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Bell rings up victory for Sooners

The SportsXchange

STILLWATER, Okla. -- Oklahoma quarterback Blake Bell, dogged and demoted through much of this season, came off the bench to deliver the Sooners a dramatic 33-24 victory over Oklahoma State on Saturday on a frigid day at Boone Pickens Stadium.

Bell, the third quarterback to play for Oklahoma in the game, took the Sooners on a 66-yard drive in the final 1:46 for the winning touchdown. Bell completed five passes on the drive, including a seven-yard scoring strike to receiver Jalen Saunders with 19 seconds remaining. The Sooners tacked on a defensive touchdown on the final play of the game.

The Sooners improved to 10-2, preventing their Bedlam rival from claiming a Big 12 Conference championship.

The Cowboys fell to 10-2.

Bell, who started eight games during the season, began the day as Oklahoma's third-team quarterback in an offense that had shifted course to accommodate more quarterback-run game. But with starter Trevor Knight injured in the second quarter and Kendal Thompson ineffective, Bell was called on, and delivered, completing 10-of-16 passes for 140 yards.

"Blake went in and did a great job," coach Bob Stoops said. "I'm really proud of his poise. He scrambled around and made some plays on his own."

Oklahoma State had scored about a minute and a half earlier on Desmond Roland's one-yard run, putting the pressure on the Sooners' offense, which hadn't scored a touchdown all day. Cowboys quarterback Clint Chelf seemed set up to be the hero, after directing his team to the go-ahead score. Chelf completed four straight passes to put Oklahoma State at the five-yard-line, from where Roland carried three times to get in the end zone with 1:46 remaining.

"We were celebrating," Cowboys offensive lineman Brandon Webb said. "We drove it down for the touchdown and felt like we had it in the bag. But credit to them. They made plays."

Bell made the decisive play, throwing a perfect pass to Saunders, who had gotten behind Cowboys safety Lyndell Johnson.

"Right coverage," Bell said. "I was even licking my chops because I was ready for that one. Once we got the play call and Jalen ran a great route on that play, I just put it out there to him and he went and got it. I'm still in shock of the whole deal. That was everyone being out there doing a great job."

After the game was tied, 10-10, at halftime, the Cowboys struck quickly in the third quarter, with Kevin Peterson intercepting Thompson's first pass on his first snap coming out of halftime.

After the takeaway, Oklahoma State covered 82 yards, with Chelf hitting Roland down the sideline for a 15-yard scoring pass. Chelf also had a 38-yard connection with Brandon Sheperd on the drive, igniting the series.

Oklahoma, which entered the game as a 10-point underdog, seemed to own but one clear advantage, in the kicking game.

And before Bell's late touchdown throw, that's where the Sooners struck for their biggest plays. Michael Hunnicutt kicked two field goals, including a go-ahead kick in the fourth quarter, and registered his career highlight with an eight-yard scoring reception. Saunders returned a punt 64 yards for a score.

"We lost the kicking game," Cowboys coach Mike Gundy said. "We gave up 14 points in the kicking game. When you do that, it's always tough to win."

Hunnicutt's touchdown came on a fake field goal, after the Cowboys seemingly turned the Sooners away. Holder Grant Bothun took the snap, rose up and rolled left, then flipped a pass to Hunnicutt, who crossed the goal line before getting popped.

That tied the game for the third time, 17-17, with plenty of drama still to come.

Hunnicut's 39-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter put the Sooners ahead, 20-17, and it stayed that way until Chelf's big drive.

The game was tied, 10-10, at halftime, yet the Sooners left the field on a down note after failing to get in the end zone after securing a first-and-goal at the five. On third down from the four, Knight scrambled left and was driven out of bounds by Caleb Lavey and Ryan Simmons.

Knight was slow to get up and then slumped to one knee, unable to lift his left arm.

Hunnicutt kicked the tying field goal, but the Sooners were without the quarterback who had given them renewed optimism in guiding an explosive offense in victories over Iowa State and Kansas State.

The Cowboys opened the game with a bolt, as Roland romped 75 yards for an apparent touchdown on the first snap from scrimmage, but a holding call negated the run.

Oklahoma State eventually did score first, marching 99 yards for a touchdown after being pinned at the one-yard-line for a second time on a punt by Jed Barnett. Chelf went 4-for-4 passing on the drive and Roland ran for 36 yards, finishing the drive on a run from the one.

Oklahoma tied it later in the first quarter on the 64-yard punt return by Saunders, giving the Sooners a boost when the offense was scuffling.

Both teams kicked field goals in the second quarter.

Ben Grogan put the Cowboys on top with a 41-yarder, before Hunnicutt's kick in the final minute.

NOTES: KR Jalen Saunders returned a punt for a touchdown against the Cowboys for the second straight season. In Oklahoma's 51-48 overtime win last season, Saunders took a punt 81 yards for a score to tie that game early in the fourth quarter. ... The Cowboys recognized 28 seniors before the game. It's a class that goes down tied for the most wins over a four-year span in program history at 41-10. ... Saturday's attendance of 58,520 at Boone Pickens Stadium was a record high for a Bedlam game in Stillwater, topping the 58,141 who showed up for the 2011 game.
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