What Blake Bell Needs to Prove Against Notre Dame to Keep Starting QB Spot

Ben KerchevalCollege Football Lead WriterSeptember 16, 2013

NORMAN, OK - SEPTEMBER 14:   Quarterback Blake Bell #10 of the Oklahoma Sooners looks to throw against the Tulsa Golden Hurricane September 14, 2013 at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma. The Sooners defeated the Golden Hurricane 51-20.  (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
Brett Deering/Getty Images

Following Blake Bell's record-setting performance on Saturday against Tulsa, the Oklahoma Sooners' starting quarterback situation got a lot more interesting. 

Bell broke Sam Bradford's record for most yards thrown in a first career start with 413. While I've qualified that before by pointing out it was against, uh, Tulsa's defense, it should also be noted that Bell looked completely in control even when things broke down. 

He had help too. Receivers stepped up and made great individual plays. In all, it was a much crisper effort than what the Sooners had put together in the passing game the first two weeks. 

And Bell was named the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week for his efforts. 

Bob Stoops said Monday during the Big 12 coaches teleconference that Bell would start again in two weeks at Notre Dame. "Blake Bell is the guy right now," Stoops said.

Trevor Knight, who began the season as the starting quarterback, is still out with a knee injury and Stoops did not have an update on his status.

I didn't necessarily think Knight would injure himself out of a starting job a week ago, but the Notre Dame game should be a much better indicator whether Bell can overtake him completely. 

Last year in a 30-13 loss in Norman, Bell was kept largely under wraps by the Irish defense in a limited role. He attempted (and completed) just one pass and was held to six yards on four carries, though he did have one touchdown run.

Notre Dame's defense hasn't been the most difficult group to score on over the past couple of weeks, but they have done a fairly decent job of limiting big plays. More often than not, Michigan and Purdue, the Irish's last two opponents, scored on long, sustained drives rather than quick strikes. 

While that demonstrates an inability by Notre Dame to get off the field at times, it also means there are more opportunities for an offense to make mistakes. One of the key stats for Bell against Tulsa in Week 3 was that he didn't turn the ball over or make bad decisions that cost his team. 

Compare that to Knight, who had a pair of interceptions when the Sooners were in position to score against West Virginia earlier this month. It was just one bad game for Knight, but it was enough to get him benched, injury or not. 

Bell can also get another leg up in the quarterback competition if he gets off to a fast start again against Notre Dame. The Sooners scored on their first six offensive possessions against Tulsa and didn't punt until midway through the third quarter. Again, the Golden Hurricane defense wasn't shutting anything down, but to execute at that level for that long is impressive. 

On the other side, Notre Dame's defense twice got off to slow starts against Purdue last Saturday by allowing the Boilermakers to score touchdowns on their first offensive possession of each half. Against Michigan, the Irish trailed 10-0 early before finally getting on the board. 

Stoops said Monday during the conference call that the quarterback competition isn't settled just because Knight is injured. It's possible that both will continue to see the field this year. But if Bell comes out and plays as well against Notre Dame as did against Tulsa, you'd have to believe he at least becomes the fan favorite to win that battle. 


Ben Kercheval is the lead writer for Big 12 football. All quotes obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise. You can follow Ben on Twitter @BenKercheval