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Cannon-Bell: Sooners Blast Tulsa Behind Bell's Huge Debut

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NORMAN, Oklahoma -

The questions entering Saturday's OU/Tulsa game mostly surrounded the right arm of the Sooners' new starting quarterback. 

Any more questions?

Blake Bell, thought by many to be simply a downhill runner, put on an air show against the Tulsa defense Saturday afternoon in Norman.  Bell completed 27/37 passes for 413 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions as the Oklahoma Sooners rolled to a 51-20 victory over the visiting Tulsa Golden Hurricane. 

Bell's passing performance helped the Sooners rack up a season-high in points (51), yards (607), and first downs (27). 

OU (3-0) received the opening kickoff and wasted no time.  The Sooners put together a 12-play, 72-yard drive in just 4:50 and went up 7-0 on a four-yard Brennan Clay touchdown run.  Michael Hunnicutt added a 20-yard field goal on OU's next drive to increase the lead to 10-0.

Tulsa (1-2) answered late in the first quarter with perhaps its most impressive drive of the season.  Trey Watts capped off an 11-play, 75-yard drive with a two-yard touchdown run and the Hurricane cut the Sooners' lead to 10-7. 

Oklahoma answered right back with a nine-play, 75-yard drive to go back up 17-7.  A 41-yard pass play from Bell to Durron Neal put the Sooners in scoring position, then Bell found Sterling Shepard for a three-yard score. 

Tulsa's ensuing drive appeared to have promise, but ended in disaster.  After converting a couple first downs and driving to midfield, Cody Green's pass was intercepted by Gabe Lynn at the OU 36 and returned 31 yards all the way to the Tulsa 33.  The Sooners quickly turned that into points as Bell found Roy Finch for a 29-yard touchdown to make it 24-7 – and the rout was on. 

Hunnicutt drilled a 30-yarder later in the quarter and the Sooners took a 27-7 lead into the half.

Tulsa received the ball to start the second half, but promptly suffered a three-and-out.  Dalton Parks' punt was returned by Jalen Saunders 28 yards to the Tulsa 35 yard line and OU went right back to work.  On the third play of the drive, Bell found Shepard for the 35-yard touchdown strike and the Sooners opened up a 34-7 gap. 

But give Tulsa credit – the Golden Hurricane never quit.  The defending Conference USA champions played without 18 of their 24 starters from this time a year ago, but fought hard to the end. 

TU marched for an eight-play, 66-yard drive, highlighted by a 35-yard hookup from Green to Jordan James.  The drive stalled late and Carl Salazar tacked on a 26-yard field goal to cut the lead to 34-10.  Salazar's kick marked the first double-digit scoring performance against the Sooners this season (OU shut out Louisiana Monroe and held West Virginia to seven).

The TU defense responded on the ensuing possession and forced OU into its first punt of the ball game.

Trey Watts, named to the preseason watch list for the Hornung Award, proved exactly why on his first punt return opportunity of the day.  Watts took Jed Barnett's punt back 77 yards, breaking multiple tackles before finally getting caught at the OU nine yard line. 

The TU offense once again stalled, but Salazar knocked a 21-yarder through the uprights to bring TU within 34-13.

The Sooners answered back with a 36-yard field goal in the first minute of the fourth quarter, but the Hurricane came right back.  TU pieced together a 10-play, 75-yard drive and found the end zone for the second time on the afternoon.  Ja'Terian Douglas took a toss to the left and weaved his way into the end zone for his first rushing score of the season, cutting the Sooners' lead to 37-20. 

But just for good measure, Oklahoma finished the game just the way they started it: authoritatively. 

Bell found Saunders for a 25-yard strike and freshman running back Keith Ford found the end zone for the first time in his young Sooner career, plunging in from three yards away to cap off the scoring.

Bell's performance was the headline, but the Sooners' efficiency is the story.  OU converted an incredible 12-16 on third down, rushed for 4.4 yards per carry, held the ball for more than 35 minutes and didn't commit a turnover. 

Tulsa converted 19 first downs with a respectable 7-15 on third down.  TU committed just one turnover and forced the Sooners' defense into allowing season-highs in both points and passing yards allowed. 

Trey Watts finished with 60 yards on the ground, 65 yards through the air and added the show-stopping 77-yard punt return.  Green tossed for 226 yards and one pick for the Hurricane, while James hauled in six passes for 100 yards. 

The Sooners rushed for 194 yards on the ground, led by Finch's 68.  Shepard led the OU receivers with eight catches for 123 yards, while Jaz Reynolds collected 109 yards on just four grabs. 

Tulsa has next week off, but returns to action Thursday, Sept. 26 against Iowa State.  The Hurricane will welcome the Cyclones to Chapman Stadium in Tulsa for the first time ever. 

Oklahoma also has a bye next Saturday, but returns Saturday, Sept. 28 in a rematch at Notre Dame.             

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