SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Blake Bell's newlywed cousin dropped everything, booked a last-minute flight from Houston and will happily sleep on the floor of the five-bedroom house his family rented here this weekend.
That the house will be a tad overcrowded — 16 family members and close friends will cram in it together — shouldn't come as a surprise in this devoutly Catholic group, which includes an aunt who watches OU football games on TV with a statue of the Virgin Mary nearby; and an 86-year-old grandfather who couldn't make the trip, but plans to watch at home and pray the Rosary.
Yes, this is a pretty big game for the Bell family.
The Bells began planning this trip months ago — renting a house near the Notre Dame campus and two vans for the large group that would travel to witness Blake's first career road start at the preeminent Catholic university.
All that planning will pay off when he trots onto the field a little after 2:30 p.m. Saturday to lead No. 14 Oklahoma against the Irish, but only a month ago, the family figured they'd spend the afternoon watching Blake watch the game.
“It's the ideal situation: Watching him play probably the most storied program of all time, Notre Dame, and especially after the way he won the starting job,” said Austin Muck, Bell's cousin who hadn't planned on coming to the game until a sudden change of heart this week compelled him to travel more than 1,000 miles and sleep on a floor.
The family always stays together — or at least at the same hotel — when they travel to OU games, but they knew last spring that hotels around Notre Dame would be wildly expensive this weekend.
Then they discovered that lots of locals in South Bend rent houses to out-of-towners on game weekends and for other big campus events. Family members and a few close friends lined up to join the Bells in the rent house, despite the fact many of them didn't have a ticket to the game.
“There was a group of them that didn't have tickets, but they were going no matter what,” said Sherry Bell, Blake's mom. “If they didn't get tickets, they would've just watched the game somewhere in town.”
The entire clan eventually managed to get tickets to the game they had expected Blake would start — until, that is, OU coach Bob Stoops' late-August announcement that redshirt freshman Trevor Knight would be his starting quarterback.