The Norman Transcript

September 16, 2013

Resounding win over Tulsa boosts confidence in Sooner passing game

By John Shinn
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — The goal of any offense is to score points. How it happens is largely dictated by the defense. Oklahoma left Owen Field Saturday after its 51-20 victory over Tulsa believing it now has the ability whatever decisions defenses make.

What Blake Bell did in his first career start (413 passing yards and four touchdowns) showed that the Sooners’ passing game still has juice.

“I think we can be great,” Bell said. “There’s little things here and there that we obviously need to get better, but I feel like everyone’s going in that direction. It’s a big thing if we’ve got 11 guys going in the right direction, we can do a good job.”

In a sense, Bell liberated the offense Saturday. In the first two games, OU simply pounded the ball on the ground because that’s all it could really do. Trevor Knight didn’t throw the ball particularly well and the receivers’ play wasn’t up to standard. Too many wayward passes, too many dropped balls, too much confusion on routes.

The receivers played better against Tulsa. Bell completed 27 passes to 10 different players. It was a season high in terms of variety.

The fact that Bell was able to get the ball to them with room to run and when they got behind defenders was what OU sought.

“Obviously, we were emphasizing trying to boost our passing game. He,

obviously, did that, along with our receivers,” Stoops said of Bell. “I thought the receivers’ execution was a lot better; made a lot of competitive and better plays — more consistent.”

Defensively, Tulsa did what the first two games said to do against the Sooners. It did everything it could to stop the run. It worked in the first half. OU finished with 194 yards on the ground (a season low). Most of it came in the second half after the Sooners had loosened things up with the early success throwing the ball.

Ideally, OU wants to be able to do that in every game. It has 12 days before it has to take the field at No. 22 Notre Dame (2-1) Sept. 28. The Fighting Irish play host to Michigan State Saturday.

The scenario gives the Sooners two full weeks of practice to tailor the offense around Bell. Against Tulsa, he showed there likely won’t be many pages in the playbook that need to be ripped.

Bell showed over the previous two years he can run. He used his feet to covert up a first down on a third-and-9 on the Sooners’ opening drive. It was one of 11 carries for 24 yards he had in the game.

Offensive coordinator Josh Heupel grades on a tighter curve than most. He said Bell wasn’t perfect Saturday, but it was definitely closer to what OU expects from its quarterback.

“Took care of the ball. He was really decisive, had good command. Did all the things you need your quarterback to do,” he said. “There were some things he missed that were open at times, but he'll come back and get better from that.”

It was obvious OU liked the direction Bell had taken them because his backup — Kendal Thompson — stayed on the bench in the fourth quarter. The coaching staff wanted to get Bell as many snaps as possible Saturday. The quarterback competition is now between Thompson and Knight for the backup job.

The starting job belongs to Bell.

John Shinn

Follow me @john_shinn

jshinn@normantranscript.com