By Jeff Latzke
NORMAN, Okla. —
Landry Jones wouldn't consider his career as Oklahoma's starting quarterback to be a mixed bag.
Entering his final home game Saturday night against No. 22 Oklahoma State (7-3, 5-2 Big 12), Jones chooses to focus on the highs he's experienced with the 14th-ranked Sooners (8-2, 6-1) and not the occasional fierce criticism he's endured.
Jones has won one Big 12 championship and is trying to keep Oklahoma in the mix for another, and he'll be going for his third Bedlam rivalry win — to go with three rivalry victories against Texas.
He's won the most games in school history and ranks fourth in Bowl Subdivision history with 15,624 yards.
That hasn't always been enough to win over his team's faithful followers because he's never put the Sooners in position to play for a national championship.
"There's been a lot of great players here, especially the guy I came after. Sam had done so many good things around this place. There are some high expectations of me here," Jones said. "But at the end of the day, I wanted to be who I was.
"I didn't want to be Sam. I didn't want to be Jason. If you try to do those things, you aren't going to live up to the capabilities of who you are as a player and as an individual."
As Jones makes his 48th career start, he'll be opposing Clint Chelf — who has gone from third-stringer to cult hero while winning his first two starts for Oklahoma State. He's earned an oddball nickname — "Choo Choo" — that's been perpetuated on Twitter, but more importantly the trust of his teammates and coaches.
After dancing around quarterback questions for months while dealing with injuries to starter Wes Lunt and backup J.W. Walsh, coach Mike Gundy has named Chelf his starter even though he says both of the others are available to play.
To some degree, it's vindication for Chelf after he waited his turn for two seasons behind Brandon Weeden and then finished third in a three-way competition this spring.
"That was the coaches' decision. You have to go with it sometimes, and it doesn't always work out for you. You've just got to keep working hard, and that's what I tried to do," Chelf said.
"I'm just happy that we're winning."
A Bedlam victory would be a big addition to either quarterback's resume. Jones won his first two starts against Oklahoma State before committing four turnovers in last year's 44-10 blowout loss.
The Sooners had a chance to earn a split of the Big 12 championship in that game, but instead allowed Oklahoma State to snap an eight-game losing streak in the series and win its first conference title outright.
"Beating OU was great and I think it just kind of proves that OSU isn't the little brother anymore," Cowboys defensive end Cooper Bassett said. "We're a team that's nationally ranked every year, we're at team who gets great recruits every year, we're a team that won the Big 12.
"We're the defending Big 12 champions. So, it's not the big brother-little brother effect anymore. I think that the gap is being closed immensely."
Jones and his Sooners are again flirting with the Big 12 title entering this year's game. They're currently tied with No. 6 Kansas State but could claim an outright championship by closing the season with back-to-back wins against OSU and TCU, plus a K-State loss to Texas.
At best, Oklahoma State can earn a share of the Big 12 title.
"It's kind of out of our hands, the Big 12 championship. But that would be huge for our program if we're able to sneak in there and get one this year," said Jones, who's 37-10 as a starter. "Some things have to happen for us to have that possibility. But you never know what's going to happen in college football."
Although his defense was shredded for a school-record 778 yards in a 50-49 win against West Virginia last week, Jones comes in on a high. He passed for an Oklahoma-record 554 yards and threw for six touchdowns, the last one a game-winner with 24 seconds left.
Even better, Jones' pass to Kenny Stills came after he audibled at the line on a fourth-and-3 play with the Sooners needing a touchdown.
"It didn't surprise me at all. Landry is one of the most productive players in the history of this conference, so for him to make those types of plays doesn't surprise me at all. He's capable of doing that all the time," co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell said.
"He's finishing his career, he's a fabulous player and I know he's going to be like a lot of the great players that have played here. When they're gone, you miss him."