24-19 loss to Kansas State. But when Landry is good, he can be very, very good.
Landry completed 25 of 40 passes against Tech for 259 yards, two touchdowns and nothing close to an interception.
Landry's two TD passes were works of art, both 13-yard floaters to the corner of the end zone, the first to Justin Brown and the next to Kenny Stills. Landry would have had a third TD pass, 38 yards, had Brown held on to a deep ball in the end zone that he might have had long enough for a score, had there been a replay review.
“He did awesome,” said backup quarterback Blake Bell. “He looked real confident out there, and a couple of those balls to Justin Brown and Kenny in the corner, that's the Landry I know.”
Confidence. That's what this game was about. Restoring confidence in a team that had been sluggish out of the 2012 starting gate.
“Absolutely, it gives us good confidence, realizing what we can do,” Landry said.
Fans' confidence now will soar if OU can go to the Cotton Bowl next week and whip the Longhorns. Not that Stoops cares about the outlook of anyone outside the Switzer Center.
“We don't bother with that,” Stoops said. “They can say and do what they want. That's what fans do. That's fine. In the end, we care about what we're doing … stick with each other, recognize what elements we can control and change, and that's what we do.”
The Sooners stuck together. Flanker Kenny Stills said the Sooners made it a point to “make sure Landry knew we had confidence in him.
“He knows there's a lot of pressure on him. He knows there was a lot of negativity. It's big for us to come out here, make a statement like we did today. That's huge for Landry, given that so many people were on his back and doubting him. I'm happy for him. I'm proud of him.”
Against a Tech defense that was ranked No. 1 nationally in total yards but was largely untested, OU possessions produced the following results through three quarters: touchdown, punt, touchdown, touchdown, field goal, touchdown, field goal. By then, Jones was 21 of 31 for 230 yards, and OU had a 41-13 lead.
“His decision-making was really good,” said offensive coordinator Josh Heupel. “He took care of the football. He moved in the pocket. He was accurate.”
But Heupel was quick to say that just because the Sooners shined against Texas Tech doesn't mean they will shine against Texas.
“Today's just today,” Heupel said. “It doesn't affect Monday. Doesn't affect what happens in the Cotton Bowl. You gotta bring it every single Saturday.”
Still, it's good to know that on a day when Landry stepped onto the field with the full weight of Sooner football on his shoulders, he delivered.
“That guy's played a lot of great football,” Stoops said. “He should have a lot of confidence.”
Now it's on to Dallas, where if the good Landry shows, the Sooners will be very tough to beat.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at email@example.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.