NORMAN — It was a curious moment in Oklahoma's curious 2011 season.
The Sooners had advanced to the 1-yard line on their opening drive against Kansas State on Oct. 29. Quarterback Landry Jones ran toward the sideline, Blake Bell ran toward the huddle.
What was happening, exactly? Sure, OU had endured its share of red zone and goal line ineptitude, but to the point of inserting a redshirt freshman quarterback to run the offense in short-yardage situations? Really?
Bell, all 6 foot 6 and 255 pounds of him, charged forward for a 1-yard touchdown bulrush and Oklahoma went on to rout K-State 58-17 on the road.
The Belldozer was born.
As the weeks went by, the package went from gimmick to staple. Bell rushed for 13 touchdowns, including three in the Insight Bowl win against Iowa.
Odd as it would have sounded in August, Bell – not Jones, a preseason Heisman favorite – was OU's bowl MVP.
“It's pretty much the most effective thing we had,” lineman Gabe Ikard said, looking surprised by the words as they left his mouth.
So, what's next for Bell and the Belldozer? Bell is a year older. Jones decided to return for his senior season. There are a lot of moving parts for a piece of the offense that went from quick fix to darn-near unstoppable.
“It's something that worked like we figured it would,” OU coach Bob Stoops said. “I can't say we're surprised about it.”
There could be more in store for the Belldozer – or it could go away altogether. That's the wide-ranging spectrum, according to Stoops.
If the Sooners run the ball more effectively in the red zone, which would seem to require Dominique Whaley to return with zest from his broken ankle, the package might be tabled. But Stoops said that would require “significant” improvement.
As far as spring work, the Belldozer got a boost when fullback Aaron Ripkowski was cleared to practice. Ripkowski, one of two fullbacks used in the formation, injured his back late in the season. Linebacker Jaydan Bird filled in admirably during the bowl game, but having Ripkowski healthy helps.