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Bell provides offensive boost for No. 13 Sooners

AP - Sports
Bell provides offensive boost for No. 13 Sooners

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NORMAN, Okla. (AP) -- Oklahoma had several chances to fold under the pressure created by Texas Tech.

The 13th-ranked Sooners, however, had an answer each time for the high-flying Red Raiders in a 38-30 win on Saturday - a win that kept Oklahoma's Big 12 Conference championship hopes alive and well.

It also provided a much-needed boost of confidence - for both the Sooners (7-1, 4-1 Big 12) and quarterback Blake Bell - after two weeks of lackluster play.

They'll need every bit of that confidence in two weeks when they face another undefeated conference foe when they travel to No. 5 Baylor.

''I'm really excited about our resilience and our fight to keep coming back,'' Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. ''... I love our team. I love the attitude, the way they work, the way they're willing to be coached.''

The Sooners fell behind twice Saturday against the 15th-ranked Red Raiders (7-1, 4-1), a familiar scenario for a team that did the same thing in a loss to Texas two weeks ago and last week against Kansas before rallying for a convincing win.

Unlike against the Longhorns, Bell provided some of the biggest plays against Texas Tech - including a 76-yard touchdown strike to Jalen Saunders that put the Sooners up 14-7 in the second quarter.

The Bell to Saunders connection also paid early dividends after Oklahoma fell behind 7-0. On the game-tying drive - a 16-play, 97-yard march - Bell found Saunders on three third-down conversion, and he capped the drive with a 15-yard strike to the senior.

Saunders finished with six catches for 153 yards and the two touchdowns, while Bell was 14-of-22 passing for 249 yards.

''I guess you could say (Bell) was looking for me, but I was just really able to get open,'' Saunders said. ''That's our job is being able to get open, and I think we were doing a really good job of that.''

While Oklahoma established itself once again as a contender to defend its Big 12 championship, Texas Tech was left to wonder what might have been after its 24-21 second-half lead slipped away.

The Red Raiders entered the game full of confidence after rallying a week earlier for a win at West Virginia, a game that kept first-year coach Kliff Kingsbury undefeated.

However, freshman quarterback Davis Webb - once again playing after Baker Mayfield was injured against Kansas on Oct. 5 - threw a pair of interceptions against Oklahoma, and Texas Tech finished with three turnovers overall as it saw a pair of leads slip away.

Webb finished 33-of-53 passing for 385 yards and a pair of touchdowns, while tight end Jace Amaro had 119 yards receiving on eight catches and wide receiver Eric Ward had nine catches for 106 yards.

Next up for the Red Raiders, who began a stretch of playing three ranked teams in four weeks against Oklahoma, is a home game next week against No. 18 Oklahoma State. It's a game that took on added significance for Texas Tech after Saturday's loss, especially if it hopes to stay in the Big 12 title race.

''I just said that it was all out in front of us,'' Kingsbury said. ''If we want to win it, we have got to win the rest of the games ... (Webb) will keep getting better, and he will keep fighting. His teammates lift him up, and the made some big-time plays for him.''

For Oklahoma, its future likely hinges on the progress of Bell.

The junior started Saturday's game 1-of-5 passing before settling down and establishing his connection with Saunders. He also finished with 44 yards rushing on nine carries, but it was his passing performance that provided the perfect balance to an Oklahoma offense that finished with 277 yards rushing.

It was a welcomed bit of relief after his struggles on the road the last two weeks.

''I don't really listen to outside noises,'' Bell said. ''All I can do is be me and come here every day. I know my teammates feel the same way.''

Saturday was also a performance Stoops hopes Bell, who has now completed 63.8 percent (113 of 177) of his passes this season, can carry forward as the Sooners look to defend their Big 12 title.

''I know at times, overall, it's not as consistent as it needs to be, but Blake is throwing the ball well,'' Stoops said. ''Usually, when we are off a little bit, it's not always him. It's usually not him.

''In the end, he's a good thrower.''

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