NORMAN — When Blake Bell trotted onto the field last Saturday, frigid Sooner fans went wild like teenage girls at a Justin Bieber concert.
The Belldozer, a package directed by Bell, a physical, athletic 6-foot-6, 260-pound backup quarterback, has been a rousing success since it was introduced against Kansas State.
But for the first time in four games, the Belldozer ran into some snags against Iowa State.
Of Bell's 10 plays, four resulted in Bell being stuffed for no gain. Another was a 2-yard loss on an option-pitch to fullback Trey Millard. Bell also threw an interception at the goal line.
“To think you're going to go through (four) games and it's going to be 95 percent (success rate), I don't think is very realistic,” said coach Bob Stoops. “It's going to get stopped every now and then. We came back on a couple of those occasions on fourth down and got it.
“That's the game you play. Sometimes you get them, sometimes they get you. To think we're the only ones that are going to get it every time isn't realistic.”
The Belldozer has been extremely effective when fullbacks Aaron Ripkowski and Millard are lead blockers for Bell.
“We have a body for every other body,” said guard/center Gabe Ikard. “Instead of the quarterback handing off, you have a 260-pound kid use his weight. As a lineman it's one of your favorite formations — anxious to know you're going to run.”
Since opponents expect Bell to plow ahead, OU coaches at some point might have to call a pass out of the formation to keep defenses honest.
Still, the success rate has been remarkable.
Of Bell's 33 carries, 21 have produced first downs or touchdowns.
“That package is extremely hard to defend,” Ikard said. “We're not putting anything in that's overly complicated. The more wrinkles you put in the more difficult it's going to be to defend. We have to sharpen it up this week.”
On the interception, Bell, a redshirt freshman four games into his career, failed to let the play develop. He hurried the play and threw into triple coverage.
“In the tight end zone we didn't execute a couple of times and didn't put points on the board,” said offensive coordinator Josh Heupel. “Regardless of what personnel grouping you're in, you have to execute. But it's been a good package, allowed us to do some things and ultimately get the ball in the end zone.”
Bell has nine touchdowns on the season. He is tied with Dominique Whaley and one behind team leader Ryan Broyles — both of whom are out for the season with injuries.
One variation that hasn't been pulled out of the playbook is a roll-the-dice home run deep route.
Teammates swear Bell throws the ball 60 to 70 yards in practice and has a cannon arm.
“You haven't seen it yet, but he can wing it,” Ikard said. “Far. Real far. Really, really far.”
Since a similar quarterback — Kansas State's Collin Klein — ran for 144 yards and passed for 231 yards against Oklahoma State, is there a temptation to sprinkle in a little more Belldozer package?
“We have to establish the run game,” said center Ben Habern. “On those third-and-short situations, whether it's third-and-3, third-and-4 or third-and-5 it might be important to use that package to get a first down. With the package or without it, it's important that we establish the run game.”
OU's offense still relies heavily on the passing game. Landry Jones owns the majority of OU's passing records. Even without Broyles, out for the season with a knee injury, there are talented wide receivers. And senior tight end James Hanna had a monster Bedlam game last year.
The Belldozer, though, has allowed the Sooners to pound out tough yards, something that's been missing the past couple of seasons.
“It's been a good package for us,” Jones said. “Those guys are doing a good job with it. We're getting some good movement with it. It's really helped us in the red zone. It's nice to have an extra blocker in the backfield. It could be big in this game.”
Every time Bell steps onto the field Saturday night his assignment usually will be to move the chains or plow into the end zone.
“Those are game-changing situations,” Heupel said. “If you can execute those you have a chance to end up on the right side of the scoreboard.”
Here is a breakdown of Blake Bell's 10 plays vs. Iowa State:
3rd-and-1 at ISU 13 - Bell no gain
4th-and-1 at ISU 13 - Bell 7-yard run
1st-goal at ISU 6 - Bell no gain
2nd-goal at ISU 1 - Bell interception
1st-goal at ISU 3 - Bell 3-yard TD
3rd-goal at ISU 1 - Bell 1-yard TD
3rd-and-1 at ISU 31 - Bell no gain
4th-and-1 at ISU 31 - Bell 3-yard run
1st-goal at ISU 1 - Bell no gain
2nd-goal at ISU 1 - option to Millard 2-yard loss