Landry Jones has parlayed his symbolic role as stoic-faced backup to last year's Heisman Trophy winner into the honorary title of Oklahoma Sooners Quarterback.
When the game got tight, he hit all 10 of his passes in the fourth quarter and his final 14 overall to lead No. 22 Oklahoma to a hard-fought 42-30 victory over Kansas State.
The victory extended Oklahoma's home winning streak to a program-best 28 games, the best in the nation at the moment.
"We stepped up, and in the second half, we just got things rolling again like we did (the previous week) at Kansas. We just have to keep it going and get better every week," Jones said after the contest.
Facing a 1st down and 45 on the last play of the 3rd quarter and leading by a slim five-point margin, Jones and the OU offense improbably converted. On the 15-play touchdown drive that ate more than eight minutes off the game clock, Jones completed all eight of his pass attempt. He hit four different receivers, among them WRs Ryan Broyles and DeJuan Miller. Broyles made a scintillating catch and run to convert on third down and 24. The drive was capped by a six-yard touchdown swing pass to RB DeMarco Murray.
Kansas State's Brandon Banks returned the ensuing kickoff 98 yards to pull Kansas State within five points again, 35-30. This Halloween night, the speedy Banks spooked Oklahoma for 351 yards (156 receiving, 195 returning kicks).
Jones and his teammates got moving again, though. Jones was completed six of six attempts for 77 yards on the ensuing drive. Murray again capped off the drive, this time on a 3-yard power run with six minutes and change remaining.
The Wildcats, forced into a passing game that is their second choice of attack, couldn't rally. Quinton Carter intercepted Kansas State's last pass for the game's only turnover, enabling OU to run out the clock.
"The young guy has done an awesome job," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said of Jones. "He is just really poised and trusts the young guys around him. He throws a good ball and stayed in there and did a nice job with it."
Miller, for his part, had a career-best game. He snatched nine passes for 94 yards and one TD.
"I felt like I was getting my chance to show what I can do," Miller said. "I'm more talented. I don't want to sound too cocky, but that's just the inner confidence that I have in myself that I know I can play at a high level. When my number is called on third down, those catches are the biggest catches for me. I felt real good today. I felt in a rhythm, and we really came out with a good victory."
Although Texas' 41-14 victory against Oklahoma State Saturday night essentially ended the Sooners' hopes for a Big 12 title. Nevertheless, it was, for Oklahoma, a night for looking to the future as much as winning in the present.
"He (Jones) will get better, too," Stoops said. "There are still some spots out there that he'll see, 'Geez, I could have gone a few different places.'"
His improvement, and the need for more of it, wasn't lost on Jones.
"Every game you just have to keep getting better. And I'm getting better. I'm seeing the stuff easier out on the field and seeing the coverages more," said Jones, who finished 26 of 37 on passing attempts for 294 yards and four TDs. He wasn't sacked and didn't throw an interception.
"Landry is growing each week," Murray said of his young QB. "He's a great player and a great competitor. He knows the job is his now."
Bryan Waters writes for the Oklahoma Sooners Football Examiner. Click here for more of his articles on Sooner football.