As good as Roy Finch and Jaz Reynolds were against Texas A&M, the offensive MVP for Oklahoma might have been third-string quarterback Blake Bell. The “Belldozer” formation worked wonders, especially in the first half, when he turned six carries into four first downs and a touchdown. Bell added a four-yard touchdown in the second half, and finished with 37 yards rushing on 12 carries.
“He did a great job with different ways we used him in that formation and it's really helped us with goal line and short yardage and all of that,” coach Bob Stoops said. “He's 6-6, 255, and the guys do a good job blocking for him. He's doing a nice job with patience and finding seams, and then if he just falls forward he generally gets three yards. It's been positive for us.”Mark D. Smith/US Presswire
It appears Blake Bell's role in the Oklahoma offense will expand.
The Belldozer set could have long-term ramifications. Bell is getting valuable on-field experience with the offense, while backup QB Drew Allen stands on the sidelines. The playing time could give Bell a leg up in the quarterback derby to succeed Landry Jones, whether that's in 2012 or 2013.
THE INJURIES CONTINUE to pile up on both sides of the ball. The biggest injury to hit the Sooners since Sam Bradford went down in 2009, Ryan Broyles suffered a torn ACL in the third quarter, which will end his OU career.
"That's heartbreaking,” said safety Aaron Colvin, who claimed he wasn't aware of the extent of Broyles’ injury until he walked into the interview room.
“Ryan is a rock to our team and that's a big loss, but the defense just has to show up every week and continue playing to the best of our abilities as a team."
Broyles' injury is obviously devastating, but the Sooners enter the open week banged up across the board.
Last week, wide receiver Kenny Stills reaggravated his preseason hamstring injury and had to sit out several possessions after trying to start the game. He finished with just two catches, though one of those was a touchdown. The week off will give him some time to rest the hamstring.
Nickelback Tony Jefferson should also benefit from an extra week off. Jefferson, who played only one snap against Texas A&M, has been dealing with a sore right knee. Defensive coordinator Brent Venables downplayed the injury, noting that the Sooners went with Joe Ibiloye over Jefferson because of Texas A&M’s pro-style offense.
“I think Tony is doing great,” Venables said. “Probably wished he would have played more. We just felt that they were a strong, physical running team, and with the set that they gave us, a bigger-bodied guy would be better suited.”
Linebackers Tom Wort and Travis Lewis both had to leave the game Saturday, although neither has an injury that's believed to be serious. Wort suffered a sprained left ankle in the first quarter. He didn’t return to the defense, though he did play a snap on kickoff return. Jaydan Bird replaced Wort at middle linebacker and played well, recording three tackles. Lewis’ injury came late in the game.
Center Ben Habern, who missed five games with a broken forearm, saw time in six series while wearing a cast. However, he clearly has a ways to go before getting into game shape.
“It was fun to get back out there with the guys,” he said. “It was good to get back in the flow of things. It felt fine.”
While Habern gets closer to 100 percent, Gabe Ikard has been terrific at center and Adam Shead has come on at left guard. Tyler Evans continues to play well at right guard.AP Photo/Alonzo J. Adams
Though the Sooners didn't have a sack of Texas A&M's Ryan Tannehill, they kept him in the pocket.
Cornerback Jamell Fleming, who missed two games after having arthroscopic knee surgery, was sharp in his return, totaling six tackles, two pass breakups, a quarterback hurry, an interception and a fumble recovery.
“Jamell's a great player,” Stoops said. “He's got the size, he's got the speed, he's got the experience out there and changes the defense.”
THE OU DEFENSIVE FRONT DID a tremendous job of tipping Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s passes at the line of scrimmage. Ronnell Lewis, Frank Alexander and R.J. Washington all batted down balls. Washington’s tip led to Lewis’ interception, which helped the Sooners put away A&M in the third quarter.
"No explanation,” said Tannehill, who was asked about the tips after the game. “A couple of times they got their hands on our cut blocks and were able to stay up, so that's a couple of them. But the other ones -- just have to find a way to get a block."
OU CAME INTO THE GAME leading the nation in sacks, but failed to sack Tannehill once despite getting constant pressure. The game plan, however, was to contain Tannehill in the pocket and not allow him to get big yardage with his legs. That’s why the Sooners were cautious with the pressure. The ploy worked, as Tannehill had only 15 yards on two carries.
“He's a good player, but I thought for the most part we were able to keep him getting out too much and making too many plays,” Stoops said. “I thought for the most part we did a good job against the run game.”
Even though OU was held without one, the Sooners are still No. 1 in sacks. OU did have three quarterback hurries.
On the other side of the ball, the Sooners continued to protect the quarterback. Jones was only sacked once by A&M, which entered the game ranked second nationally in sacks. The Aggies are now third, behind Florida State.
OKLAHOMA HAS BEEN A tremendous third-quarter team this season, and Saturday was no different. OU outscored A&M 28-0 in the third quarter, a week after outscoring Kansas State 21-0 in the third. So far this season, OU has outscored opponents 118-10 in the third quarter.