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September 14, 2013

Sooners too much for Tulsa




NORMAN, Okla. (AP) Blake Bell passed for 413 yards and four touchdowns in his first start as quarterback for No. 14 Oklahoma and the Sooners beat Tulsa 51-20 on Saturday.

Sterling Shepard caught eight passes for 123 yards and two touchdowns - all career highs - and Jaz Reynolds had 109 yards receiving and one score for Oklahoma (3-0). The Sooners scored on their first five possessions against Tulsa (1-2) to continue their dominance in the series, having won 12 of the last 13 games between the in-state rivals.

The Sooners are 13-0 against Tulsa as a ranked team and 7-0 against the Golden Hurricane since Bob Stoops became Oklahoma's coach in 1999.

Oklahoma is 3-0 for the third time for four seasons, heading into a showdown in two weeks at No. 21 Notre Dame, which beat the Sooners last year in Norman.

Most importantly for the Sooners, they might have found themselves a quarterback.

Bell, a junior, lost a preseason competition to redshirt freshman Trevor Knight, but Knight struggled in the passing game in wins over Louisiana-Monroe and West Virginia. Knight bruised a knee against West Virginia, opening the door for Bell to start against Tulsa.

By halftime, Bell - who served as a short-yardage rushing specialist for the Sooners the past two seasons while backing up Landry Jones - was 15 of 21 for 281 yards and two touchdowns. His first-half yardage total was the second-most by an Oklahoma quarterback in the first half of his first career start. By comparison, Knight passed for 205 yards combined in his two starts.

Bell posted the highest passing-yardage total by any Oklahoma quarterback making his first start. By comparison, in the debuts of Oklahoma's two most recent starting quarterbacks before Knight, Sam Bradford threw for 363 yards and three touchdowns in a 2007 romp over North Texas, while Jones had 286 yards passing and three TDs in a rout of Idaho State in 2009.

Bell - whose pre-game introduction received a rousing roar of approval from Oklahoma fans - finished 27 of 37 passing.

Tulsa's offense made a respectable showing against an Oklahoma defense that allowed a combined seven points in its first two games. Quarterback Cody Green completed 17 of 33 for 226 yards, while Trey Watts rushed for 60 yards on 14 carries and caught five passes for 65 yards. Watts returned a punt 77 yards to set up a field goal. Jordan James caught six passes for 100 yards for Tulsa.

"We were more consistent on offense," Tulsa coach Bill Blankenship said. "We still had a critical turnover that hurt us. We dropped a pass that might have been another big play. We just have real high standards. I think we are an improving football team but we got exposed on defense today."

Bell was 3 for 4 on Oklahoma's first drive, which Brennan Clay ended with a 4-yard touchdown run. On the Sooners' next series, Bell hit Reynolds in stride for an 82-yard gain which became the longest non-scoring pass play in Oklahoma history when Tulsa cornerback Darnell Walker Jr. hauled down Reynolds at the 4. Oklahoma settled for a 20-yard field goal by Michael Hunnicutt.

Tulsa answered with an 80-yard touchdown drive, aided by two Oklahoma penalties in the end zone. On one of them, safety Gabe Lynn initially was ejected for targeting, but the ejection was overturned after a video review. Still, the Golden Hurricane eventually scored on a 2-yard run by Watts, the son of former Oklahoma quarterback J.C. Watts.

A 41-yard gain on a bubble screen pass to Durron Neal set up Oklahoma's next touchdown, a 3-yard pass from Bell to Shepard. Lynn intercepted Green on the Golden Hurricane's next series and his return to the Tulsa 36 led to a 29-yard touchdown pass from Bell to tailback Roy Finch that made it 24-7.

Bell hit Shepard for 44 yards on Oklahoma's next drive, leading to a 30-yard field goal by Hunnicutt. The end of the half stopped Oklahoma's sixth drive, but the Sooners opened the second half with a 35-yard scoring pass from Bell to Shepard - set up by a 41-yard punt return by Jalen Saunders.

Oklahoma didn't punt until its eighth possession. Watts returned the punt 77 yards to the Oklahoma 9, but Tulsa settled for a 21-yard field goal by Carl Salazar that made it 34-13.

GAME NOTES:

TU freshman Dalton Rodriguez saw his first playing time in the Sooners' first drive of the contest.

Trey Watts' rushing touchdown with 00:18 on the clock in the first quarter was his first of the season and the first for the Golden Hurricane on the year.

With his 60 rushing yards today, Trey Watts now has 2,406 to remain in seventh place on Tulsa's all-time list. Ja'Terian Douglas had 20 yards today for 2,239 career yards and ninth place on the chart.

Senior linebacker Shawn Jackson tackled OU quarterback Blake Bell for a loss of one yard with 14:30 on the clock in the second quarter for 39.5 TFLs for -174 yards in his career. He then sacked Bell with 8:10 on the clock in the second quarter for 40.5 TFLs for -180 yards to set a new school record for career TFLs, passing Don Blackmon (1976-1980) and Sam Rayburn (1999-2002) for sole ownership of the record. He also pulled to within one sack of tying the school record of 20 sacks in a career. Jackson finished the day with 3.0 TFL's for -10 yards on the day and with 41.5 TFLs for -183 yards for his career.

Trey Watts' 77-yard punt return was the longest of his career. His previous best was 54-yards for a touchdown against UCF in the Conference USA Championship game on December 1, 2012.

Conner Floyd had his first reception on the year with 14:13 on the clock in the fourth quarter. His catch was for 20 yards over the middle from Cody Green.

Ja'Terian Douglas' rush for six yards and a touchdown was his first rushing TD for the season and 15th in his career. Eleven of his 15 rushing TDs have measured for more than 15 yards.

Trey Watts began the 2013 season with 122 all-purpose yards against Bowling Green, had 247 against Colorado State and finished with 231 today. His career best for all-purpose yardage was 255 yards in 2012 at Marshall.

Today's attendance of 84,229 was the third largest crowd TU has played in front of. The top two have come at Oklahoma in 2011 (85,260) and 2009 (84,803).

Jordan James' 100-yards receiving is the first time a Tulsa receiver has reached the 100-yard plateau this year. His only other 100-yard receiving game came against SMU on Nov. 24, 2012 when he had nine catches for 145 yards.

Shawn Jackson had 15 tackles, his ninth career double-figure performance. His career best of 16 tackles came against Marshall on Oct. 6, 2012.



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