Bell’s late TD pass lifts OU over OSU 33-24

Oklahoma’s players scoffed at the notion earlier this week that

they had been reduced to the role of spoiler against rival Oklahoma

State.

Led by quarterback Blake Bell’s remarkable performance in a

relief role, the No. 18 Sooners lived up to their words –

continuing their mastery of the rival Cowboys with a 33-24 win on

Saturday.

The win set off a frenzied celebration in a frigid Boone Pickens

Stadium for visiting Oklahoma (10-2, 7-2 Big 12 Conference), while

leaving No. 6 Oklahoma State once again suffering a bitter defeat

at the hands of its fiercest rival.

This level of disappointment was higher than most for the

Cowboys (10-2, 7-2), whose hopes of a second Big 12 championship

and BCS bowl game berth in three years were lost after Bell found

Jalen Saunders for a 7-yard touchdown with 19 seconds

remaining.

”You just love it to see a guy who’s a competitor like that,

who’s been sitting on the bench all game, to come in and play so

well,” Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said of Bell. ”He played

great.”

The shakeup in the BCS bowl picture, however, was the last thing

on the mind of Bell – the Oklahoma junior who replaced injured

starter Trevor Knight in the second half. After starting eight

games earlier this season for the Sooners, including a win at Notre

Dame, Bell began Saturday as Oklahoma’s third option at

quarterback.

He ended the game by leading the Sooners on a game-winning

66-yard drive in the closing minutes, going 5 of 8 for 57 yards on

the drive and finishing 10-of-16 passing for 140 yards in relief of

Knight and backup quarterback Kendal Thompson

”I was just thinking that whenever I got my opportunity, I

wanted to do the best I could with Trevor going down and Kendal

coming in,” Bell said. ”… Once I got into the rhythm of the

play, I felt like everything was clicking.”

Oklahoma State led for much of the game, only falling behind for

the first time early in the fourth quarter when Oklahoma’s Michael

Hunnicutt kicked a 39-yard field goal to put the Sooners up

20-17.

Facing a late-game deficit, quarterback Clint Chelf appeared to

rally the Cowboys for the win with a 7-play, 89-yard drive on which

he completed five straight passes for first downs.

Desmond Roland, who finished with 144 yards rushing and

accounted for three touchdowns, capped the drive to put Oklahoma

State up 24-20 with 1:46 remaining – appearing to secure the

Cowboys’ eight-straight win as well as the Big 12 title and BCS

bowl game berth.

Bell, however, had other plans. The junior, who started earlier

this season before losing the job to Knight, rallied the Sooners

down the field and capping the drive with his touchdown pass to

Saunders in the corner of the end zone.

The touchdown came just five plays after Oklahoma State’s Justin

Gilbert briefly appeared to intercept Bell, but the cornerback was

unable to keep the ball from hitting the turf.

Following Bell’s touchdown pass to Saunders, Eric Striker then

ended the game for Oklahoma by recovering a fumble and scoring

during a desperation series of Cowboys’ laterals. The Sooners were

then pelted with snow balls from the rival crowd.

Oklahoma has now won at least 10 games in four straight seasons,

and Stoops is 8-1 in his career against Oklahoma State coach Mike

Gundy.

”That was a heck of a football game,” Gundy said. ”It’s

unfortunate that we came up short. What the game really came down

to was that Oklahoma made some key plays on fourth down, and we

didn’t.”

Oklahoma stayed close for much of the game thanks to the play of

its special teams, doing so with Knight on the bench in the second

half with a shoulder injury. Saunders returned a punt 64 yards for

a touchdown in the first half and Hunnicutt – who also kicked a

pair of field goals – also caught a touchdown pass on a fake field

goal attempt.

Hunnicutt’s 8-yard touchdown catch from holder Grant Bothun tied

the game at 17-17 late in the third quarter, and it came after

Bothum darted to the left following the snap before finding a

wide-open Hunnicutt. Stoops said the Sooners didn’t put the fake in

their gameplan until Thursday.

”They called it in about 15 seconds before, so we didn’t have

too much time to think about it,” Hunnicutt said. ”I was just

super excited.”

Oklahoma opened the second half with Thompson at quarterback,

but Bell also saw limited action early. Neither provided the answer

early on, with Thompson throwing an interception on the first play

of the half and the Sooners going three-and-out on their next three

possessions.

Oklahoma State dominated for much of the first half, but it was

unable to manage anything but a 10-10 tie at halftime – thanks to a

spectacular punt return and timely scoring drive by Oklahoma.

The Cowboys, seeking their second win in three years against the

Sooners, took a 10-3 lead in the second quarter on Ben Grogan’s

41-yard field goal.

At that point, Oklahoma State had outgained the Sooners 202-68

in total yardage and appeared in control defensively against an

Oklahoma team whose lone big play was Saunders’ punt return late in

the first quarter.

”We didn’t really score points the way we wanted to, and we

couldn’t put enough points on the board to help our defense out,”

Roland said.

The Sooners, however, responded to close out the half with their

longest drive in terms of time of possession for the season –

keeping the ball for more than eight minutes. Hunnicutt capped the

15-play, 60-yard drive with a 21-yard field goal to tie the game at

10-10 and keep Oklahoma well within reach heading into

halftime.

It was one of many answers the Sooners had throughout the game,

with Bell providing the final one.

”I’m just so proud and happy,” Bell said. ”I think we’re all

on cloud nine.”