Oklahoma’s 24-19 loss to Kansas State last Saturday seems to have made Sooners fans forget just how good Landry Jones can be. His struggles were the driving force behind OU’s first loss of the season but the Sooners will need the senior if they have any hope of competing for a Big 12 championship this season.
No matter how bad it seems, Jones is the only quarterback in the league who has led his team to a Big 12 Championship during his career.
In 2010, Jones led the Sooners on a five-game winning streak to capture the Big 12 title and win the Fiesta Bowl. Thanks to ESPN Stats & Information, SoonerNation was able to take a closer look at what many consider the best stretch of his career.
During wins over Texas Tech, Baylor, Oklahoma State, Nebraska and Connecticut, Jones completed 64.5 percent of his passes, had a pass efficiency rating of 154.9 and averaged 8.6 yards per attempt with 16 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. He was particularly lethal on passes of 15 yards or more going 21-of-42 for 774 yards with 8 touchdowns and no interceptions.
And that could be the missing element for this season's version of Landry Jones. With Kenny Stills moving inside, Jones hasn’t had a consistent deep threat on the outside. His 68-yard touchdown pass to Stills against UTEP came after a broken play and his 48-yard completion to Justin Brown was simply playmaking by the Penn State transfer, who out-fought two Florida A&M defenders for the ball.
Another difference between Jones in 2010 and Jones in early 2012 is his ability to distribute the ball to several different targets.
Against K-State, Jones targeted receiver Kenny Stills 13 times, one more time than Trey Metoyer (6) and Brown (6) combined. In addition, he threw to Sterling Shepard seven times, making 20 of his 43 throws intended for receivers who normally line up in the slot. Co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell said the Wildcats’ defensive game plan left openings for Shepard and Stills in the middle of the field leading to more opportunities for that duo.
Regardless, there’s no doubt that Stills is Jones’ favorite receiver with 34 targets this season. Metoyer is second with 21 followed by Brown (14). Shepard and running back Dominique Whaley have been targeted 8 times with tight end Brannon Green (6) the only other Sooner with more than 5 targets from Jones through three games.
During that five-game stretch In 2010, Jones completed at least 10 passes to five different targets including running back DeMarco Murray and tight end James Hanna. Ryan Broyles was his top target, catching 44-of-63 passes thrown his way for 525 yards and six touchdowns. Murray, one of the most versatile running backs in OU history, caught 21-of-29 passes thrown his way for 236 yards and two touchdowns.
Coach Bob Stoops has been consistent in bringing up the players surrounding Jones whenever the senior’s struggles come up for conversation and after seeing his best numbers came when he was throwing to an NFL receiver, NFL running back and NFL tight end, it’s easier to see why OU’s veteran coach keeps talking about Jones surrounding cast.
Norvell said this week that he believes the Sooners have the talent to run efficiently and spread the football around but things will take time with so many newcomers in the passing game. That’s what could make the comparison unfair as Cameron Kenney emerged as a No. 3 receiver during that stretch in 2010 with 21 catches on 27 targets for 399 yards and 3 touchdowns. He had 12 total catches in OU’s first seven games.
There’s no reason to think -- as OU’s offense grows organically -- that legitimate receiving threats will not emerge among the players who haven’t been consistently productive in OU’s first three games much like Kenney did.