NORMAN, Okla. —
The Belldozer is now Bell Air.
Blake Bell, in his first varsity start, dispelled any notion he was a runner first and wouldn’t be a passer in the mold of past quarterbacks such as Josh Heupel, Jason White, Sam Bradford and Landry Jones.
Bell’s 413 yards passing (27 of 37 for 4 TDs) was the most ever by a Sooner quarterback in his first start.
“I know what I was capable of,’’ Bell said. “Last year, Landry was the quarterback and it wasn’t my job to throw the ball. This feels great.’’
Bell had scored 24 touchdowns, though, the past two years out of the so-called Belldozer where he was used for his 6-foot-6, 260-pound frame in short yardage situations.
That did get him on the field in some critical situations, which prepared him for Saturday.
“That helped a lot,’’ he said. “I felt very calm. I didn’t feel nervous. I had some nerves, but not too much. I didn’t want to put too much pressure on myself. I just tried to show what I could do and execute.’’
The last month tested his heart more than his arm or legs. Bell had been considered the heavy favorite to replace Jones as the OU quarterback, but he was beaten out by redshirt freshman Trevor Knight.
Knight’s struggles and a sprained knee gave Bell his chance.
“I’ve had ups and downs the last month,’’ he said. “I knew I had to be ready. I prepared every day like I was going to go in any time.’’
Heupel, now OU’s offensive coordinator, said he could tell Bell was down the day after the announcement Knight would start. Bell said that was true, but he didn’t stay down.
He got advice from his father, Mark and his uncle, Mike, both of whom played in the NFL.
“There are going to be ups and downs in life,’’ Bell said. “You either go backwards or you go forward. You just want to keep going forward because you never know when your time is going to come. I had a great support system behind with my family.’’
He said Knight and Kendal Thompson, just off the injury list, supported each other.
“Coach Heupel stresses we’re a unit and it’s just not one guy,’’ Bell said. “Everybody has come together. We’re on the same team. It’s about making everybody better.’’
Bell now says “what happened in August, happened in August,’’ about the quarterback battle.
He sees himself as a “gamer.’’
“I always liked playing in games better than practice,’’ he said. “Once the lights are on, you get a little extra adrenaline.’’
The Sooners converted on 12 of 16 third-down conversions.
OU had thrown for only 243 yards in its first two games. Bell had topped that by halftime (15 of 21 for 281 yards).
“We were taking what they were giving us,’’ Bell said.
“You have to give a lot of credit to the O-line. Our running backs did a great job in not putting us in too many third and longs. A lot of it is getting the ball in the hands of your playmakers. They did a great job of getting yards after the catch.’’
Bell had a little different mentality than in the past. On short yardage, he did lower his shoulder, but not necessarily in the he Belldozer mold. He did have some slides than risk a hit.
“You don’t want to take any unnecessary hits,’’ he said. “That’s a a definite difference from last year.’’
Bell, a Catholic, is excited to be preparing for Notre Dame Sept. 28 as the starting quarterback.
“It’s going to be fun,’’ he said.
Especially throwing the ball, which is why he came to OU.
“I like the way coach Heupel coaches,’’ he said. “All the guys who came before me like Sam Bradford. I just look at them and say that’s reason I came here. I want to be like guys like that.’’
Campbell is a News & Eagle sports writer.