A rare tri­fecta for Soon­ers

Ok­la­homa will be first team since 1993 to face all three top Heis­man fin­ish­ers.

Austin American-Statesman - - COLLEGE FOOTBALL - By Mur­ray Evans

NORMAN, OklA. — So which of the three fi­nal­ists for the Heis­man Tro­phy really has been col­lege foot­ball’s best player this sea­son? Check back with the Ok­la­homa Soon­ers af­ter the Cot­ton Bowl and they could of­fer an ed­u­cated opin­ion.

No. 12 Ok­la­homa (10-2) will com­plete a Heis­man tri­fecta of sorts when the Soon­ers face No. 10 Texas A&M (10-2) in the Jan. 4 bowl game in Ar­ling­ton, Texas. The Ag­gies are led by quar­ter­back Johnny Manziel, who ear­lier this month be­came the first fresh­man to win the Heis­man and on Tues­day was named as the AP Player of the Year.

Ok­la­homa al­ready has faced the other two play­ers who fin­ished in the top three in the Heis­man bal­lot­ing: Notre Dame line­backer Manti Te’o and Kansas State quar­ter­back Collin Klein.

“Yeah, I’ve thought about that, be­lieve me,” Ok­la­homa coach Bob Stoops said Tues­day, ad­dress­ing re­porters for the first time since the Soon­ers closed the reg­u­lar sea­son with a 24-17 win over TCU. “They’re ex­cel­lent play­ers, all of them.”

Ok­la­homa will be­come the first team to face the top three fin­ish­ers in the Heis­man bal­lot­ing since 1993, when Florida played against Florida State and Heis­man win­ner Char­lie Ward, Ten­nessee and run­ner-up Heath Shuler and Alabama and third­place David Palmer.

Ok­la­homa quar­ter­back Landry Jones, a four-year starter for the Soon­ers, en­tered the sea­son on most Heis­man watch lists, but fell off with a cou­ple of sub­par early sea­son per­for­mances. He never moved back into se­ri­ous Heis­man con­tention de­spite pass­ing for 3,989 yards and 29 touch­downs with 10 in­ter­cep­tions.

Jones, who has a 39-10 ca­reer record as a starter, said he is cu­ri­ous about see­ing the player dubbed “Johnny Foot­ball” but doesn’t think he needs to mea­sure him­self against Manziel, who passed for 3,419 yards and 24 touch­downs with eight in­ter­cep­tions and rushed for 1,181 yards and 19 TDs.

“You play against so many good play­ers through­out the year,” Jones said. “I don’t know if it’s nec­es­sar­ily a chip on your shoul­der. It’s just more of a way where you want to go out and you want to com­pete the way you know you can com­pete. If he has a great game, he has a great game. I don’t really have any­thing to do with his play­ing and what he’ll do on Jan. 4.”

De­fen­sive tackle David King might, how­ever, and he said Manziel poses a dif­fer­ent chal­lenge to Ok­la­homa’s de­fense than do other quar­ter­backs, com­par­ing him with last year’s Heis­man win­ner, Robert Grif­fin III of Bay­lor.

“We can’t al­low him to just run on us all day,” King said. “Ob­vi­ously, that’s what he’s been do­ing and he’s been very suc­cess­ful. That’s a lot of how he won the Heis­man. He’s a play­maker. If it’s not there, he’s go­ing to just run and teams have had a hard time stop­ping him.

“We just have to have our best game of the sea­son by far in con­tain­ing him and not let­ting him do what he wants to do all night.”

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