After a 31-14 Insight Bowl win over Iowa to end the 2011 season, Sooners coach Bob Stoops wasn't exactly thrilled with the choice of Blake Bell as the game's Offensive Most Valuable Player.
“I was shocked,” Stoops said then. “I said, ‘What?' Geez, the guy played nine plays.”
Bell played a few more than nine plays, but not many. Stoops' objection then was because Bell only came on after Landry Jones had led the offense down the field.
Now, though, Stoops points to experience like that helping Bell on Saturday when he makes his first career start.
“He's been in a lot of big moments for two years and a lot of important plays and been hit. Unlike some other guys with their first start, I think he'll be more apt to adjust to it quicker.”
PASSING TROUBLES NOT ALL ON QBS
Although Trevor Knight struggled to connect on his passes before being replaced by Bell late in the win over West Virginia, Stoops said most of the blame for the struggles in the passing game goes to factors other than Knight.
“The outside world doesn't see it — at least half to 60 percent of what hasn't been great isn't on the quarterback,” Stoops said. “The receivers dropped four balls in the first game and we couldn't execute a screen and on and on.
“Some of the protections were really poor in our play-action game where we had guys open and he's moving around and couldn't settle and throw. People don't want to hear that though. He didn't make the throw and that's his fault. That's not always the case.”
KASITATI SETTLING INTO STARTING ROLE
Nila Kasitati had a rough last season. It started with a heart condition that was discovered before the season and then with a knee injury that ended his year prematurely.
But this season, the sophomore is making a big impact on the offensive line. He's started both games at right guard so far, supplanting Bronson Irwin, who started all 13 games there a year ago.
“It's been a blessing,” Kasitati said. “In the last two years I've been hurt and it's been pretty crazy. Coming out and starting, I worked my butt off in camp and you reap what you sow.”
Irwin and Kasitati have rotated plenty, though Kasitati has gotten the bulk of the playing time.
“I'm fortunate to have Brony (Irwin) switch out with me every once in awhile,” Kasitati said. “We both get to take a breath and every time we hear our names called to get in there, we're ready to go.”
BLANKENSHIP: ‘CHIP IS OK'
With nearly 60 Oklahomans on the Tulsa's roster and nearly 40 on the travel squad, Tulsa coach Bill Blankenship said the players who weren't recruited by Oklahoma can have a chip on their shoulder when playing the Sooners.
“I think the chip is OK,” Blankenship told the Tulsa World. “I think sometimes you might be in a little awe. … There's a little bit of a balancing act that they'll have.
“I think it's OK to say, ‘I think I could have played here.' … That's great if that motivates you.”
While many of the in-state players weren't offered by the Sooners, freshman defensive end Dalton Rodriguez was.
Rodriguez was committed to OU before switching his commitment to the Golden Hurricane in December.
Rodriguez is not expected to play Saturday though.
BY RYAN ABER AND JASON KERSEY