NORMAN, Okla. -- It has been an interesting start to the season at the University of Oklahoma.
The Sooners’ running game has been stellar, their special teams have been outstanding and their defense has been dominant.
Yet OU’s lack of a passing game has gotten most of the attention. The Sooners are averaging 121.5 passing yards per game and 4.5 yards per attempt and their 35.1 total QR ranks No. 94 nationally. It’s been a ugly passing game in Norman.
Blake Bell will start against Tulsa on Saturday and has the opportunity to prove he should be the Sooners’ starting quarterback for the rest of the season. Redshirt freshman Trevor Knight, who started OU’s first two games, will miss the Tulsa contest due to a knee injury.
Repeated questions about Bell’s ability to throw have been the norm since the junior began making a name for himself as the “Belldozer” in OU’s short yardage packages during the previous two seasons. But coach Bob Stoops and offensive coordinator Josh Heupel have continued to insist Bell’s throwing prowess is better than people realize.
“I’ve said it for a long time, the package that we used with him didn’t give him a chance,” Heupel said. “You have Landry Jones who is third in NCAA history is passing, so it’s tough to put the guy in there and drop back a bunch with him when you have Landry sitting on the sideline.”
Bell is the most experienced quarterback on campus, yet he still was beaten out for the starting job by Knight. Nonetheless Heupel is hoping his experience pays off on Saturday.
“Blake has played in a bunch of football games, a bunch of big games,” Heupel said. “He’s played in high-pressure situations. He’s pretty confident as a football player so I expect he will handle himself the right way and play well on Saturday.”
If he does, he’ll send the message that he should have been the guy behind center from Week 1. If he doesn’t, the Sooners could end up continuing their search for a balanced offense which features a explosive passing game.
And that search could lead them to give Kendal Thompson-- who returned to practice this week after breaking his foot in OU’s first preseason practice -- a shot as the man at the helm of the Sooners’ offense. Stoops said Thompson would still get the opportunity to compete for the job when the redshirt sophomore was injured, so it wouldn’t be a major surprise to see Thompson get a shot at some point this season.