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OU vet Jones vs. A&M's freshman Heisman at Cotton

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OU vet Jones vs. A&M's freshman Heisman at Cotton

IRVING, Texas (AP) Landry Jones is back where he made his Oklahoma debut, and again in the shadow of a Heisman Trophy winner.

Jones took over as the Sooners' quarterback in the first-ever college game at Cowboys Stadium, in the 2009 season opener when he replaced injured Heisman winner Sam Bradford after halftime.

Three seasons later in the same stadium, Jones will make his 50th and last career start. The 12th-ranked Sooners play the Cotton Bowl on Friday night against 10th-ranked Texas A&M and dual-threat quarterback Johnny Manziel, the first freshman to win the Heisman.

Jones has won 39 games while throwing for 16,368 yards and 122 touchdowns. There have been two Big 12 titles and three bowl victories, including the Fiesta Bowl.

``It's crazy, what a great quarterback he is,'' Manziel said. ``He's thrown for more than 3,000 yards every year. Just the things he's done at OU have been amazing. ... I was in high school for two years while he was in college. I'm a big fan. I think he's a great player.''

Manziel, meanwhile, burst on the scene in the Aggies' first SEC season with plenty of highlight plays and big numbers of his own.

The redshirt freshman known as Johnny Football has thrown for 3,419 yards with 24 touchdowns, and run for another 1,181 yards and 19 scores. His 4,600 total yards broke the SEC record, and he's only the fifth player with 3,000 yards passing and 1,000 yards rushing in the same season.

``It's a testament to what kind of player he is, what type of person he is to be able to come in and play as well as he did as a freshman,'' Jones said.

The Cotton Bowl matchup of 10-2 teams and former Big 12 rivals pits the steady veteran against the exciting 20-year-old freshman in only his 13th game but already with college football's highest individual award.

``He knows exactly what he can and can't do and he tries to do those things as well as he can, and certainly his ability to extend and create plays, there's not really a defense for that,'' Sooners defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said Tuesday.

Manziel got his chance as the Texas A&M starter after Ryan Tannehill was the eighth overall pick in the NFL draft last April. Aggies linebacker Jonathan Stewart remembers Manziel being erratic at times during spring drills, but saw a huge difference when fall practice got started.

``You could see him starting to try to be a true quarterback and not just a backyard quarterback, just trying to run around and improvise every single play,'' Stewart said. ``And then see him growing and growing all season, and then getting better and better every single week.''

Coach Kevin Sumlin announced Manziel as the starter two weeks before the season opener.

As a redshirt freshman, Jones was expected to back up Bradford, who as a sophomore the previous season won the Heisman Trophy as the Sooners made it to the BCS national championship game.

But Bradford injured his throwing shoulder when he was driven to the turf by a BYU defender in the opener. Jones took over after halftime and, except for two games Bradford played a few weeks later before leaving Oklahoma early for the NFL, has started every game since.

``Landry has had a long and great journey. It started here out of nowhere when Sam Bradford got hurt, and he genuinely could not wait for his opportunity,'' Sooners coach Bob Stoops said. ``Through the year he did a great job in tough circumstances with the other guys around him that were hurt. He has grown and developed through the years. ... It has been special. He has been a great QB for us.''

Asked about his confidence going into any game with Jones, Stoops responded, ``We have great confidence in Landry and we recognize what a great quarterback Johnny Manziel is, but we love our quarterback as well.''

As much as the Aggies love Manziel.

Texas A&M, like Oklahoma, enters the Cotton Bowl with a five-game winning streak. That includes a 29-24 win at then top-ranked Alabama, the SEC champion playing in the BCS national title game next week against No. 1 Notre Dame, the last team to beat the Sooners.

``You've got one guy that's been doing it for a long time, then you've got Johnny, who's been doing it for a year. But I'm confident in Johnny because he plays with a motor,'' Aggies receiver Ryan Swope said. ``He's got a lot of confidence on the field. When the light's flick on, it's game time for him. He's been huge for us.''

Just imagine what Manziel might be able to accomplish in 50 starts if he keeps up what he's already doing.

``That will be interesting,'' Swope said with a smile. ``He's got a bright, bright career ahead of him.''

For Jones, the Cotton Bowl is the finale of the career when he holds Sooner records for wins, passing yards, TD passes, pass attempts and completions. His Big 12-record 16,368 yards are nearly twice as many as No. 2 Bradford's 8,403, and he's doubled the attempts and completions of Josh Heupel, now the Sooners' quarterbacks coach and co-offensive coordinator.

``It's just been a ride. I'm extremely blessed to have come this far in my career and have a chance to end it where it started,'' Jones said. ``It's starting to hit me knowing that this is my last game, and wanting to go out on a positive note.

``I can still remember the first day and moving into the dorms and getting on campus,'' he said. ``It definitely has flown by.''

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Wizards coach Scott Brooks issues strong defense of John Wall after win over Clippers

Wizards coach Scott Brooks issues strong defense of John Wall after win over Clippers

After his team showed resilience in erasing a 24-point lead to beat the L.A. Clippers on Tuesday night, head coach Scott Brooks swept aside an opportunity to fire back at critics of himself and his team following a barrage of negative headlines in recent days.

Brooks did, however, take the time to address one particular angle of the whole mess. He issued a passionate defense of his star point guard, John Wall, who has been at the center of the controversies surrounding the organization.

Brooks and Wall had an altercation last week during practice that led to Wall receiving a fine from the team. Brooks spoke at length about the incident itself at shootaround. After Tuesday's win, he honed in on a specific criticism of Wall, that he is out of shape and not giving an honest effort on the floor.

"John, he's been taking hits. Let's face it," Brooks said. "You hear all the reports that he's heavy. The guy has seven percent body fat..."

"He's in great shape. I like the way he plays. He plays hard."

Brooks went on to point out how Wall hasn't been playing at 100 percent for much of this season. Wall has dealt with a deep thigh bruise and it's partly to explain for the Wizards' 6-11 start.

The overall numbers look about how they should for Wall.

He's averaging 21.5 points, 7.9 assists, 3.4 rebounds, 2.0 steals and 1.2 blocks while shooting 44.4 percent from the field. But his defense has been lacking and he's not getting the assists he usually collects because he hasn't had the same burst in transition.

Playing through injuries is always tricky for professional athletes. When people know they're hurt, that effort is often appreciated. But when the injuries aren't disclosed, fans and members of the media can only draw conclusions based on what they see.

Brooks explained in detail why he thinks Wall should be cut some slack for his start to the season.

"He's a warrior. There's a lot of guys that I've seen in my playing career that they love to sit out. They're just talented and they've got talented contracts. They sit out and you can't do anything about it. You admire and you appreciate and you celebrate the guys that play hard. You don't have to tell the world that he's banged up," Brooks said.

"He didn't say one word and I wasn't gonna say it. It's over. He's feeling great. He's fought. He's not gonna tell the world 'look at me, I'm sore.' He doesn't want your sympathy. He just fights and he plays the right way. He plays hard."

Brooks is clearly trying to stick up for his star player and change the current media narrative.

As long as the Wizards win, that shouldn't be hard to do.

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Emotional John Wall opens up about trade rumors, coming arrival of son after comeback win

Emotional John Wall opens up about trade rumors, coming arrival of son after comeback win

The subject of trade rumors and reports of in-fighting at Wizards practice over the past few days, John Wall proved his worth to the Wizards on the court Tuesday night. 

Washington trailed the Clippers by as many as 24 points, but Wall helped orchestrate a furious comeback which concluded in a 125-118 Washington win. Wall led all scorers with 30 points and dished out eight assists. 

After the game, Wall opened up to NBC Sports Washington's Chris Miller about the cloud of controversy which has surrounded the Wizards this week, as well as a far more serious matter in his personal life: he's gonna be a dad soon!

"It's amazing, man. All the heart and effort and drive I've had for this organization, this team, to hear certain things like being traded, I try to stay focused," he told Miller. "Focused on getting ready to have my new son, trying to turn this organization around, this franchise around and win some games."

"All it is is go out there and compete, dog. All of us go out here and compete, that's one thing I always did since day one is give everything I got. And to hear those type of things, it's kind of funny. It's frustrating at the same time, but I've been through worse things. I just stand over top of all that."

And as his coach, Scott Brooks, has been preaching over the last few weeks, Wall believes the only way the Wizards turn around their season is if they show one thing: effort. 

"It's just about effort, man. Effort and heart," he said. "I've been preaching that since I've been here from day one, and in the second half we gave a lot of effort and heart. That's why we came back and fought hard, and got a great win that we needed."

"In the first half, we didn't play with no energy, no sense of urgency, and they beat the brakes off of us. We got to find a way to dig deep, and we made some big shots and got some big stops."

"It's not where we want to be, it's not where we started. Dealing with injuries, dealing with those type of things, you make no excuses. Whoever step between these lines, you go out there and compete, and that's all I ask for the14 guys, including myself, is to go play hard.

It's far too early to declare it as such, but if the Wizards can build off of Tuesday's performance, it may very well be looked at as the night Wall and Washington turned their season around. 

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