Published October 10, 2012
NORMAN, Okla. – As he closes in on rewriting some of Oklahoma's storied history, Landry Jones got a timely note to provide just the boost he needed.
Jones was doubting himself after committing two costly turnovers in the Sooners' loss to Kansas State last month. Then he received a letter from former Sooners quarterback Steve Davis — the very man whose school record for wins he's about to break.
"He just really wanted to encourage me," Jones said. "Just keep going, keep leading those guys and keep fighting, regardless of what happens in the next game or the last game. Your focus is on this game and always to lead those guys."
Jones rebounded with a solid performance, throwing for 256 yards and two touchdowns — this time with no turnovers — in a 41-20 win at Texas Tech on Saturday that at least momentarily silenced his critics.
Jones was as tough as anyone on himself after his fumble was picked up for a K-State touchdown and his interception set up the Wildcats' go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter. He called himself out for playing "dumb football" and encouraged everyone to place the blame on him for the loss, even as his coaches and teammates insisted he wasn't the only one at fault.
Then he had an extra-long time to soak it in, with the Sooners (3-1, 1-1) having the following week off.
"There were some high parts and there were some low parts, that's for sure," Jones said. "That night you're just thinking to yourself what could I have done better, especially after the game. That's the worst part. But then once Monday rolls around you just have to put it behind you and fight those doubts of whether you can actually make plays or not plays, but it's just one thing you have to fight."
Jones has been through plenty in his time as Oklahoma's starter. He was thrust into action when Sam Bradford was injured in 2009, a year after he'd won the Heisman Trophy. Twice Jones lost games when he relieved Bradford, including against rival Texas.
He's won a Big 12 championship and three bowl games, but it's never seemed like enough while playing in the shadows of Bradford, 2003 Heisman Trophy winner Jason White and Josh Heupel, who led the team to the 2000 national title.
"Landry's had ups and downs. We've had our ups and downs since he's been the quarterback, as a program," said Heupel, now the Sooners' offensive coordinator. "He's resilient. He comes back. During the course of the game, he's that way. ... He's mature in that way. He knows who and what he is as a person and player, so that's why he just keeps coming after it. He might not always get the results you want, but he's willing to come after it."
Jones has by far thrown the most passes in Oklahoma history and came into the season already holding the records for most yardage and touchdown passes, most yards in a game and numerous others. He's 32-8 as Oklahoma's starter, tying the number of wins Davis had during a remarkable 32-1-1 run that included the 1974 and 1975 national championships.
Jones can break the wins mark in marquee fashion Saturday when his No. 13 Sooners take on No. 15 Texas (4-1, 1-1) in the Red River Rivalry game at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. Jones is technically 2-0 as a starter in the rivalry and could become only the fourth Oklahoma quarterback to go 3-0, joining Jimmy Harris, Jamelle Holieway and Davis.
"There's a lot of emotion that goes into that game," Jones said. "It's just a different type of game because there's so much tradition."
In a nutshell, that's also how Jones has approached his entire tenure as the starter and how Davis instructed him to remain even during the tough times.
"I think it's a great position in sports, It's a tough position in sports, too," Heupel said. "There's ups and downs for everybody while you're here. This is what happens when you play at Oklahoma. You're expected to win every ball game, and the quarterback's supposed to be the guy that's the catalyst for that."
From being dumped in defeat, Jones can quickly redeem himself in one of the best ways possible: by beating the Longhorns.
"That's typically the way it goes. One week you're the worst person in the world, the next week everybody loves you," Jones said. "You just have to realize what you are. I think I've been saying don't ride the wave. Always be somewhere in between. You're not as bad as you think you are and then some nights you're not as great as you think you are. It's always somewhere in between those two lines."