NORMAN, Okla. – It took Oklahoma junior quarterback Blake Bell 24 hours to become himself again after redshirt freshman Trevor Knight was named OU’s starter last month.
It took Bell one play to get OU fans excited. And one drive to get the Sooners on the scoreboard en route to a history-making day for Bell.
Bell was 27-of-37 for 413 yards and four touchdowns as OU rolled to a 51-20 victory against visiting Tulsa on Saturday afternoon.
“It was awesome. Nothing better,” said Bell about his performance in his first start. “There were a lot of ups and down in the last month, but I just put my head down and went to work.”
Bell saw spot duty in the last two weeks. The first time he had the spotlight was Saturday, and he took full advantage of it. The 413 yards is the most ever for an OU quarterback in his first start, surpassing the mark set by Sam Bradford.
And so much for the quarterback controversy. OU coach Bob Stoops wouldn’t say if Bell was given the start because of a knee injury to Knight. Perhaps we’ll never know. But we do know who is going to be taking the snaps two weeks when OU, now 3-0, goes on the road at Notre Dame.
Bell was named the starting quarterback by Stoops following the game, and Stoops said Bell’s performance was the story of the game.
Bell orchestrated a 12-play, 72-yard drive to begin what turned out to be an offensive clinic for the Sooners. OU closed with 607 yards of total offense.
“He took care of the ball, was really decisive, had good command,” OU offensive coordinator Josh Heupel said. “Did all the things you need your quarterback to do.”
The command of the offense cannot be understated nor can Bell’s ability to make plays to keep OU possessions going. The Sooners were 12-of-16 on third down conversions.
Heupel said earlier in the week the offense would be tailored to fit Bell’s strengths. We found what that meant were a lot of four-wide sets and a career day for sophomore wide receiver Sterling Shepard.
Shepard entered the game with three catches in the first two games. He had eight catches for 123 yards and two touchdowns, career highs across the board.
Bell spread the wealth as six OU players had at least two receptions, and the offense received a spark from senior wide receiver Jaz Reynolds. He had four catches for 109 yards, including an 82-yarder in the first quarter.
“This is what we expected from Blake,” Reynolds said. “He prepared hard all week and did what we know he is capable of doing.”
The preparation was key, said Bell. He gave a lot of credit to Heupel for getting him ready to make his first start. All things considered, Bell said he had few nerves.
“I went out and played ball,” Bell said. “I prepared every day. It was all I could do. I can’t wait to get in there tomorrow and look at the film.”
Bell became a name to watch the last two seasons with the BellDozer package. That package was nowhere to be seen Saturday. Bell rushed for 24 yards, but he certainly wasn’t looking to lower his shoulder and deliver a blow.
Most predicted this was going to be Bell’s team from the start. The word from the coaches was Knight was more consistent during camp. Bell was at a crossroads.
“It was rough,” Bell said. “Not fun. Not what you want to hear. But all I could do is keep moving forward.”
And now the Sooners offense is going to move forward with Bell leading the charge.