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Sooner Offense Goes Vertical In Bell’s Debut

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Blake Bell had the most successful passing debut for a Sooner quarterback in the history of the program on Saturday. His 413 yards through the air were more than Sam Bradford, Jason White and Landry Jones when they made their debuts. However, the next step in the great Oklahoma quarterback debate of 2013 begins as we propose the question, has the Sooner passing game been stagnant due to ability, defensive scheme or play-calling? My opinion is that Bell’s performance on Saturday showed that the answer is, in fact, all of the above.

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"I had a great time first of all, just getting out there and playing ball, there's nothing better. . The only thing I wanted to do was be ready. I didn't want to not be ready for this game. I felt like I did that. I felt like I played well out there." -Blake Bell

Ability

There's no question that Tulsa is the worst of the three defense that Oklahoma has played this season. As a result, it's easy to say that was the primary factor in Bell's success but you can't question the plays that Bell made. He hit wide open receivers where Knight had missed them in previous games. He hit the swing pass on the money and was able to hit receivers downfield and in stride. Those are all things that had been missing in Oklahoma's previous two games but were very much a part of the Sooner offense on Saturday. It goes without saying that a quarterback has to be able to make passes and that's exactly what Bell did on Saturday.

Defensive Scheme

Oklahoma came into the game averaging over 300 yards on the ground and Tulsa's game plan was to defend the run first. The result of the Tulsa defensive scheme was receivers left in man-on-man situations on multiple occasions and for the first time all season the Sooners were able to capitalize on it.

The OU rushing attack had its lowest productive day of the season but the passing game benefitted from it. Bell averaged 15.3 yards per completion and much of it was to receivers in man coverage.

Play-Calling

With Bell passing for 413 yards and four touchdowns it's easy to overlook the fact that, for the third game in a row, Josh Heupel called more run plays that he did pass plays. Bell attempted 37 passes and the Sooners ran the ball 44 times on Saturday. Based on that, you could say that the game plan to revamp the offense and focus on a more power-oriented/balanced attack is still in place. We just got to see it, for the first time, when the passing game is working.

That's not to say that all was well with Oklahoma's offensive play-calling. We can always find something to nitpick but the end result says 51 points and 607 yards.

Position Grades

Quarterback: A+ Blake Bell wasn't perfect but he was spectacular nonetheless. We've already covered his passing stats (he also made some plays with his feet) but the most important stat of the day for Bell was 0 turnovers.

Running Backs: A How can you not be excited after watching Keith Ford run the football? Oklahoma's true freshman ran 7 times for 46 yards and had a 6.6 yards per carry average, along with his first touchdown as a Sooner. Roy Finch led the team with 68 yards on 8 carries. Damien Williams didn't play and Brennan Clay was a bit banged up but Oklahoma still managed nearly 200 yards on the ground and 4.4 yards per carry.

Offensive Line: A Blake Bell was sacked once but the overall product can't be disputed. Bell had time for most of the day and the success of the running backs should be attributed, in part, to the line as well.

Receivers: A+ Jaz Reynolds and Sterling Shepard both broke the century mark in receiving yards with Reynolds having a team-high of 27.3 yards per reception. Shepard had his best day as a Sooner with his team-high 123 yards and two touchdowns.