NORMAN — A few days before last season's game at Kansas State, Blake Bell eagerly called his dad to share some big — but top-secret — news: Oklahoma coaches had devised a special play for the then-third string, redshirt freshman quarterback.
“He said, ‘Whatever you do, don't tell anybody,'” said Mark Bell, who only shared the news with Blake's mom, Sherry.
“I wanted to tell somebody so bad; I was so excited. We didn't have any idea what this would evolve into; I thought maybe he'd get in for one play or something.”
After the Sooners advanced their opening drive to Kansas State's 1-yard line, Mark Bell stood in the stands, watching through his binoculars, when he noticed Landry Jones slip out of the sideline huddle.
“All of a sudden, Landry stepped back and Blake stepped in,” Mark Bell said. “I tapped Sherry, ‘I think it's coming. I think he's going in.'”
Blake Bell took a shotgun snap, stepped back to spot a hole and ran untouched into the end zone.
The entire Bell clan, of Wichita, Kan., remains a little shocked by how much their lives have changed since that first touchdown, scored out of the popular short-yardage package soon etched in Sooner lore as the “Belldozer.”
“It's so exciting,” Sherry Bell said. “We're bursting with pride.”
Brock Bell knew all about the Belldozer before his parents did, but only because he lives in Norman with his brother and OU fullback Trey Millard.
“I knew what the package was, but I didn't really expect them to use it at all,” Brock Bell said. “I figured it'd be something they'd shock somebody with late in the season.”
Bell has shocked lots of opponents since last season; he's rushed for 23 touchdowns — drastically improving Oklahoma's red-zone offense — since the inception of the Belldozer, which continues to evolve as Sooner coaches have become more comfortable with their backup quarterback, who was named as Jones' heir apparent in August, taking snaps in big moments.
Down seven points to Notre Dame in the fourth quarter and facing fourth-and-2 at the Irish's 9-yard line, Bell entered the game — to everyone's surprise — completed a first-down pass to Millard, then followed it up with a 1-yard, game-tying touchdown run.
Last week against Baylor, on third-and-1 at the Sooners' 45, Bell burst through the line and sprinted past the Baylor defense for a 55-yard touchdown.
“When you go into a situation like fourth-and-2 against Notre Dame on national TV ... that's not just coming in for mop-up duty,” Mark Bell said. “I know Blake feels great about it, and we feel great that the coaches have the confidence to go to Blake in a situation like that. It definitely helps prepare you for when you're in there every down.”
But this season, he's also gotten a taste of what it's like to be Oklahoma's quarterback when you've messed up. In the Sooners' 24-19 loss to Kansas State on Sept. 22, Bell fumbled a snap on first-and-goal; Kansas State recovered, taking away six likely OU points.
Bouncing back from mistakes and tuning out criticism are important aspects of being the OU quarterback; in that area, he's got an ideal mentor.
“What a perfect person to learn from ... Landry takes so much criticism, and is probably one of the best you see at brushing stuff off, going back out and performing well,” Brock Bell said.
Mark Bell played six NFL seasons before returning home to run Bell's Carpet & Floors, which has operated in Wichita through four Bell generations. Thanks to the popular son with his very own formation, the store has lots of new customers these days.
“It helps business; let's put it that way,” quipped Mark Bell, who added that he's happy Blake is beginning to develop an identity beyond the Belldozer.
“You can't argue with somebody naming a package after you; that's really special, but it seems like people think he's the Belldozer and all he can do is run.
“Blake can flat sling it. ... It's only a matter of time before people see it.”