NORMAN — Blake Bell stood in the Switzer Center hallway two weeks ago and recited many of the usual talking points during an interview with The Oklahoman.
The junior quarterback stressed the importance of always being ready to play and staying even-keeled regardless of circumstances. He reiterated that the team is more important than any individual.
For one brief moment, though, Bell went off script during an answer about the Sooners' Dec. 7 Bedlam victory and his monumental role in it.
“Obviously going in there as the third quarterback, you're never really thinking you're gonna play,” Bell said. “I would say no, I wasn't ready.”
Catching himself, Bell quickly added, “Well, I was ready to play, but I didn't think I was gonna get a chance.”
Ready or not, Bell was forced into action that frigid Saturday in Stillwater after starter Trevor Knight separated a shoulder and sophomore Kendal Thompson was ineffective. Bell's performance on Oklahoma's final drive — particularly the spot-on, game-winning touchdown pass to Jalen Saunders with 19 seconds to go — has, without question, become the junior's defining career moment.
That Bell would shine in the backup role isn't necessarily a surprise. He spent the 2011 and 2012 seasons replacing starter Landry Jones in short-yardage and goal-line situations, taking a shotgun snap and plowing forward for first downs and touchdowns.
He rushed for 24 touchdowns, won a bowl game's Most Valuable Player Award and developing a cultlike following as the “Belldozer.”
Most considered him the clear favorite to replace Jones on a full-time basis to start the 2013 season, but Knight bested Bell in the preseason quarterback derby.
When Knight was injured in the second game of the season, Bell took over and shined throughout his first two starts, including a 35-21 win at Notre Dame in late September.
But Bell's performance wasn't consistent, and he struggled mightily in losses to Texas and at Baylor. When he was knocked out of the Sooners' Nov. 16 home win over Iowa State with a concussion and Knight played well off the bench, Bell's fate seemed sealed.
Knight started the Sooners' 41-31 win at Kansas State, seemingly cementing his status — once again — as the Sooners' quarterback moving forward.