OU football: Jones' last-minute effort leads Sooners to 50-49 win over Mountaineers
With just over seven minutes left in Saturday’s game, the Oklahoma football team was behind on the road against a West Virginia team that had found a diamond within its roster.
OU’s defense couldn’t find an answer for WVU’s senior wide receiver-turned-tailback Tavon Austin, who singlehandedly dismantled the Sooner rush defense while senior quarterback Geno Smith connected with junior receiver Stedman Bailey for three touchdowns in the fourth quarter that gave WVU two separate leads late in the game.
But even as the defense kept trying to play catch up with the trio of WVU’s playmakers, senior quarterback Landry Jones simply wouldn’t go down without a fight.
After standing on the sideline to give way to the Belldozer scheme during the third-down call inside the red zone with 27 seconds left and a five-point deficit, Jones was put back in on the fourth-down attempt for one last play with the game on the line.
The senior stepped up big to deliver the game-winning touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Kenny Stills that ended up being the game’s 50-49 final score.
The play gave Jones his final 554 yards — an OU single-game record — and his sixth touchdown, and more importantly the Sooners’ sixth consecutive conference win of the season.
Although the game literally came down to a single throw by Jones, OU’s offensive ability to put up points throughout the game also kept the Sooners in the game when the team’s defense started to stumble after halftime.
At the half, OU headed into the locker room with a comfortable 14-point lead following Jones’ three touchdown passes backed by an early field goal and rushing touchdown by junior running back Damien Williams. It looked like the Sooner offense was coasting to a win over an opponent that entered the contest with a four-game losing streak.
But the Sooners’ best-laid plans to keep WVU on edge during the second half were thwarted by Austin’s prolific performance that allowed the senior to finish with 572 all-purpose yards, a Big 12 record.
And that meant Jones needed to get his third-quarter, sputtering offense back on track if the Sooners were going to escape with the team’s first win in Morgantown, W.V.
At the beginning of the fourth quarter, OU had a 38-30 lead with the ball on their own 40-yard line. But four plays later, Jones underthrew Stills near the WVU endzone and was picked off at the three-yard line to negate a Sooner scoring opportunity. The OU defense then allowed West Virginia to complete a five-play, 97-yard drive for the touchdown to move within two points of the Sooners following a failed two-point conversion.
Another miscue on a handoff at midfield for the Sooners on the next possession forced OU to punt when the team needed to answer WVU’s newfound offensive life.
WVU then made quick work, needing just two plays during the next drive to take the lead with 7:12 left in the fourth quarter, introducing a new leader to the mix.
The Sooners hadn’t scored at this point since the 11:54 mark of the third quarter, and WVU looked all but unstoppable against an OU defense that spent most of its time looking at the backs of Bailey and Austin.
But OU’s veterans on offense found a way to drudge up the fourth quarter, Sooner Magic to come from behind to win the game.
After trading touchdowns halfway through the fourth, OU marched 42 yards to the Mountaineers’ 12 yard line with less than three minutes left in the game. A field goal wouldn’t be enough to retake the lead, and because WVU was scoring at a lightening-fast pace, the Sooners also needed to manage the game clock wisely while finding a way into the endzone.
The Sooners then called for a running play by Williams that resulted in a two-yard loss to set up second down-and-12 before Jones connected with senior wide receiver Justin Brown for a 10 yard gain.
Then, sophomore quarterback Blake Bell was stuffed for a one-yard loss on third down, which resulted in the coaches opting to reinsert OU’s senior starting quarterback.
With the weight of the game on his shoulders during a game in mid November, Jones delivered the knockout punch in a game that was statistically one of the senior’s best performances. The sixth touchdown pass of the night also moved Jones up to 117 career touchdown passes, good enough for second place in the Big 12 record books and sixth-all time in the NCAA record books.
Although OU by far wasn’t impressed with the defense’s surrender of 778 offensive yards in the game, Jones proved — at least during this game — that offenses can win ball games.