Texas shockingly beat the Sooners 36-20 Saturday and the reason was singular.
Texas' Case McCoy threw with efficiency and effectiveness. The Sooners' Blake Bell did not. It's not any more complicated than that.
Both teams ran the ball well. Texas' superior numbers were the product of more opportunities; OU didn't get the chance to run as much. Both teams scored a defensive touchdown. Both teams had huge kick returns — UT's Daje Johnson returned a punt for a TD; the Sooners' Roy Finch returned a kickoff 73 yards to set up a short TD drive.
Yet a mighty gulf separated the passing games. McCoy threw two deep balls for touchdowns and completed a variety of clutch passes. Bell did neither, though it wasn't all his fault.
Remember over the last year, when Bob Stoops would be asked about using a running quarterback, and Stoops would be quick to remind us that OU still valued foremost a guy who could throw?
Now you know he wasn't yanking our chain.
The Sooners' loss to Texas shows what happens in the modern era when a team can't throw. With no aerial supplement, an offense stagnates.
Bell threw downfield only seven times, despite UT admittedly stacking the middle to keep Bell from trudging up the gut and despite OU trailing by a significant margin much of the day.
And by downfield, I mean at least 10 yards past the line of scrimmage. Bell completed just one of those seven, on a nifty play in which Trey Millard came out of a fullhouse backfield and found himself open down the middle for a 29-yard gain.
One of seven. It was a 1950s offense. Or, in the Sooners' case, a 2013 offense. In three Big 12 games this season, the Sooners have totaled four offensive touchdowns. They survived West Virginia (16-7) and TCU (20-17), but not the Longhorns.
In those three games, Bell and Trevor Knight have combined to complete 42 of 78 passes for 404 yards, four interceptions and one touchdown.
That's a typical Landry Jones stat line — for one game. Last November, Landry thrice threw for more than 404 yards in a game. And if you're keeping score, the Sooners scored 16 offensive touchdowns in those three games against Iowa State, West Virginia and OSU.
Landry has moved on, so Stoops is left to figure out what to do in Landry's wake. Stoops already has swapped quarterbacks once; Bell replaced Knight in the first place because Knight's passes weren't finding Sooner hands.
What's next? Try Kendal Thompson? Stick with Bell and hope he plays to his Notre Dame level (22 of 30, 232 yards, two touchdowns)? Go back to Knight? The latter isn't likely, since if ever there was a time to do that, it would have been against Texas, which until reaching the Cotton Bowl had been having a devil of a time tackling a quarterback this season.
I don't know what Stoops will do. I do know that neither he nor Josh Heupel sound overly confident in Bell.
Heupel on the passing game: “We're not hitting any of our deep shots … there were opportunities there a little bit to unload the box that we're not taking advantage of.”
Stoops on the run game: “There were just some things we don't feel so comfortable with in some areas always with Blake.”
What they seemed to be saying is that with Landry Jones, OU had a quarterback who couldn't run but was a big-time thrower, and with Trevor Knight, OU had a quarterback who couldn't throw but was a big-time runner, and with Blake Bell, at least against Texas, OU had a quarterback who did neither.
In Bell's defense, one of his downfield throws was a gorgeous throw into the end zone, but Brennan Clay dropped what would have been a 17-yard touchdown. And we've seen Bell play moderately well against TCU and extremely well against Notre Dame.
So we'll probably see Bell against Kansas on Saturday. But whoever quarterbacks, this much we've learned in 2013. A quality running quarterback is optional. A quality passer is not.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at email@example.com. 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.