DALLAS — Blake Bell looked at the stat sheet emotionless at first, then he started shaking his head ever so slightly.
The more he read, the more he shook.
“We didn't play well as an offense,” the Oklahoma quarterback said. “It's as simple as that.”
And Bell was the biggest reason why.
On an afternoon when Texas shocked OU 36-20 and pulled one of the bigger upsets in this rivalry's storied history, there was plenty of blame to go around on the Sooner sideline. But at the end of the day, this game boiled down to one simple fact.
OU lost because it couldn't throw a lick.
Two weeks ago when he threw for 232 yards and two touchdowns at Notre Dame, Bell was the Boy Wonder. The Chosen One. The Golden Dome Star.
Now, he's the Red River Flop.
Even though Bell played in the rivalry game a year ago and scored four touchdowns out of the Belldozer package, he made his Red River Rivalry debut as the Sooner starter on Saturday. He went 12 of 26 for 133 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions, one of which was returned for a Texas touchdown. He had seven rushes for minus-27 yards.
It was Bomarian.
In 2005, Rhett Bomar went 12 of 33 for 94 yards and an interception in his Red River debut. With an inexperienced offense and a hobbled Adrian Peterson, Bomar and the Sooners managed no play longer than 9 yards in the first three quarters.
It was ugly.
Bell and the Sooners weren't quite that bad Saturday. But as Red River debuts go, it was completely and utterly forgettable.
“Blake needs to keep improving,” Sooner coach Bob Stoops said, “but ... like all quarterbacks do, they need some support around them, too.”
No doubt Bell lacked that support in numerous instances Saturday.
On the Sooners' first possession, Bell threw a beautiful pass to Brennan Clay in the end zone. It was over his shoulder. It was right in his hands.
Clay dropped it.
Is it tough for a running back to make an over-the-shoulder, on-the-run catch?
But that was a play Clay needed to make. Instead of popping the Longhorns in the mouth with a touchdown, the Sooners settled for a field goal.
On the Sooners' next possession, Lacoltan Bester was the one doing Bell no favors. Bester wasn't even looking when Bell threw his way, and Longhorn lineman Chris Whaley was the beneficiary, snagging the ball and rumbling 31 yards for a touchdown. It was Bell's first interception of the season, and even though it wasn't all his fault, the play seemed to send Bell reeling.
He nearly threw an interception on the next possession.
Then, he threw three consecutive incompletions for a quick three-and-out.
Then, he got sacked on third and long and forced the Sooners to punt again.
“We're in too many third and longs,” Sooner offensive coordinator Josh Heupel said. “At the end of the day, you can't go 2 of 13 on third down.”
Those third-and-longs forced the Sooners into passing situations. So did the Longhorns being able to build a sizeable lead. On a day that Bell wasn't throwing it great, that was a recipe for disaster.
“We haven't been good on the outside or in the middle of the field, anything past 15 yards,” Heupel said. “We've got to be better. There's explosive plays out there; we've just got to make ‘em.”
To make matters worse for Bell, the Longhorns built a defensive scheme around forcing him to throw. Greg Robinson and Co. didn't want him to run, and they especially didn't want him to run up the gut on them like he does to everybody else.
“He was frustrated,” said Robinson, the Texas defensive coordinator, “but he didn't know where to go. He'd rather not go outside. He'd rather come up the middle.
“Our guys were so disciplined. ... It's impressive what they did.”
Bell was never able to get on track, and as a result, neither was the Sooner offense.
To his credit, Bell stood and answered every question about his performance. He didn't pass the buck. He didn't give excuses. He accepted the blame.
“Bottom line,” he said, “we've just got to execute.”
It's become obvious that execution revolves around Bell. Play like he did at Notre Dame, and this team will be hard to beat. But play again like he did against Texas, and he won't be the only one shaking his head.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at (405) 475-4125. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.