John E. Hoover: Sooner fans finally got glimpse of Bell in real QB action
BY JOHN E. HOOVER World Sports Columnist
Tuesday, September 11, 2012
9/11/12 at 5:03 AM
Go to John E. Hoover's blog.
NORMAN - It was already 56-13. Just over two minutes remained in the third quarter. He only got two series.
But it was the perfect time for Blake Bell to make his debut at quarterback for the Oklahoma Sooners.
In Saturday's blowout victory over Florida A&M, Bell showed that five-star talent that brought him from Wichita to OU, completing 4-of-5 passes for 61 yards, breaking out of the pocket for a 10-yard scramble and directing a Sooner offense filled with backups and freshmen to two touchdowns.
It's still early to say OU's future at quarterback is set. But it does have plenty of potential.
"It was good," said center Gabe Ikard. "You guys finally saw him throw the ball."
Before Saturday, Bell was a quarterback on the roster only. Sooner Nation's only exposure to Bell, other than a dynamic show in the Red/White Game last spring, was as a short-yardage fullback.
This time, he actually got to play quarterback.
"It's good to see him get some reps at his actual position," Ikard said, "making reads and stuff like that. He's got a great future ahead of him."
Whenever Landry Jones is done at OU, whether that's 2013, or sometime this season if something should happen to Jones, Bell will get the call. Coaches declared him the backup in August - that's never happened at Oklahoma under Bob Stoops - and when the opportunity came against the Rattlers, they brought in Bell for two series and 2011 backup Drew Allen for the game's last drive.
For quarterbacks coach Josh Heupel, who started recruiting Bell in 2008 - the same year Sam Bradford won the Heisman Trophy - it was personally rewarding to see Bell in action. But it was more rewarding to know he was ready for action, and made the most of his chance.
"For any of your guys, you want (them) to go out and have that opportunity," Heupel said, then added for clarification, "get the opportunity and then perform well in doing it."
Bell's first three plays were handoffs, then he got sacked on first down from the FAMU 26-yard line. That didn't sit well with Heupel, but "wasn't his fault," Ikard said.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, Bell connected with Brannon Green for 18 yards. He threw incomplete on first down, then handed off twice for 18 yards and a touchdown.
On the Sooners' next possession, Bell threw complete to LaColtan Bester for 6 yards, then hooked up over the middle with Sterling Shepard for 28 yards.
After another sack, Bell flicked a screen pass to Shepard for 9 yards, then rolled out, pump-faked and ran for a 10-yard gain. Two handoffs later, the Sooners scored another TD for the final margin.
Compared to his resume up to that point - the BellDozer formation, with two career passing attempts out of it - it was the full repertoire.
Bell did have two throws in mop-up duty last season against Ball State, but that was as a third-stringer, cleaning up after Jones and Allen. This was his true debut as a backup, and it gave Heupel and others confidence.
"There's a lot of good things he did and a lot of things he'll learn from," Heupel said. "But I'm excited he went out there and handled a lot of things really well."
Bell didn't have a case of nerves Saturday because of all that time he got last season - 44 carries, 13 touchdowns - in the BellDozer. That might change if he's thrown into the fire in the second quarter at the Cotton Bowl, but then again, it might not.
Physically, he's already there. Now he's shown proof that he's getting there mentally, too.
"It's awesome seeing somebody that big just running the ball and throwing the ball," said running back Damien Williams. "I feel like he's just gonna get better as we go on."
"We're not really surprised," said receiver Trey Metoyer. "Because we know what Blake can do. Hopefully we see him more out there."
Original Print Headline: Bell impressive in first real QB action for OU
Oklahoma up next
Vs. Kansas State 6:50 p.m., Sept. 22
Radio: KMOD fm97.5, KTBZ am1430
Oklahoma's Blake Bell warms up before a football game against Florida A&M in Norman, Okla. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World