NORMAN, Okla. — Landry Jones learned earlier in the week that Sam Bradford wouldn’t be returning this season, leaving Jones as the full-time, rather than fill-in, starting quarterback for No. 22 Oklahoma.
His comfort level is increasing with every start, and that’s one reason Oklahoma’s offense is beginning to catch up to its defense. In his fifth start, the redshirt freshman completed 26 of 37 passes for 294 yards and four touchdowns in the Sooners’ 42-30 victory over Kansas State on Saturday night.
“The most exciting part of tonight was when the offense answered back when it had to,” Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. “… It’s a sign we’re becoming a more complete team.”
Running back DeMarco Murray returned from a one-game absence due to an ankle injury and scored three touchdowns for Oklahoma (5-3, 3-1 Big 12). The Sooners jumped ahead 21-0 and hung on while Kansas State (5-4, 3-2) twice closed to within five points in the second half.
In the fourth quarter, Jones went 10 of 10 passing while Murray scored twice, on a 6-yard reception and a 3-yard run, helping the Sooners hold their lead.
“Every game you just have to keep getting better,” Jones said. “And I’m getting better. I’m seeing the stuff easier out on the field and seeing the coverages more.”
Bradford, who won the Heisman Trophy last season, announced last Sunday he would undergo season-ending surgery and likely enter the NFL draft. Jones’ teammates said they have confidence in his ability to lead the Sooners the rest of the season.
“Landry is growing each week,” Murray said. “He’s a great player and a great competitor. He knows the job is his now.”
Oklahoma’s defense, so strong in a close loss to No. 3 Texas and in a rout of then-No. 24 Kansas, came through in the final minutes against the Wildcats. The Sooners stopped Kansas State on downs at the K-State 41 with 4:10 left and Quinton Carter intercepted a pass from Grant Gregory at the Oklahoma 2 with 42 seconds left.
The Wildcats’ Brandon Banks returned a fourth-quarter kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown, the fifth time he’s scored on a kickoff return in his career and the fourth time this season — both Big 12 records. He also caught nine passes for 156 yards.
“Brandon played well in a lot of different ways,” Kansas State coach Bill Snyder said. “…You begin to expect him to do some things with kickoff returns. But I thought he went up and competed well and made some catches in coverage.”
Kansas State remained atop the conference’s North Division despite the loss.
DeJuan Miller, who had 11 catches all season entering the game, led the Sooners with nine for 94 yards, while Ryan Broyles had eight for 91 yards and two touchdowns. Oklahoma has won 28 straight home games, the longest active streak in the Bowl Subdivision.
Kansas State hasn’t won at Oklahoma since 1997.
“A loss is a loss,” Snyder said. “I think the fact the youngsters did come back and made the effort and got back in the ballgame, I think that is a positive.
“You have got to be proud of the fact that they didn’t give up, which I am.”
Early on, it looked as if the Sooners would run away from the Wildcats, as Oklahoma needed just four plays to score on each of its first two possessions. Jones hit Broyles for a 15-yard touchdown 73 seconds into the game, and his 23-yard scoring pass to Miller made it 14-0. Oklahoma scored again on its next possession, as Jones and Broyles connected on a 2-yard touchdown pass with 4:40 still left in the first quarter.
Keithen Valentine’s 2-yard touchdown run made it 21-6 in the second quarter, but Oklahoma’s Adrian Taylor blocked the extra-point kick. A 44-yard run by Oklahoma’s Chris Brown to the Kansas State 5 set up a 1-yard scoring run by Murray.
Valentine’s 14-yard touchdown run on a fourth-and-1 play and a 2-point conversion early in the third quarter made it 28-17. After Oklahoma went 3-and-out, the Wildcats went on a 75-yard touchdown drive, highlighted by a 41-yard halfback pass from Daniel Thomas to Banks. Oklahoma’s Auston English blocked the attempt, leaving the Sooners up 28-23.
A holding penalty wiped out a 38-yard touchdown pass from Jones to Broyles, and a subsequent unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Broyles gave Oklahoma a first-and-45 late in the third quarter, but the Sooners picked up the first down, thanks to an 18-yard reception by Murray and a 25-yard catch-and-run by Broyles.
Murray closed the drive with his 6-yard touchdown catch, but Banks returned the ensuing kickoff for a score, making it 35-30 with 11:18 left.
Thomas, who entered the game as the Big 12’s leading rusher, carried 16 times for 88 yards. Gregory completed 19 of 30 passes for 174 yards.