STILLWATER — Blake Bell gazed upward at the heavily bundled Sooner fans congregated along the chain-link fence near the visitor's locker room.
The Oklahoma quarterback pumped his fist and raised his index finger as his eyes rose up, up, up.
Then, his gaze locked on familiar faces. His dad. His mom. His brother. His uncle. His cousins.
Bell smiled from ear to ear.
His look said a thousand words.
On an afternoon when he went from third string to Bedlam hero — again — Bell wrote another unbelievable chapter in his career. He started the day taking snaps from the third-team center and ended it throwing the game-winning, last-minute score.
OU 33, OSU 24.
“I'm still in just shock of the whole deal,” Bell said.
Hard to argue with that.
After Trevor Knight was injured late in the second quarter and Kendal Thompson was ineffective through the third quarter, Bell was put into the game permanently near the end of the third. From that point, he went 9 of 14 for 134 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions.
What's more, every drive he directed can be considered a success.
The first ended with a field goal.
The second started on the Sooners' 1-yard line, and even though they eventually punted, Bell got them out of that horrible field position with a 57-yard pass to Sterling Shepard. And the play could've been a total disaster; Bell fumbled the snap in the end zone but picked it up, kept his poise and found Shepard with a great ball.
And the last drive that Bell led was the best of all. The Sooners got the ball with less than 2 minutes remaining, trailing by four, needing a touchdown, and every yard they picked up came from Bell's arm, including a 7-yard corner route to Jalen Saunders.
“He runs a great route, and Blake throws a great ball,” Sooner coach Bob Stoops said.
Stoops said the coaches decided to go with Thompson after Knight's injury because their preparation had been so zone-read heavy. They figured Thompson would have a better chance at success.
“But then, they were bringing everybody in the box,” Stoops said of a Cowboy defense that held Thompson to minus-1 yard rushing and 16 yards passing, “so we knew we had to get out of that.”
About the only bad play he had was followed by an unheralded one. On the game-winning drive, he threw a jump ball to Lacoltan Bester that was intercepted by Justin Gilbert. But the Cowboy cornerback didn't control it, and the pass was ruled an incompletion. Before the replay booth had a chance to buzz down and ask to look closer at the play, Bell snapped the ball.
Four plays later, the Sooners scored.
A year after his last-second, fourth-down touchdown run forced Bedlam overtime, he came off the bench after getting only a handful of reps these past two weeks and gave the Sooners an unexpected Bedlam victory.
Call him Mr. Bedlam.
Or should we start calling this Bell-lam?
“I'm so proud of Blake,” said Sooner running back Brennan Clay, who roomed with Bell as a freshman. “What he did in that last drive, just showing resiliency and being a true, mature quarterback back in the pocket ... kudos to him.”
Only one other OU quarterback can say he beat Notre Dame and OSU in the same season, and that was Jimmy Harris, one of the most beloved Sooners of all time.
Who knows what comes next for Bell. He might start every game the rest of his career, or he might never start again.
Heck, who knows who'll even start the bowl game.
“Hey, it's up in the air,” Bell said. “Maybe Gabe Ikard.”
Unlikely that the Sooner center and Bell's good friend will start at quarterback, but Bell laughed at the notion as he headed up a ramp near the visitor's locker room and out to the buses Saturday afternoon. He walked out the doors into the December cold, and a cheer went up from the players' families waiting near the street.
Bell made his way quickly to those familiar faces from the stands. He hugged mom, Sherry, then dad, Mark, then brother and uncle and cousins. These were the same folks who rented a house in South Bend, Ind., for Notre Dame weekend, months before a starting quarterback was named, then kept it after Bell was passed over.
And there they were Saturday in Stillwater braving the bitter cold even though no one expected Bell to take one snap, much less win the game.
“What it means is everything,” Mark Bell said, his eyes moistening. “I'm so proud of Blake. The roller coaster Blake's gone through, he's just been awesome.”
The proud papa kept gathering different people for pictures. First, Bell with his parents. Then, parents and brother. Then, dad and uncle. And finally, the whole family gathered for a shot with the Bedlam hero standing in the middle.
Again, Bell smiled from ear to ear.
Those pictures will soon be framed.
“Absolutely,” Mark Bell said.
Now, his eyes twinkled.
“We're gonna celebrate tonight, too.”
* Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at (405) 475-4125. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.
RING THE BELL
Oklahoma players sound off on quarterback Blake Bell, who went from third team to Bedlam hero Saturday:
Center Gabe Ikard
“Blake probably took maybe five reps all week in practice because our plan was to use a QB run game, and obviously, Trevor (Knight) and Kendal (Thompson) fit that mold better than Blake, but for him to come in and do that, take us right down the field and throw a game-winning touchdown pass ... that's incredible. It shows you a lot about who he is as a guy, what kind of character he has. I'm just extremely proud of him.”
Receiver Sterling Shepard
“He's never stopped fighting.”
Running back Brennan Clay on the last drive
“Him and I made eye contact. We just winked at each other. We knew we were up to the task; we knew that. We knew it was going to come down to the wire, so we never lost faith or any confidence going into that drive. We knew we could punch it in.”