Sooners confident Jones will return to form
OCT 03, 2012 1:38p ET
NORMAN, Okla. -- There's no chance anyone knows who's going to run the ball this Saturday for Oklahoma against undefeated Texas Tech.
We don't know who the go-to receivers are going to be, either.
On defense, we don't know if the Sooners will be able to somehow separate themselves from the mighty Buffalo Bulls, a team with which OU is tied for last in the country in turnovers created. Both teams have one.
The only thing we know for sure is the Sooners are going to tell everyone Landry Jones is absolutelyjustthisclose to having a really good game, despite the lack of empirical evidence and despite the fact he's buried in a deep, deep slump.
Take away the turnovers, and he did some really nice things, says co-offensive coordinator Josh Heupel. Good point. Take away Nolan Ryan's no-hitters and strikeouts and he's just an ordinary pitcher, too. Good quarterbacks don't throw interceptions or fumble with such frequency. Great pitchers throw lots of no-hitters.
The thing is, no matter what the excuses or what the expectations are, OU coaches are set in their belief that because Jones was once great, he will be again.
The rest of us? Well, it's hard to believe something your eyes don't see and it takes some prodding and a good memory to play the "remember when" game about the glory days from Jones.
The Sooners are 2-1 but haven't played well, certainly haven't improved and haven't inspired any amount of confidence. That's manifested through what Jones has done – or not done. But really, it goes farther back than that.
Jones hasn't been the same since receiver Ryan Broyles got hurt against Texas A&M in November of last season. He has a lower passer rating now than he did as a freshman. The 300- and 400-yard passing games are gone. So, it seems, is the confidence, the sharpness, the wins.
Except when talking to those around Jones.
"He's had a bad game and responded well in the past," Heupel said. "There's no reason he can't do the exact same thing. There's no reason to believe he can't play extremely well for four quarters."
Since Broyles went down with that knee injury , Jones has thrown for 300 or more yards once. He has eight touchdowns and eight interceptions in that same span. His bad games – a 27-for-50 showing and three turnovers against Oklahoma State last season, was followed up by 161 yard, 16-for-25 effort with one turnover and one interception in the Insight Bowl win over Iowa.
There's no reason, Heupel says, Jones can't play well for four quarters. OK, but what reasons are there to think he will? Jones threw for 299 yards last week but fumbled once right up next to his goal line. He threw a crippling interception later and could have easily been responsible for a few more turnovers if not for an opportunistic call and some gracious Kansas State defenders.
The Sooner coaches clearly aren't opposed to tinkering and fiddling with the offense. They did it last year when they introduced the highly successful Belldozer. They do it on a weekly basis by changing running backs, receivers and offensive tempo early and often.
But the OU coaches are limited with Jones. Putting in a back-up isn't the answer. The only thing they can really do with Jones is wait and hope he regains the form he showed in 2009 and perfected in 2010 when he finished the season with seven games in a row where he went over 290 yards passing.
Bob Stoops said nothing major needs to happen. You know, eliminate the small mistakes, tidy up some of the inefficiency that seems to have a chokehold on the offense. But Stoops also says running back Damien Williams needs more carries, yet it was Dominique Whaley who started against Kansas State. Receiver Sterling Shepard looks like the best receiver on the team, going for 108 yards on eight catches against Kansas State, but Stoops endorses him by saying, "We'll see."
Running back Roy Finch has looked great, then gone absent. Receiver Trey Metoyer was talked up by the coaches during preseason, but he has 90 yards total this season.
Jones has done the tinkering on his own, heading to California to work with quarterback guru George Whitfield to improve on foot work and other details. The coaches aren't going to do much more than wait and be patient.
"We talk to him every day," co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell said. "All the time. That's our job, to talk to these guys. We talk to him. I've talked to him. Josh (Heupel) has talked to him. Bob (Stoops) has talked to him. Everybody. We just need to find ways to play better at every position. We have to get into a groove and play with some rhythm and confidence."
Can that happen?
"I don't think it was Landry's fault against Kansas State," receiver Kenny Stills said. "All of us didn't play well at the same time. We weren't on the same page. He takes a lot of the blame though, and we all start playing well, this offense will start to click."
It could happen, sure, but it's going to take Jones to make it so. And all anyone is going to do is wait and see if it does.
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