The Norman Transcript

September 15, 2013

On and off the gridiron, Bell has all the right answers

The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Blake Bell’s finest performance Saturday might not even have come on the natural turf Oklahoma shared with Tulsa.

It might have come afterward, with the cameras pointed at him and the recorders recording.

Yeah, you’re right, that’s kind of ridiculous. Bell had just thrown for 413 yards and four touchdowns. He’d just completed the biggest debut in the history of Sooner football for a first-time starting quarterback and he’d done it three weeks after it was first announced that Trevor Knight, not him, would be OU’s starting quarterback.

On the other hand …

“It was awesome,” he said. “I had a great time.”

That’s how it began.

He might have answered more questions than even Bob Stoops took during his turn at the podium. He might still be taking them and happily answering them if there were enough of them and nobody to hustle the media out of the Adrian Peterson room.

He wore it so well.

Bell went out and played the kind of game nobody could have expected him to play, then walked in and talked about it with a reticence, comfort level and the kind of patience nobody could have expected him to have.

He was so on top of his game Saturday, at every level, on the field and off, that the presumed discrepancy between the way he practiced while trying to win the job and the way he played against the Golden Hurricane in OU’s 51-20 was understandably vast.

At the same time, he was so good Saturday, at every level, that all appearances point toward the Sooners not only knowing who their starting quarterback will be the rest of the season and probably the next one, just as long as Bell’s healthy, but who will be the team’s primary leader over that time, too.

“I just went in there and played ball,” Bell said.

Aw, shucks.

He said he “actually felt very calm” as he took the field against the Golden Hurricane. 

How’s that even possible?

He said he couldn’t wait to watch himself and be critiqued as soon as today and Monday, because he can’t wait to get better on the way to South Bend, Ind., where OU visits Notre Dame Sept. 28.

A few of those missteps were balls Bell tried to put a little air under, throws he put way too much air under.

Then there’s this: 

Bell never even approached throwing an interception and even the guy he backed up for two years, Landry Jones, couldn’t often say that.

Noon Monday, Stoops meets the media as always, and because the Sooners have no game this week, it may only be him. But expect Bell to become a regular in front of the media gauntlet.

It suits him.

Bell delivered all the throws he was supposed to make and plenty of throws that required something like perfection to complete, the kinds of throws Trevor Knight couldn’t put in the right zip code.

He foreshadowed the rest of his day on OU’s first drive, when he found Sterling Shepard with a deft toss for nine yards facing third-and-6 at the Sooner 44, before scrambling to a first down facing third-and-10 with nobody open to set the offense up inside the Tulsa 20.

Bell played like he’d been there before. He had, of course, sort of, only nothing like this.

Before he left his turn in the post game media round, offensive coordinator Josh Heupel, who sure seemed to like having a quarterback who could complete a pass for a change, was asked about Jaz Reynolds, the Sooner receiver with the checkered past who missed all of last season, but caught four balls Saturday for 109 yards.

Heupel said Reynolds was offering a life lesson in “staying the course,” only he didn’t want to limit his answer to Reynolds. 

He wanted to talk about Bell, too, saying lesser guys “would throw in the towel” after learning they’d been passed over for the job everybody thought they’d be getting. 

Then he moved on to Roy Finch, another player whose stock has been all over the place since arriving on campus, who carried eight times Saturday for a team-high 68 yards.

Heupel didn’t bring up the Sooner defense three games into the season. It’s not really his gig but he might as well have. It would have underlined the same message.

Another Saturday at Owen Field offered another round of comeback stories and Blake Bell was the biggest one of all.

The season only gets better. And the Irish are next.

Clay Horning

Follow me @clayhorning