NORMAN — Realizing his team had an issue with red-zone and third-down offense, Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops and his staff devised a special set of plays to take advantage of their backup quarterback's unique skill set two years ago.
The result was incredible efficiency in short-yardage situations and important game experience for Blake Bell, who now displays calm and poise as the Sooners' starting quarterback.
When Bell was cramping up in the third quarter of Saturday's win at Notre Dame, speedy redshirt freshman Trevor Knight entered the game and immediately provided a spark, picking up 30 yards on an option keeper.
Having seen the change of pace Knight provided in relief duty, might coaches call Bell to the sideline on occasion this season and crank their offense up to the speed of Knight?
“Yeah, it's not a bad idea if you think about it,” Stoops said during his Monday news conference. “Blake gets a few series off and is not cramping maybe early in the third quarter.”
The Sooners (4-0 overall, 1-0 Big 12) host TCU at 6 p.m. Saturday in a game many expected Knight would start earlier this season.
Knight bested Bell in their preseason quarterback competition after wowing coaches with his impressive athleticism and playmaking ability. Knight showed flashes of that potential as the starter in Oklahoma's first two games, but struggled to consistently pass well enough to run the full Sooner offense.
Bell started the Sooners' 51-20 win over Tulsa two weeks ago and set a school record for passing yards in a first career start, then played well again in the Notre Dame victory, allowing the junior to take firm hold of the job.
A few days before naming Knight the starter, Stoops repeated a quote from comedy classic “Dumb and Dumber” when asked if he would consider playing two quarterbacks.
“Never say never and there's always a chance,” Stoops said. “Even what's his name in Dumb and Dumber, he had a chance. It was one in a million, but he did have a chance.”
The odds of Stoops using two quarterbacks seem better than one in a million, though, especially considering his recent history.
With Landry Jones — the most prolific passer in OU program history — on the roster, Stoops frequently dialed up plays from the “Belldozer” package, allowing Bell to enter games in short-yardage situations, take a shotgun snap and plow ahead for first downs and touchdowns.
Bell scored 24 touchdowns over two seasons as Jones' backup, and many of those scores came in huge moments, including the game-tying touchdowns in the fourth quarter of games against Notre Dame and Oklahoma State last season.
“I think being out there last year in some big situations — Notre Dame and Okie State and stuff like that — you feel a little bit of a presence back there,” Bell said. “Obviously, I'm not dropping back and throwing last year. Still, being in those big-game situations, it helps out a little bit.”
As recent history has shown, situational quarterbacking won't grant Knight any advantage in future position battles after Bell's eligibility expires.
Sophomore Kendal Thompson was part of the preseason quarterback derby before a foot injury derailed his chances. True freshman Cody Thomas is on campus redshirting, and Edmond Santa Fe's Justice Hansen is committed for the class of 2014.
But if Knight does regain the Sooners' starting quarterback job at some point, any game experience he gets between now and then should help to some degree.
“I think absolutely being in pressure situations, critical junctions in the game, absolutely helped him out,” co-offensive coordinator Josh Heupel said of Bell after Saturday's game. “But still you don't know how it's going to be when you are the starter.”