STILLWATER — Ryan Howard gets to be a new person every week as one of Oklahoma State's scout team quarterbacks.
This week, he gets to be Blake Bell, Oklahoma's 6-foot-6, 260-pound quarterback who has become the goal-line and short-yardage specialist in the Sooners' “Belldozer” package.
Problem is, Howard is only 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds.
“There's not a lot of guys walking around that are 250 pounds that can run pretty good,” OSU coach Mike Gundy said. “So it's hard to find somebody to simulate that situation.”
Mimicking Bell and the formation will be the No. 3 Cowboys' challenge this week as they prepare for Saturday night's Bedlam contest against No. 10 OU. Then it's time to defend the real thing, a task that has not been easy for Sooner opponents this season as OU has continued to expand the Belldozer during the past month.
“It concerns us a lot,” OSU defensive coordinator Bill Young said. “Nobody's really stopped it. Iowa State came close, but never did get it totally stopped.”
In the Belldozer, the Sooners pull a guard and utilize two fullbacks — Trey Millard and Aaron Ripkowski — as lead blockers. The quarterback himself does the rest, as Bell has scored nine touchdowns on just 33 carries this season.
That makes defensive line play crucial, as well as Shaun Lewis' role as the Cowboys' strongside linebacker.
“You've got to do your job, and then you've got to do a little extra,” defensive end Jamie Blatnick said. “It's going to be about getting off blocks … and really just getting after it on the line of scrimmage.”
Said Lewis: “They just want us to meet the blockers in the backfield. If you can do that, you can close down the lanes (Bell) has to run the ball. The coaches really took a lot of stress off of us by just letting us go meet the blockers in the backfield. It's pretty easy after that.”
Bell isn't the first big, athletic quarterback the Cowboys have faced this season, as Kansas State's Collin Klein is used in a very similar fashion. But Klein gashed OSU for 144 rushing yards and three touchdowns earlier this month.
OSU was idle last week, giving the Cowboys an extra two days of practice to prepare for a unique package like the Belldozer. But Young also expects OU to find new ways to use the formation, like it did against ISU last week.
The Belldozer is sure to be an important part of Saturday's Bedlam clash. And stopping it may be the biggest key for the OSU defense.
“We spend a lot of time on it,” Young said of preparing for the short-yardage plays. “We'll see if it works or not.”