COLUMN: Jones' legendary career ends on sour note with Cotton Bowl blowout
Evin Morrison, The Oklahoma Daily
ARLINGTON, Texas — A handful of reporters and bowl officials anxiously stood outside of the entrance of the home locker room at Cowboys Stadium, waiting for senior quarterback Landry Jones’ final interview as a Sooner.
The air was heavy with the sharp, smoky stench of gas exhaust, and the high-pitched whine of a hydraulic lift reverberated off the charcoal brick walls of the tunnel. After about five minutes, Jones emerged from the locker room entrance’s black double doors, wearing a tired, solemn expression.
He greeted the reporters cordially and answered a few questions before following his teammates out of the tunnel to the team bus. And just like that, Jones’ time at Oklahoma was done.
A legendary career ended at the same place where it had begun four years earlier.
Few would recognize Jones today as the same quarterback who failed to ignite the Sooners’ sputtering offense against BYU in 2009 after starter Sam Bradford left the game with a shoulder injury. But since then, Jones has rewritten the record books at one of the most storied programs in college football — topping virtually every statistical category.
And like Bradford before him, Jones chose to return to school despite being eligible to leave for a lucrative contract in the NFL.
“He came back to try to lead us to a national championship,” junior offensive lineman Gabe Ikard said. “But we dropped some games against some really good teams. I feel just disappointed that he’s going out this way, getting beat like that.”
No kidding. Tonight’s game — at least the second half — was a bitter end to one of the greatest careers in the history of college football.
“It was obvious tonight that we didn’t play the way we should have played,” Jones said. “We couldn’t run it. We couldn’t throw it. It is what it is.”
Jones’ disappointment was palpable as he spoke of his team’s pitiful second-half performance. After setting a Cotton Bowl record for completions in the first half with 23, Jones and the Sooners’ offense stumbled out of the gates in the second half with three straight three-and-outs — resulting in a three-touchdown swing for Texas A&M — before eventually losing to the Aggies, 41-13.
“I wish I could have played better in the second half,” Jones said. “I wish we all could have played better in the second half, but in the game of football, sometimes things happen like that.”
But no matter how painful his final loss, he’ll be remembered more for his accomplishments than his failures.
“He’s been an incredibly positive influence on the football team in every way,” coach Bob Stoops said. “We’ll miss him. He’s been a great, great player.”
Jones isn’t without his flaws. His ability to perform on the road was questionable until this season, and he doesn’t have the most impressive record in big games, among other things.
But he’ll still go down as the winningest quarterback in OU history, topping a list that includes such greats as Jack Mildren, Steve Davis, Jamelle Holieway, Josh Heupel, Jason White and Bradford.
“Obviously, Landry is one of the most underappreciated talents we’ve had around here, just setting all kinds of records,” Ikard said. “All he got was criticism about us losing games, when normally it wasn’t ever much of his fault.”
And that might be Landry’s legacy: The quarterback no one truly appreciated until he was gone.