Bell settles in as Sooners' QB in rout

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchangeSeptember 14, 2013

NORMAN, Okla. -- Any question about who the starting quarterback should be for Oklahoma was answered Saturday.
In about five minutes.
Blake Bell, the junior who was beat out in August practice by freshman Trevor Knight, got his first career start Saturday against Tulsa and led the Sooners to an offensive explosion in a 50-21 victory over the Golden Hurricane at Memorial Stadium.
"He's capable of it," said OU co-offensive coordinator Josh Heupel of Bell.
Maybe so, but no one knew for sure until Saturday.
Bell directed five first-half scoring drives, including a touchdown coming just 4:50 into the game. He was 15 of 21 passing in the first half for 281 yards and two touchdowns, played every offensive snap and finished 27 of 37 for 413 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions.
"Blake has been here a long time," Sooners coach Bob Stoops said. "He's been in a lot of big moments. He was poised and he played great. Blake Bell was the story of the game. I'm excited for him."
Meanwhile, Knight sat the game out with a bruised knee, making way for Bell, who has 24 rushing touchdowns over the past two seasons but threw his first Saturday against Tulsa. Meanwhile, the Oklahoma offense, which had struggled the first two games of the year, looked crisp with Bell at quarterback.
The result pushes No. 14 OU to 3-0 on the season and also gives it a sense of comfort heading into its next game, Sept. 28 at Notre Dame. The Sooners had already benched Knight, so the fact that Bell wasn't just serviceable has to be considered a victory, too.
Tulsa fell to 1-2. Cody Green threw for 226 yards with an interception. Trey Watts and Ja'Terian Douglas each ran for touchdowns and Carl Salazar kicked a pair of field goals. Watts led Tulsa in rushing with 60 yards and Jordan James made six catches for 100 yards.
If Oklahoma had to make another change at quarterback, or didn't think Bell was good enough, the Sooners could have been in a worrisome spot. Stoops said he thought Knight would be ready to go by next week, but he had been so ineffective through the first two games, going 21 of 48 passing with three interceptions. Bell replaced Knight last week at the beginning of the fourth quarter. OU does have Kendal Thompson as well at quarterback, but Thompson has just a week of practice to his credit after injuring his foot the first day of practice in early August. He is listed as the team's second-string quarterback.
None of that seems to matter now as Bell showed he should be the starter. His 413 passing yards were the most by a Sooners quarterback in a first start, passing the mark held by former Heisman winner Sam Bradford.
"He's a terrific player," said Tulsa linebacker Shawn Jackson of Bell. "He threw the ball extremely well. We didn't expect him to throw as much as he did today. I have to give him credit."
The Sooners played their best half of the season, outgaining Tulsa 346 yards to 144 before the break, and got receivers involved, helping Bell to gain confidence. In addition, the Oklahoma defense continued its strong play. Heading into the second half, OU had given up just two touchdowns on the season.
Aside from an odd number of injuries, the day was all about Bell.
Oklahoma lost defensive back Stanvon Taylor to an ankle injury. Leading rusher Brennan Clay missed time in the first half with an apparent shoulder injury and safety Gabe Lynn, who had a first-half interception, didn't play in the second half.
"I think he got put into a little bit of a niche of a guy that didn't throw," said Tulsa coach Bill Blankenship of Bell. "I think compared to Landry Jones he is not as good, but he had a good day today."
Bell looked comfortable throwing the ball and competent running it. The only question left about Bell was why didn't he get the call from the coaches to start the season.
He started the game with a 12-play, 72-yard scoring drive, completing three of four passes. He went 75 yards in nine plays on the next drive and finished the day with a pair of touchdown passes to Sterling Shepard, who caught eight passes for 123 yards.
Tulsa averaged just 3.1 yards per rush and Green wound up 17 of 33 passing with an interception.
NOTES: Oklahoma running back Roy Finch caught his first career touchdown pass. ... Oklahoma's Shepard had a career-best eight catches for 123 yards. ... Tulsa's Watts, the son of former Sooner quarterback J.C. Watts, had a 77-yard punt return. He also led all Tulsa rushers with 60 yards and a touchdown. ... Oklahoma had 11 possessions and scored on nine of them. One drive ended at the end of the second quarter and another ended with a punt.