, Muskogee, OK

December 8, 2013

COLUMN: Bell a hero again in an unlikely finish

By Clay Horning

— STILLWATER — On the day Blake Bell became a two-time Bedlam hero, there was little sense to be made of his past struggles. He couldn’t, anyway.

“That’s just one of those things,” he said.

It’s hard to figure.

How could Bell, who took a dive after beating Notre Dame, come in cold — really cold — after Trevor Knight was injured and Kendal Thompson struggled to throw against a Cowboy defense stacked to stop the run and play the best pressure football of his life?

It’s hard to figure.

Also, don’t bother.

Who cares?

If last season’s overtime classic was Bedlam at it’s best, this was Bedlam at its most unlikely. This was Bedlam turned on its head. This was Bedlam defying everything that we thought we knew. This was Bedlam, for crying out loud, where even the loser’s first thought was the magnificence of the moment.

“That was a heck of a football game,” offered Mike Gundy with the first eight words of his post game presser.

The Sooners prevailed 33-24 and they earned every bit of it. Also, they’ll probably never win another game the same way nor ever play another game in which so much happened.

Bedlam, how do we love thee? Let us count the ways.

In the same game, OU played three different quarterbacks, called upon four different players to throw a pass, put on a goal-line stand that left OSU striking out three times from inside the 3 and twice from the 1, scored on a punt return, a fake field goal and a fumble return and led in time of possession by almost 10 minutes even while it was the other team that mounted three scoring drives in excess of 80 yards and one of 99.

Among Bell’s 140 passing yards, 57 were delivered from the Sooner end zone to Sterling Shepard, all of it after Bell didn’t see the snap coming, yet maintained his composure well enough to grab the ball and take advantage of the time his offensive line afforded.

It was a game that will have us wondering again who the starting quarterback is for this team in its one remaining game, and should it be Bell, will he have won it on merit or injury?

In OU’s postgame talk session, defensive coordinator Mike Stoops pounced on yet another storyline.

Asked what it was like to have the offense bail out the defense after OSU took the lead late, Stoops said his defense had been great on third down the whole game, hey, why not put a positive spin on things.

“Sooner Magic,” Stoops said.

Then, as Jalen Saunders came to the same microphone, OU’s defensive coordinator told OU’s best receiver to repeat the line. He had another line, too.

“Big Game Bob must be back,” he said.

It was a game that, even though OU probably never finds its footing without Saunders returning a punt 64 yards for the Sooners’ first touchdown, he almost got away from the podium without anybody asking about it. It was the last question he took and it seemed like he was talking about something that happened last week.

It’s not that an OU victory was so improbable, it’s that an OU victory was improbable like this. And still, how OU won may be no more amazing than the simple fact that it won, not only Saturday but also two weeks ago at Kansas State.

The Sooners have lost games they shouldn’t (Texas) and not shown up in games they should (Baylor), and not just this season.

What they have not done so much in recent years is look like a lost team only to get it all back, only to come up with the huge plays required to win huge games. Here lately, when it’s gone bad for OU, the grey cloud has followed it into the offseason.

Not this time.

Not after this game.

We thought a corner had been turned after Notre Dame and then it became clear we were wrong. We thought the offense couldn’t become a bigger mess when Bell became the second failed quarterback to run it, only to have Knight re-enter the fray better than ever.

Anybody should be forgiven today for believing it couldn’t get much worse when Bell had to come off the scrapheap at Boone Pickens Stadium. That turned out to be wrong, too.

It would appear the fourth-year junior from Wichita has finally grown up before our very eyes. Bell didn’t know what to think about that either. All he really knew, he said, was “that’s why you come to the University of Oklahoma.”

More and more, he couldn’t be more right. Times have clearly changed, things are not what they used to be.

Now, when you don the crimson and cream and become part of an historically fantastic program, you come to Oklahoma to win this game.

That’s Bedlam.

The Sooners won.

It was amazing.