It might be the image people remember most from Oklahoma’s 36-20 loss to Texas in the Red River Rivalry. The Sooners were driving down the field in the third quarter and were faced with a third down.
OU quarterback Blake Bell had Jalen Saunders open but overthrew him badly and the pass was picked off, the second interception of Bell in the game.
There’s no polite way to say it. Bell had his worst game of the season against the Longhorns. It wasn’t just in the stats, but it was in his demeanor, too. One thing Bell had done in his previous three starts was look in total control of the offense.
That didn’t feel like the case last week.
“Looking back, obviously, taking care of the football,” said Bell about what he could have done better. “That starts with me. Everyone was out of rhythm. That’s what we’ve been practicing all this week.”
Bell is loaded with offensive weapons at his disposal, most notably wide receivers Jalen Saunders and Sterling Shepard. The last two weeks, though, have seen them disappear at times.
Saunders had three catches for 18 yards against Texas, while Shepard didn’t have a reception. Between the two, they have combined for 13 catches for a mere 85 yards in the last two weeks.
“I don’t know if it’s just one thing,” offensive coordinator Josh Heupel said. “You have to continue to find schemes within what defenses are doing to try to get them involved.”
Heupel said the line that separates success and failure is an incredibly fine line. Bell agreed with that sentiment, and that’s why he’s not hitting the panic button.
Just because it wasn’t there last week doesn’t mean it won’t be there this week. Bell has spent a lot of extra time with his receivers after practice in attempts to improve the chemistry.
“It’s easy to do,” said Bell about getting out of rhythm. “Could be out of rhythm on a route. It could be me on a drop. Offensive line on protection. Two of those can be good, but if one’s not, it throws everything off.”
Despite Bell’s ineffective performance, Heupel and OU coach Bob Stoops never considered the thought of replacing him with either Trevor Knight or Kendal Thompson.
“I didn’t think about that,” Heupel said. “I didn’t feel like we were far off from being able to execute and push the ball down the field and make some plays.”
Last week was an unusual position for Bell and for the Sooners. For the first time since he has been in charge, he was looking up at the scoreboard and seeing OU on the wrong side of the ledger.
A lot of OU fans were clamoring for a change, but for Bell, he said it was all about just keep pushing forward. It’s something he intends to do once again this weekend.
“I felt like I did a good job,” said Bell about responding to adversity. “You have to forget about the last drive and keep coming. It’s not about the last play. It’s about the next one.
“I’m just playing a game. I don’t listen to that (fans’ criticism). We’re in here as a team, and we’re going to push to win ballgames.”