No. 4 Oklahoma hopes to avoid trap vs. Tulsa
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — Blake Bell dominated Tulsa a year ago.
He could do it again on Saturday, but in a much different way, when No. 4 Oklahoma plays the Golden Hurricane.
In last year’s matchup, Bell played quarterback in place of the injured Trevor Knight and threw for 413 yards and four touchdowns in the Sooners’ 51-20 win. This time, Bell is Oklahoma’s starting tight end and Knight is the entrenched starting quarterback. Bell did not catch a pass in Oklahoma’s season-opening 48-16 win over Louisiana Tech, though he drew a pass interference call from a defender in the end zone.
Oklahoma’s coaches and teammates consistently have praised Bell’s effort and skill set since he switched from quarterback in the spring, and they expect the 6-foot-6, 260-pound senior to be a deep threat.
Bell could return to quarterback in case of emergency. Backup Cody Thomas has not been fully healthy, the Sooners want to redshirt Justice Hansen, and the NCAA has yet to make a decision on Texas Tech transfer Baker Mayfield’s eligibility.
Bell has been playing some quarterback in practice.
“He took some (snaps) last week and was well and throwing the ball great,” Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. “The kids were teasing him that he’s still got it. But the projection is that Cody will be ready to go this week.”
It might not matter who plays quarterback for the Sooners. Oklahoma has won the past seven meetings and hasn’t lost to the Golden Hurricane since 1996. The Sooners have won by an average of 37.3 points during the streak and have shut the Golden Hurricane out in three of those games.
Here are a few more things to watch during Saturday’s game:
KNIGHT CONSISTENCY: Knight entered the season seeking steady play, but he didn’t find it against Louisiana Tech. He completed 11 of 16 passes in the first half, but just 8 of 18 in the second. The 6-foot-1 sophomore had several passes batted down.
“He just, in a couple of those instances, needs to find a better window,” Stoops said. “It’s that simple. Find a better window to get the ball distributed to where it needs to be.”
TULSA’S SAFETIES: Tulsa’s Michael Mudoh and Demarco Nelson will challenge Oklahoma. Mudoh, who led Conference USA in tackles last season, had 10 stops against Tulane. Nelson, who was ineligible last season because of academic issues, had eight tackles and an interception in the opener against the Green Wave.
“They’re really good players,” Stoops said. “Productive. You can tell, good tacklers, good covering. They’re really good.”
TRIPLE THREAT: Oklahoma’s top three backs were productive in the opener and none stood above the others. It will be worth watching how touches are distributed. Keith Ford caught four passes for 65 yards and ran nine times for 51 yards and two touchdowns against Louisiana Tech, Alex Ross caught two passes for 31 yards and ran 11 times for 36 yards and two scores and Samaje Perine ran for 77 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries. All three had 13 touches from scrimmage in the opener. Stoops said he doesn’t have a set plan on how he will use the trio going forward.
“Just depends on the day,” he said. “It really does. Too early to determine that. If someone gets hot, he’ll have more opportunities.”
TULSA’S RECEIVERS: Nobody is expecting Keevan Lucas to duplicate his last performance — 13 catches for 233 yards and three touchdowns against Tulane on his way to American Athletic Conference offensive player-of-the-week honors. But if he’s effective, he gives his team a major boost and takes pressure off Keyarris Garrett, the talented 6-foot-4 wideout who has returned after missing most of last season with a broken leg.
DANE EVANS: Tulsa’s sophomore quarterback passed for 438 yards and four touchdowns in the season-opening win over Tulane last Thursday. He will face a much better defense this time around — Oklahoma allowed 191 yards passing in the season opener against Louisiana Tech.
Evans is much more in tune with his receivers this year after a rough freshman campaign.
“I think we all believe that Dane had the ability, the raw ability to do that, but we had to get receivers on the same page,” Tulsa coach Bill Blankenship said. “We had to get Dane having confidence that they would be where he thought they would be, and there’s just no shortcut. You’ve got to put time, time. It was just a point of emphasis from spring through fall camp.”
Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP .