NCAA FB

Jones comes through on road, in clutch

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Thayer Evans

Senior College Football writer Thayer Evans previously wrote for The New York Times and Houston Chronicle, as well as contributed to The Economist, USA Today, The Washington Post and more. Follow him on Twitter.

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla.

Landry Jones stood proudly on the sideline and mockingly did the tomahawk chop a few times.

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As the Oklahoma quarterback celebrated the final 90 seconds of his top-ranked team's 23-13 victory over No. 5 Florida State on Saturday night, he briefly grinned at the disgust of the Seminoles fans who cursed his name and challenged to fight him.

There was plenty of reason for Jones to revel. After being criticized for his lackluster play in road losses throughout his career, he had finally won a road game with national championship implications in a hostile environment in front of 84,392 bloodthirsty fans at Doak Campbell Stadium.

"It's a huge win for us," Jones said.

But perhaps most important for Jones, he seized the victory in the fourth quarter. After Florida State tied the game 13-13 with 9:32 left, he engineered two straight scoring drives, the first of which was capped with his lofty 37-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Kenny Stills in the left corner of the end zone.

Jones' steady play in the fourth quarter was at least a start to dispelling major questions about his performance in big road games.

"He answered it tonight," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said of Jones, who was 18 of 27 passing for 199 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.

And Jones did so after he looked like his old self on the road in the game's first three quarters. In the first quarter, the redshirt junior held on to the ball too long and, while hit trying to throw it away, his short-armed pass was intercepted.

Jones also threw a deep interception in the third quarter trying to hit Stills on a 50-yard pass in double coverage. It set up a Florida State field goal that cut his team's lead to 13-6 with less than a minute left in the third quarter.

"I struggled a little bit with just reading some defenses and just seeing what they were doing out there," Jones said.

But after Florida State tied the game in the fourth quarter, Jones' leadership showed. In the huddle before the first play of his team's ensuing possession at its own 17-yard line, he spoke up.

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"Big players make big plays in big games," Jones told his teammates. "We're just going to do what we do regardless of what the defense does or their offense did previously."

During the drive, Jones did exactly that as he completed a key 22-yard pass to star wide receiver Ryan Broyles on third-and-12 from his team's 41-yard line.

"We kind of locked in and were really determined at that point in time regardless of what was going to go on, we were going to get in the end zone and answer back," Jones said.

On the play after Broyles' catch, Jones threw his touchdown pass to Stills, who beat Florida State star cornerback Greg Reid on a deep go-route in the end zone. Jones was 5 of 6 passing for 73 yards on the drive.

"That's what No. 1 teams do for sure," Jones said.

It's that type of attitude Oklahoma hasn't had when it was No. 1 in the past, like last season in a 36-27 defeat at Missouri, a game in which Jones failed to complete a pass in the fourth quarter.

"Last year, we struggled in that situation a little bit," Jones said. "This year, we definitely toughened up."

And while Oklahoma kicker Jimmy Stevens' 31-yard field goal with 2:01 left ensured Florida State's loss, how the Sooners did it meant even more to them.

After an interception near midfield of Seminoles backup quarterback Clint Trickett, who came in after starter E.J. Manuel left in the third with a shoulder injury, Oklahoma's offensive line dominated. Tailback Dominique Whaley carried seven straight times to set up the score.

"We were proud of the way we finished the game at the end," Oklahoma co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell said. "That was really important to us."

That could be sensed in Stoops' postgame news conference. He talked about how proud he was of his team's character and poise in the fourth quarter.

After the game, he said he told his team it might have been the best "character" fourth quarter since Oklahoma's victory at Texas A&M in the 2000 season, the same season the Sooners won the national championship.

"It's pleasing to win that way," Stoops said.

But what will matter most for Oklahoma in the weeks to come in games against No. 23 Texas and No. 9 Texas A&M, as well at No. 8 Oklahoma State, will be how much Jones' leadership grew Saturday night.

"I think I made some strides in that area," he said.

His confidence showed after the game, too. Towards the end of Stoops' postgame news conference, Jones interrupted from just outside the door and yelled, "I'm ready to go home."

Of course, Jones did, because even with Saturday's win, he has only a 5-5 record on the road as a starter the past two seasons. It's away from home where he must keep his confidence, or next time, he'll be the one being mocked again.

Tagged: Florida State, Florida, Oklahoma, Texas, Landry Jones, Kenny Stills

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