“It wasn't pretty; we know that, but it's a ‘W.' A lot of things we can go back and work on. It's not big-picture things; there are a lot of fine detail things we have to continue to iron out.”
Coaches insisted that the line would be OK despite its sudden youth and inexperience, but it's clear the line has work to do. If the OU offensive front can't keep Roy Robertson and Germard Reed off their quarterback, how can anyone expect it to stop Texas All-America candidates and defensive ends Jackson Jeffcoat and Alex Okafor?
“We'll see when you watch it on tape,” said coach Bob Stoops. “I think, whether it's experience, whether it's communicating ... I believe the guys up there are talented enough in what you need to get it done. We just have to do a better job of them executing it, and us getting them to execute it.”
Bell, who was recently named Oklahoma's second-team quarterback to Jones, waited until early in the third quarter for the first of his four carries. He plowed through UTEP's defense for a first down before being met, smacked and upended by UTEP linebacker A.J. Ropati.
“I was actually excited,” Bell said of the hard hit he sustained. “The first time I get in there ... you want to get in there and get the juices going. For me, it was awesome.”
His other three rushes all came in the fourth quarter, and they all converted third downs.
Take those away, and Oklahoma's third-down conversion rate was 2 of 13.
Perhaps its summed up best by two Sooner drives in the fourth quarter. On one, Bell came in and converted two straight third-down attempts, and after the second one, Jones found tight end Brannon Green on a perfect touchdown pass to put OU up 17-7.
On the next drive, on third-and-9, Jones was sacked for a loss of nine yards to give UTEP back the momentum with almost four minutes remaining.
“Everybody took their turn being a little bit off tonight — out on the perimeter, tight ends, running backs, quarterbacks, everybody,” Heupel said. “That's why we had the performance that we did. But we don't have all year (to get better); we have to have some urgency.”