NORMAN — Contrasted with his three previous starts, Oklahoma quarterback Blake Bell's passes were more on target, he appeared more poised and — as a result — he recorded better statistics in Saturday's 38-30 victory over Texas Tech.
Bell connected with Jalen Saunders for a beautiful 76-yard touchdown pass — the Sooners' longest touchdown pass so far this season. The OU offense was also much better on third downs, especially while sustaining impressive scoring drives of 97, 86, 75, 58 and 53 yards.
So what changed Saturday for Bell that allowed him to play at such a high level?
“Just being able to protect him in the pocket,” said senior running back Brennan Clay. “He was comfortable being able to take a shot down the field. We emphasized that they're a blitz-heavy team, so we did a good job of picking up the blitz and making him feel comfortable in the pocket. I think that's what helped out.”
Indeed, Bell's six starts can be split into two three-game groups: In one, Bell was productive throwing the ball; and in the other, he really wasn't.
In the former group of games, opposing defenses sacked Bell once and hurried him five times; in the latter, those numbers are eight and 10, respectively.
For Oklahoma to win at No. 6 Baylor on Thursday, Nov. 7, Bell will have to remain comfortable in the pocket against a defense that ranks eighth in the nation in sacks.
Bell started his first game Sept. 14 against Tulsa, and was remarkably effective throwing the football. A week later against Notre Dame, Bell continued to impress with his arm, this time against a top-notch defense on the road.