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Sooners' Jones moving out of Bradford's shadow

Wednesday, October 20, 2010 | 9:06 p.m. CDT; updated 11:58 p.m. CDT, Thursday, October 21, 2010
Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones, right, watches his pass in the first quarter of Saturday's game against Iowa State. Oklahoma won 52-0.

NORMAN, Okla. — Landry Jones started out this season by saying he wasn't trying to mimic Sam Bradford.

His latest performance was a pretty good impression.

Jones, who replaced the injured Heisman Trophy winner last year, delivered what by one standard was the most efficient passing performance in Oklahoma history and narrowly missed the NCAA record for accuracy.

"If it wasn't for Sam, everybody'd be going crazy about him," coach Bob Stoops said. "He's pretty special, and he's only going to keep getting better."

It may take some time for Jones to get out of Bradford's shadow, but he's making progress while leading No. 3 Oklahoma (6-0, 2-0 Big 12) to a perfect start and the top spot in the BCS standings.

He completed 30 of 34 passes for 334 yards and three touchdowns in Oklahoma's 52-0 victory against Iowa State on Saturday night. With one more completion, he would have matched the NCAA accuracy record held by current Washington coach, Steve Sarkisian, who hit on 31 of 34 passes against Fresno State when he played for BYU in 1995.

"A pretty good night," Jones called it.

His precision, the best of any Sooners quarterback who threw at least 25 passes in a game, boosted his completion percentage to 67.4 this season, nearly 10 points higher than it was in his debut season. He ranks ninth in the nation with 299 passing yards per game, along with 14 TDs and three interceptions heading into Saturday night's showdown at No. 18 Missouri (6-0, 2-0).

Stoops agreed with an assessment that Jones has performed at a higher level than any sophomore quarterback he's had aside from Bradford. That includes Jason White, who won the Heisman in 2003 as a junior and led the Sooners to the national title game as a senior.

"He's been playing really pretty good," quarterbacks coach Josh Heupel said. "I think he's done a great job of taking care of the football, he's completed a bunch of balls, he hasn't had many misreads, he's throwing it on time. He needs to continue to do that, and he'll give us a chance on Saturday."

Jones, a 6-foot-4 native of Artesia, N.M., struggled at times last season, particularly away from home. He threw five interceptions in a loss at Nebraska and two in a relief role against Texas. Late in the season, he realized that he wasn't giving himself a chance to succeed.

"I really learned how to prepare for a game and getting in the film room and knowing my reads like the back of my hand," Jones said. "Whatever defense they throw at me, I have an answer."

Oklahoma's no-huddle offense requires Jones to quickly read the defense, make snap decisions on where the ball is headed and get it there right away. While there are deep passes mixed in, many of Jones' throws come on screen passes to Ryan Broyles and the rest of the receivers.

"He's been accurate with some of our quick and intermediate game, which is a major part of what we're doing," Heupel said. "The accuracy of those things allows for the yards after the catch, which are critical to you moving the chains, so we need to continue to do that."

Bradford was at his best on the quick throws and finished his career as not just the most prolific but the most accurate passer in school history at 67.6 percent for his career. With a supporting cast that's still proving itself, Jones doesn't have the yardage and touchdown numbers Bradford had — yet he has led the Sooners to a 6-0 start, something his predecessor was never able to do.

"He's handling the calls, the checks, the tempo at the line really just wonderfully and spreading the ball around, throwing great balls," Stoops said. "He's just got a great arm and really getting a good feel for everything that he's doing."

He also has discovered a direction for his life after football. He revealed earlier this season that he plans to enter the ministry when he's done playing.

"Landry's playing at a really high level. Last year, even during some struggles, there weren't a lot of major things that he was doing wrong," Heupel said. "There might have been a play or two he wanted to take back, and that's the difference between a really good quarterback and a good quarterback."

Saturday's game

No. 3 Oklahoma Sooners (6-0, 2-0)
at No. 18 Missouri Tigers (6-0, 2-0)

WHEN: 7 p.m.
WHERE:
Memorial Stadium, Columbia
RADIO:
KTGR/1580 AM and 100.5 FM, KCQM/96.7 FM - Mike Kelly (play-by-play), John Kadlec (color), Chris Gervino (sidelines)
TV:
ABC Sports - Brent Musburger (play-by-play), Kirk Herbstreit (analyst), Erin Andrews (sideline reporter)
SERIES:
Oklahoma leads, 66-23-5 and has won seven straight since Missouri’s last win in 1998.



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