The Norman Transcript

December 16, 2013

Sooners still facing quarterback question

By John Shinn
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — The post Bedlam break ended this weekend for Oklahoma. The final exams are in the books and preparations for its impending meeting with No. 3 Alabama in the Sugar Bowl are under way.

But first things first: the 11th-ranked Sooners have to pick a starting quarterback.

That is the matter that was left unresolved following OU’s 33-24 victory over Oklahoma State Dec. 7. Redshirt freshman Trevor Knight injured his left (non-throwing) shoulder late in the first half. Blake Bell, who was the No. 3 quarterback in the two weeks leading up to the Bedlam game, kept the Sooners in the game by leading three scoring drives, including the 89-yard touchdown drive in the final two minutes to win it.

OU coach Bob Stoops didn’t think Knight’s injury was too severe after the Oklahoma State game.

“It’s his non-throwing shoulder. I’m not sure how severe it is,” he said. “With all the zone reads and option-read-type stuff, we didn’t feel like it would be right to put him out there again.”

Stoops hasn’t met with the media since the OSU game. He’s scheduled to do so today.

But the Sooners spent the last three weeks of the regular season refining an offense to accentuate Knight’s ability to run.

And the work paid off.

They rushed for 165 yards and averaged 4.1 yards per carry against Oklahoma State. Dating back to the second half of the Iowa State, when Knight’s second stint as starting quarterback hit full swing, OU has rushed for 805 yards and averaged 6.8 yards per carry.

But Bell showed why he overtook Knight in the quarterback derby back in September. He was 10 for 16 for 160 yards against Oklahoma State, including five completions on that 89-yard touchdown drive to win the game.

But when he did, OU had to have the classic two-minute. Bell was its best option.

“The way they were playing us, we felt like Blake’s ability to throw the ball down the football field a little bit and a change of pace would help us a little bit,” Heupel said.

OU was fortunate Bell was ready for the moment. Its trip to New Orleans and complexion of how he and the season are viewed changed because of that drive.

The Sooners are back in a BCS bowl game for the first time since 2011 Fiesta Bowl, have a chance to finish ranked in the top 10 for the first time since end of the 2010 season and gain a ton of momentum they can pull off a third straight — and by far the biggest — upset win to close the season.

“Coach Heup obviously preaches to us every day that everybody needs to be ready for their time, because you never know when it’s gonna be,” Bell said. “I think all of us quarterbacks, we’ve got a great group of guys,we’re all just ready to play when we’re called on.”

Perhaps, the Sooners will use both against the Crimson Tide. Both have strengths. The reason the choice isn’t obvious is because both have weaknesses as well. Bell isn’t an elusive runner. Knight hasn’t shown he can be a consistent drop back passer.

However, two weeks the Sooners had decided Knight was the quarterback of the present because he presented the most upside for the future.

Only the coaching staff can decide if what Bell did in Bedlam changes that.

John Shinn

Follow me @john_shinn

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