SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Blake Bell played another excellent game in Oklahoma's 35-21 win at Notre Dame, completing 22 of 30 passes for 232 yards and two touchdowns.
The junior also displayed his ability to make things happen with his legs, picking up 59 yards on 12 carries.
But among his most notable rushes were the unsuccessful ones, short-yardage carries that used to be automatic for Bell.
Early in the second quarter, Oklahoma faced a fourth-and-1 situation at Notre Dame's 43-yard line. Tight end Brannon Green and fullback Aaron Ripkowski entered the game, seemingly setting up the first play from the famous “Belldozer” formation all season.
But the Sooners called a timeout, returned to the field in a different formation, but still had Bell carry the ball. He gained no yards and OU turned it over on downs.
Notre Dame carried the momentum from their defensive stop all the way to Oklahoma's 24-yard line before quarterback Tommy Rees threw his third interception of the half.
Bell again tried short-yardage runs on the Sooners' first two drives of the second half, but picked up no yards on a third-and-1 — forcing a punt — then lost three yards on the next series on a third down at Notre Dame's 6-yard line.
But none of the short-yardage attempts came out of the traditional Belldozer package, which always featured three backs surrounding Bell.
The formation, of course, made Bell an immensely popular figure among Oklahoma fans when it first debuted two seasons ago at Kansas State. Over that stretch as Landry Jones' backup, Bell scored 24 rushing touchdowns, one of which came in the fourth quarter of last October's home loss to Notre Dame. That score was the first rushing touchdown the Irish surrendered to that point in the season.
Asked two weeks ago if the Belldozer package might be used this season, Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said the formation “still has its place.”
“Let's face it, third-and-1, or third-and-goal at the 1, or third-and-goal at the 2, it's still important that you score,” Stoops said. “It's still important that you pick up the first down. So, you know, there will be a place for it. Definitely.”