QB Blake Bell Readies For First Red River Start
Blake Bell is the first OU quarterback to register victories in each of his first three starts since Sam Bradford did it in 2007. In those three victories, the Sooners have averaged 35.3 points per game and 470.7 yards of total offense.
“Blake has shown great poise; he just needs a few games,” said OU head coach Bob Stoops. “I’m really excited just about how he continues to run the offense and his leadership out there at the line of scrimmage. Everything has been really good and we haven’t had issues at the line of scrimmage.”
After scoring 24 rushing touchdowns in his first two seasons, Bell earned a reputation as an effective short-yardage runner in the “Belldozer” package. However, the junior signal caller continues to earn respect for his abilities as a passer.
In his initial start against Tulsa, Bell became the fourth Sooner passer to surpass 400 passing yards with a 413-yard effort. Since Sept. 14, Bell is the only FBS quarterback to throw for more than 700 yards, throw no interceptions and complete 70 percent of his passes, going 69 of 98 (70.4%) for 797 yards with six touchdowns and no INTs.
“He continues to throw the ball well,” Stoops said of Bell. “I think as much as anything he can, at times, continue to stay in the pocket and trust the pocket and deliver a few more throws. That should, the more he plays, continue to improve.”
Bell is also one of six FBS quarterbacks to pass for 700 yards and rush for 140 or more yards since he took over the starting job on Sep. 14. But the coaching staff has not forgotten what they Belldozer can do as a runner.
“I think in both areas he can continue to improve, Stoops said of the junior’s skill set. “He hasn’t played all that much yet and he is throwing the ball well, but again, I think there is still room for improvement there and we still have to find different ways to get him running the football and to try to break him loose from time to time.”
Bell has started to garner national attention for his exploits. To read the latest article, check out what George Schroeder wrote today in USA Today:
The Big 12’s Second-Leading Rusher, RB Brennan Clay
Question: What do the following numbers represent? 14.1, 24.9, 42.7, 90.0.
Answer: If you guessed the year-by-year yards-per-game rushing averages for Brennan Clay during each of his four seasons at Oklahoma, you’re correct.
In the first five games of 2013, the senior from San Diego has taken off for the Sooners and is currently second in the Big 12 with his 90.0 ypg average. In addition, his 6.62 yards-per-carry average is tops among Big 12 players with at least 60 attempts, as Clay has rushed 68 times for 450 yards.
Last week when his team needed it most, Clay stepped up in crunch time, reeling off a 76-yard touchdown jaunt that secured the 20-17 victory over TCU. That touchdown surely reminded Sooner fans of Clay’s previous heroics, including his game-winning touchdown run last season in overtime against Oklahoma State.
“He just continues to make plays,” said Stoops of his senior running back. “He made a lot for us a year ago and he continues to this year. He is one of our most reliable players. If you watch Brennan, he’s great at protection, he’s great at carrying the football, he finds his spaces in there, he has great pace to him. For instance, the cut the other night he waited for it and jumped in it. He does a lot of things really well.”
“He gets downhill,” said Bronson Irwin, one of Clay’s blockers in the trenches. “He gets yards and gets what he can. He’s going to stick his nose in there and find the hole and get all he yards that he can. In the short yardage and those situations where we’re running the ball, he’s a good guy to have back there.”
Clay’s 450 rushing yards so far this year already puts him within reach of his career high of 555 when OU faces Texas on Saturday with the possibility of becoming just the 21st OU player to rush for 1,000 yards in a season within future reach.
“It’s me being healthy,” Clay said of his success. “I’m so blessed to be able to play this game and I’ve fought through a lot of injuries. It’s just perseverance, hard work and determination. Nothing can really keep me off that field. God-willing, I’m making good plays and I’ll continue to do so.”
Co-offensive coordinator Josh Heupel particularly appreciates the play of Clay in the fourth quarter and has a simple explanation of what’s made him particularly effective in the final frame of games.
“He’s been consistent, he’s taken care of the football, and he has run with a physical presence,” said Heupel. “All of those things are why he’s played well in the fourth.”
WR Durron Neal on The Rise
WR Durron Neal was rated the No. 3 recruit out of the state of Missouri and one of the top 10 wide receivers in the country when he signed with Oklahoma. After playing in 10 games with five catches and 75 yards his freshman year in 2012, Neal has begun to take the next steps in his career and cracked the rotation this season. The St. Louis native has had four receptions in each of his last two games, setting a career high with 64 yards against Tulsa before recording 42 yards in the game against TCU.
The increased playing time has not come without a lot of increased effort.
“I really appreciate Durron,” said co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell. “Durron, he had a couple tough days in camp and took a step back to realize how hard he has worked and what a great attitude he has. He comes to practice every day and does everything we ask him to do. He has continued to practice and play well, which has showed in the snaps he is getting in the game. He is ready for his opportunities and I was really pleased with him Saturday night.
“When your opportunity comes, you really have to take advantage of it like Durron has.”
According to Neal, continuing to improve on a daily basis has been a point of pride for him since his arrival in Norman.
“I needed to come here, work hard and make the best of the opportunities given to me,” Neal said. “Things didn’t go so well during the camp, but I stayed with it and put in the work at practice and the extra work and it paid off.”
Going into the Red River Rivalry, Neal is third on the team with 10 receptions for 133 yards.
“Durron Neal is a young guy at receiver is really starting to make an impact and had an excellent game,” said Stoops of the sophomore’s effort against TCU. “Durron is coming on that way. He’s getting more confident, I believe, with the more he plays. He is sure of himself with how he is releasing and using his hands. Hopefully, that will continue.”
Neal is not the only Sooner with a year under his belt in the system who is contributing this season. Fellow wide receiver Sterling Shepard leads the team with 266 yards on 21 catches with three touchdowns.
On defense, DL Charles Tapper (team-leading 2.5 sacks) and LB Frank Shannon (team-leading 34 tackles) are also stepping into big-time roles as sophomores. The success goes to show some of the results of the culture of hard work and development that Coach Stoops and the OU coaching staff are seeking to foster.
“Most young people, they want to be All-Americans,” Stoops said. “They want to be NFL-type players. Well, the only way that’s going to happen is by us being demanding and developing them. So that’s what we’re constantly trying to do. Sure from year to year we may do it better one year than some others, but we’re continually reminded, or remind ourselves, of making sure that we continue to challenge our players for improvement and development.”
Heupel On the Importance of the Red River RIvalry
Oklahoma co-offensive coordinator has a special appreciation for the Red River Rivalry as both a player and a coach, giving him a unique appreciation for this annual spectacle at the State Fair of Texas.
“It’s a big game,” Heupel said. “It’s why kids come to Oklahoma; they want an opportunity to go down there and compete in this type of ball game. This is one of the most special events in college football. The atmosphere outside of the stadium, in the State Fair of Texas, and the atmosphere inside is electric. This is a fun game to play. You’ll remember it.”
Another Honor For AD
Accolades have followed Sooner great Adrian Peterson throughout his amazing career, from being named NFL MVP last season, being named the MVP of the Pro Bowl or being selected as a unanimous All-American.
But last Friday, Peterson was given an especially poignant tribute at Palestine High School when his high school jersey number was retired in his hometown of Palestine, Texas (see video).
Palestine was where it all began for Peterson, who first played for the Wildcats as a junior in 2002, rushing for 2,051 yards on 246 carries, an average of 8.3 yards per carry, and 22 touchdowns.
Peterson bested those numbers the following year in his senior season, finishing with 2,960 yards on 252 attempts, an average of 11.7 yards per carry, and a jaw-dropping 32 touchdowns.
For his efforts, Peterson was awarded the Hall Trophy as the U.S. Army National Player of the Year and was named the top high school player by both College Football News and Rivals.com.
Peterson continued to wear #28 when he went on to his storied career at Oklahoma, breaking numerous school and NCAA freshman records while helping the Sooners to the 2005 BCS Championship Game.
After three seasons in Norman, Peterson was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings and has been with the team ever since, including an NFL MVP award in 2012 after rushing for the second-most yards in a season in league history.
Peterson has also sought to bless others in chasing their dreams by donating $1 million to OU Athletics. Of that generous gift, $500,000 was designated for a scholarship fund, while the other $500,000 went towards the construction of OU’s game-changing residence hall, Headington Hall.