Sept. 5, 2009 at Cowboys Stadium marked the beginning of Landry Jones' career as an Oklahoma Sooner. Jan. 4, 2012 at Cowboys Stadium will signal the end. In between, the senior quarterback has left an indelible legacy on the OU program.
The Big 12's all-time leader in passing yards and total offense, Jones spoke to the media Monday morning and sounded like a player that is accepting of his college career coming to a close.
"I'm just really thankful, not many people get to play 52 games in their career," he said. "I'm thankful for what I've been able to do and the position that God has put me in to be on this team and part of this university and play as long as I have."
Hearing from different facets of the Oklahoma offense Monday reinforced just how much of an impact Jones has had as a Sooner.
"He's represented the University of Oklahoma about as well as you can," junior offensive lineman Gabe Ikard said. "As talented as he is on the field, he's a better guy off the field."
"He's a great player," junior fullback Trey Millard added. "It's been a blessing to play with him these last three years."
Though Friday will be Jones' final game as a Sooner, he said that he is ready for the next chapter in his life.
"It's been exciting to be in college and be here at the University of Oklahoma, but me and [wife] Whitney are both excited about the new chapter."
BC-what? The Sooners have long forgotten about the evening of December 2, when they learned they wouldn't be playing in a BCS bowl. That's because from their perspective, it doesn't feel any different. The Oklahoma football program has been treated like royalty since stepping foot in the Gaylord Texan on Sunday.
"This is the best bowl experience I've had for sure," junior center Gabe Ikard said. "It's an amazing hotel. We're practicing in Cowboys Stadium. They're treating us absolutely fantastic. Coach Stoops made it clear that we were going to a bowl that did it right. Every negative thought I had about not playing in a BCS game is gone because this is as good as it gets."
While the elite hospitality has been unique itself, the week kicked off Saturday evening with a welcome dinner with both teams at Cowboys Stadium.
"It's really neat," Millard said. "I think it's kind of cool the first thing we did was the opening ceremony, being in the same room as Texas A&M. This is the first bowl I've been to that I've actually seen the other team prior to the game, which is kind of a different experience but it's definitely neat. The people here treat us awesome so it really does feel like a BCS bowl. It's just a great experience."
On 10 occasions this season, the Sooners have put points on the board first, including eight situations that went to the end zone. Coming into the game focused and getting off to a fast start has been a key to the Sooners' 10-2 record and Cotton Bowl berth, a trend that will hopefully continue Friday.
"It's huge," Millard said. "You kind of get more control for the game almost. If you get out to a big early lead, it limits some of the things that (the opponent) can do. It just kind of changes the game so you definitely want to get out to that early lead so that you can continue to make big plays."
That point has been driven home throughout OU's Cotton Bowl preparations, as the Sooners are well aware they're facing a high-powered Texas A&M squad that ranks third in both total offense and scoring offense.
"It's real important, especially when you're playing against a team like A&M," senior wide receiver Justin Brown said. "They're an explosive offense and an explosive team in itself. It's going to be real important to get off to a fast start, and not only a fast start but you have to keep playing each snap like it could be a big play."