For the second year in a row, the Sooners made the trek west and triumphed, defeating the Iowa Hawkeyes 31-14 Friday evening at Sun Devil Stadium in the Insight Bowl to finish the year 10-3.
“I’m proud of them to be here winning our 10th game, finishing the season this way for some of the seniors to leave on a [high note], you know, with their third straight bowl win,” said head coach Bob Stoops. “And that gives--they kind of present then the team coming back with some momentum for the off-season, and hopefully we can build on it.”
Something they built on this night was quarterback Blake Bell and the Belldozer package.
The true freshman scored three touchdowns, of 4-, 4- and 21-yards, respectively en route to earning the Offensive Most Valuable Player Award.
“It was awesome,” Bell said. “It is something you always dream about as a kid, coming to a big game and getting MVP. Like I said, it all starts up with the line. And coaching staff prepared us this week. And, like I said, Landry just getting it down. It is a team effort. And I’m happy for the seniors to go out on a win.”
A true team effort, it was.
The defense stifled Iowa for a large portion of the game with the exception of some big plays in the fourth quarter that allowed the Hawkeyes to get back into it.
Other than that, they were solid in limiting Iowa to 292 yards of total offense and just 76 on the ground.
Star wide receiver Marvin McNutt, the all-time leading receiver in Iowa history, managed just four catches for 46 yards because of the lockdown defense by Sooner boundary corner Jamell Fleming.
“I feel like I’m the best DB,” Fleming said. “I want to be the best DB, so I’m going against a great receiver having that challenge, that’s important to me.”
Fleming helped the Sooners get going and on the board early when he picked off a James Vandenberg pass and returned it 21 yards down inside the 10.
Bell capitalized in the Belldozer formation with his first touchdown of the night, a 4-yard run, to make it 7-0.
After OU’s offense was virtually anemic in the first quarter--netting just seven total yards--the Sooners picked it up some in the second quarter.
Quarterback Landry Jones guided the Sooners down field and scrambled for a crucial first down before he was hammered at the end of the play, resulting in a personal foul.
Bell finished the drive off with another 4-yard touchdown scamper around the right side.
“Landry is the one that gets me down there when I punch it in,” Bell said. “So, I give most of the credit to him. And Coach Stoops was saying the offensive line, and another hat out there. Those guys are getting on guys and it is making it easy for me to get in it.”
That was all the scoring for the first half, as both offenses really struggled.
Iowa actually finished the first half with more yards of total offense than the Sooners (134-89).
But OU had the two-touchdown lead, nonetheless.
It stayed that way until midway through the third quarter when Jones found tight end Trent Ratterree for a 4-yard touchdown pass, ending a streak of 15 quarters without a touchdown pass.
That one, the first since star slot receiver Ryan Broyles was laying on the training table during the Texas A&M game, ran the score to 21-0.
“Yeah, it’s always fun throwing a touchdown, especially if you are a quarterback,” Jones said. “It is a blessing whenever you get a chance to throw one in. And Rat did a good job of slipping past the corner and put it in the corner of the end zone for him.”
The score could have been worse, however, had Jones not thrown an interception inside the 5-yard line earlier in the quarter.
As it was, though, OU had a three score lead at the time.
Iowa finally ended the shutout early in the fourth quarter when quarterback James Vandenberg found tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz for a 5-yard touchdown pass.
They closed to within one score when Vandenberg found his running back, Jordan Canzeri for a 9-yard score with 6:56 remaining.
That’s as close as they got, however, as Sooner place kicker Mike Hunnicutt put OU back up two scores with a 35-yard field goal at the 2:28 mark.
“Michael Hunnicutt comes out when he has to have it and kicks as excellent field goal,” Stoops said. “So, all those [special teams] guys did a really good job.”
Punter Tress Way tied an Insight Bowl record with his 67 yard punt earlier in the game.
Bell capped off all the scoring when he recorded his third touchdown, a 21-yard scamper in the final minute.
With the win, OU tallied its NCAA-leading 33rd 10-win season and heads into next year on a positive note after faltering down the stretch and coming up short of the Big 12 Championship.
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