Blake Bell settled into the shotgun position, standing in his own end zone. A full quarter of OU-Texas Tech had been played, and the Sooner coaches had shown little confidence in their quarterback.
In four first-quarter possessions, Bell had thrown four times. And then only when the Sooners had to. Two second-and-longs, two third-and-longs.
But backed up in no man's land, Josh Heupel and Bob Stoops seemed to have an epiphany. Trying to nurse a quarterback to victory might get you to the Alamo Bowl, but no further. If you want to win big, you've got to have a quarterback you can trust.
So Heupel and Stoops swallowed hard and put their faith in the big fella. Put their season on the line.
You know the rest. Bell played a superb three quarters, the Sooner offense found its best gear of the season and OU's pilot light still burns.
OU beat Tech 38-30, with all 38 points in the final 36 minutes of the game. Bell went from game manager to playmaker. Which is the only way to win the Big 12.
“He did a good job when we gave him the opportunity to throw the football,” Heupel said, which is as close as anyone will come to confirming the epiphany.
But the theory is solid. Things changed with the advent of that second quarter.
With Tech leading 7-0, Bell threw incomplete on first down from the OU 3-yard line. Two plays later, Jalen Saunders ran a crossing pattern, and Bell hit him in stride for a 20-yard gain.
The message was delivered. The Sooner offense would be reactive no more. Would not slip into the routine of trying to run to victory while relying on Bell's right arm only when down-and-distance demanded.
That 20-yard play launched the Sooners on what became a 16-play, 97-yard drive that more than tied the game. It changed the game.
Seven times on that drive, OU faced first down. Bell threw on five of those plays.
Heupel and Stoops had gone all Tammy Wynette. They had stood by their man. But until that drive, they had not empowered Bell.
Truth is, OU was playing scared offensively. Playing like it was allergic to the pass. Bell's mediocre play the past three games can make a coach gun-shy. But you can't give in to such temptation.
Trust your quarterback, or find a quarterback you can trust. Closing ranks is not an option.
Over the final three quarters Saturday, Bell didn't wear out his arm. He threw just 18 passes, completing 13 for 232 yards.
But the threat of the pass changed everything. Defenses have to adapt to a team willing to throw from the shadow of its own end zone. They have to adapt even more when the passing is efficient.
Bell on that 97-yard drive completed five of seven for 64 yards. And Bell opened his next drive with a 76-yard bomb to Saunders. OU suddenly had a 14-7 lead.
And over the game's remaining 34 minutes, Bell threw just 10 passes.
The OU running game blossomed. Duly convinced that the Sooners indeed would strike via air, Tech softened its run defense. In the third quarter, OU gained 127 yards on 16 running plays. In the fourth, 81 yards on 16 runs, which were the heavy lifting of two scoring drives.
All because Stoops and Co. took the shackles off their quarterback and were willing to go down with the ship.
Can the epiphany be a springboard for Blake Bell? “Hopefully it is,” Stoops said. “I think it can be. He's more and more comfortable every week.”
And Bell's coaches more comfortable with him. That's why the Sooners beat Tech and kept their Big 12 title chances afloat.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.