NORMAN — Oklahoma upset a top-10 rival on the road, is 10-2 this season and earned a berth in the Sugar Bowl, where it will meet an Alabama program that has dominated college football in recent years.
And oddly enough, nobody really knows the answer to one central, simple question about the Sooners: Who is this team's quarterback?
“Whoever it takes,” offensive coordinator Josh Heupel said after Oklahoma's 33-24 Bedam win last weekend.
Heupel's response may sound like a coach using public subterfuge to gain an edge — a tactic Bob Stoops' staff has frequently employed of late — but at this point, the words are genuine. That's just the kind of year it's been for this vagabond offense.
Redshirt freshman Trevor Knight started the Bedlam game, but injured his non-throwing shoulder late in the first half. Junior Blake Bell — OU's third-string quarterback entering the game — played the fourth quarter and led a remarkable game-winning touchdown drive in the final minutes.
Sources close to the program said Knight's injury isn't serious, and that X-rays taken Saturday at Boone Pickens Stadium were negative. OU players won't practice again until later this week because of final exams, so the Sooners' Sugar Bowl quarterback strategy will likely remain a mystery for the time being.
Oklahoma spent the entire offseason installing an option offense built around a mobile quarterback, and Knight won the job after a long position battle with Bell and sophomore Kendal Thompson.
Knight wowed fans with his running ability in the first two games, even rushing for 100 yards in the season-opening rout of Louisiana-Monroe. But a knee injury and passing inconsistency cost him the job, allowing the less-mobile Bell to take over and lead a more familiar OU offense.
OU coaches have insisted all season that the offense is basically the same regardless of who the quarterback is, but there were clear, noticeable play-calling differences depending on who was behind center.
Bell's passing ability helped the Sooners win 35-21 at Notre Dame, but his lack of mobility cost OU in a 36-20 loss to Texas a couple weeks later.
Despite inconsistency and a blowout loss at Baylor, the Sooners stuck with Bell until he suffered a concussion in the first half of a home win over Iowa State in mid-November. Knight re-emerged and played well, then started the next week's win at Kansas State.
OU spent the following two weeks installing a Bedlam game plan based on Knight's mobility and option prowess, and planned on Thompson serving as the backup because of his similar strengths. Bell never expected to play in Stillwater.
But after Knight injured his non-throwing shoulder late in the first half and Thompson proved ineffective, coaches trashed their game plan in the fourth quarter and turned once again to Bell, whose clutch performance left everyone wondering who will be the guy come Jan. 2.
“(Heupel) obviously preaches to us every day that everybody needs to be ready for their time, because you never know when it's gonna be,” Bell said. “We've got a great group of guys. … We all love each other, we're family, and just having fun with it.”