NORMAN, Okla. — Blake Bell was up late last night, laying in bed, visualizing how this day, this first start, this mid-season tryout would go.
There’s no way he could come up with what actually happened. No way.
“I just wanted to come out there and show everyone what I can do,” Bell said.
What he did was go through a make-over in shoulder pads .
The junior back-up, who was good enough to get his own nickname – The Belldozer – and his own cult following after scoring 24 touchdowns in two seasons as the sidecar to the pass-happy Landry Jones, went from runner to passer.
From back-up to savior starter.
More importantly, he went from Belldozer to Bellicopter.
Not bad for a Saturday afternoon where Bell threw for 413 yards in his first-career start, more than Sam Bradford did in his first start. More than Landry Jones or Josh Heupel or any of the other throwers who helped OU develop into one of the best passing offensive did in their first starts, too.
And in one game, the Sooners resolved their quarterback issue, beat Tulsa 51-20 and showed they can be the same kind of offense, dangerous and capable, that they have been the past 15 years.
Yeah, that quickly. One game is all it took.
Remember, not too long ago, Bell wasn’t good enough to get the starting job out of August practice. Oklahoma chose freshman Trevor Knight to start. Yet, by the time the fourth quarter rolled around a week ago, Knight was out, Bell was in and the questions came quick.
Knight was hurt, but how hurt? Could Bell throw. Will back-up Kendal Thompson take over? How much is the offense going to have to change? Who’s going to lead this team against Notre Dame on Sept. 28?
“So much for your controversy now,” coach Bob Stoops said, offering up his first, “I told you so of the season, saying he knew all along Bell could throw.
“You can’t deny what he just did. He never got down, and he got his chance.”
And now that chance has manifested in a return to an offense that had gone anemic through two games.
“Was it great that Blake played well?” asked OU co-offensive coordinator Josh Heupel. “Yeah, absolutely.”
Absolutely for Bell but definitely for the team because a struggle from Bell Saturday would have opened up even more questions about who could go into South Bend and direct this team. Now, thanks to Bell’s success transformation, OU is back to what it was.
All Bell did was lead the Sooners to scores on his first five possessions. He was three-of-four on his first drive of the game, threw for 281 yards in the first half with two scores and wound up an amazing 27-of-37 passing for the 413 yards and four touchdowns. He didn’t fumble. He didn’t throw an interception.
What he did was remake himself.
“It was awesome,” Bell said. “I had a great time. Just getting out there. There’s nothing better. I came in and one thing I wanted to do is be ready. I felt like I did that.”
A month ago that didn’t’ seem likely. He lost the starting job to Knight and the message looked to be that Bell couldn’t throw and wasn’t as dynamic as the freshman. But Knight struggled. He went 11-of-28 in the first game and then threw two interceptions in the second half, including one in the endzone, against West Virginia. His knee injury kept him from suiting up today but Bell’s play will keep from being the starter tomorrow.
“August was August,” Bell said about what may or may not have lost him the starting job. There are going to be ups and down in life. You can go backward or forward. You never know when you’re time is coming. You have to be ready.”
And truthfully, no one really knew if Bell could throw the ball. Unless you go back and look at the high school highlights, talk to the folks who cover recruiting or are part of the coaching staff at Oklahoma, there’s no way none of us could have seen this coming. Bell didn’t play a meaningful snap in the first game of the season and threw one pass, which missed, in the fourth quarter against West Virginia.
All signs pointed to the OU offense moving to what Bell does best. Run. Seemed logical and likely. Until Bell went and changed all that.
Now things are different.
They’re back to the same and that’s good news for Oklahoma.