DALLAS – The shoe was going to drop eventually for Oklahoma junior quarterback Blake Bell. It’s the law of percentages.
His first start against Tulsa went without a hitch. So conventional thinking was his first road start, especially at a school like Notre Dame, was going to rattle him. That didn’t happen.
Nobody was circling Oct. 12 and the Red River Rivalry against Texas. We should have. Bell picked the wrong time for OU fans to have his worst game of his career in a 36-20 loss to the Longhorns on Saturday afternoon at the Cotton Bowl.
Even when the OU offense hasn’t been rolling with Bell at the helm, it made the key play when it mattered. Even when the offense has been stumbling with Bell, it never turned the ball over.
The key plays weren’t made, and the turnovers were costly. Bell was 12-of-26 for 133 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions. He was also sacked four times.
“We didn’t play well as an offense,” Bell said. “It’s as simple as that.”
The tone was set early by the Longhorns (4-2, 3-0) as defensive tackle Chris Whaley had a 31-yard interception return for a touchdown in the first quarter. The pick was Bell’s first of the season, and he seemingly could never get back on track.
“Obviously you can’t turn the ball over in a rivalry game like this,” Bell said. “That’s big. Bottom line, we’ve just got to execute.”
Texas has been so susceptible to the zone read option at quarterback this season, but the Sooners (5-1, 2-1) failed to utilize that aspect of the offense.
OU offensive coordinator Josh Heupel said that wasn’t by design. He said the zone read was called several times, but either Texas made the adjustment or OU simply wasn’t effective. The idea of a quarterback change with Trevor Knight or Kendal Thompson was never considered.
Wide receivers Jalen Saunders and Sterling Shepard are the top two threats for OU. But for the second consecutive week they were bottled up.
Shepard, amazingly, finished without a catch. Saunders had three catches that totaled only 18 yards. Shepard had a 24-yard run on OU’s first play of scrimmage and never touched the ball again.
Everything is good when you’re winning. Now we’ll see how Bell and OU react as it faces its first real adversity of the season.
“Nothing else you can do except grind it out and come back to work Monday,” Heupel said.
The Sooners know they have a lot of work to do.