When Oklahoma barreled its way into the end zone against Kansas State last year with its backup quarterback, the scheme and the results seemed awfully familiar.
Turns out, Sooners coach Bob Stoops watched so much film of quarterback Collin Klein, he put together an offensive package that aims to mimic K-State’s quarterback run game.
“That’s how we built it,” Oklahoma fullback Aaron Ripkowski said. “We didn’t originally plan on using it until we were having some problems with the short-yardage in games. Then, when we saw what (Kansas State) had done, we decided to throw it in.”
Stoops’ starting quarterback, Landry Jones, didn’t fit the bill as a physical, aggressive runner, so he turned to his backup, Wichita native Blake Bell. At 6-foot-6, 255-pounds, Bell more resembles a fullback than a quarterback.
Just like that, Oklahoma’s “Belldozer” formation was born.
Needless to say, the results were good for Oklahoma all year. Despite riding the pine behind Jones, Bell finished with a team-high 13 rushing touchdowns as the short-yardage specialty formation proved to be nearly unstoppable.
Stoops went so far as to tell Klein at Big 12 media days in Dallas that the package was inspired by him. Despite giving K-State a 58-17 bruising last season, Stoops respects what Klein has done as quarterback for the Wildcats.
“He’s a big, physical presence, so you’re not going to arm-tackle him,” he said. “So, if you don’t have a good square shot on him, he’s going to run through it,”
K-State head coach Bill Snyder wasn’t surprised to see Bell have such success.
“He’s just a big, physical young guy, and it’s the old quarterback run game,” Snyder said. “They’ve got a guy that can do it, so they do it.”
The similarities between Klein and Bell are numerous. Bell is bigger, but Klein has more ability as a runner in situations away from the goal line.
“Well, there are size similarities, although Blake’s actually, I believe, even a little bigger,” Stoops said earlier this week. “But Collin still is a big guy that can run. Blake can run well. He does a good job, too, so there’s a fair amount of similarities, really.”
Perhaps the most amazing part of Bell’s dominance last season was the fact he came in exclusively on the goal line. Much like Klein inside the 5-yard line, everyone in the building knows who is going to run the ball, but the play is still nearly impossible to stop.
Nevertheless, Snyder sees Bell as a complete player.
“The thing that you have to be very careful of is that Blake has the capacity to throw the football as well,” Snyder said. “He was 3-of-4 in the last ballgame that he threw the ball in as the Wildcat guy as their quarterback. He has the capacity to do that, so you have to defend both the run and pass at the same time.”
Preparing for two separate quarterbacks could be tough for the Wildcats, though Bell doesn’t get many chances to throw the ball. With a talent like Jones as the starter, opportunities to see the field away from the end zone are hard to come by.
Safety Jarard Milo knows how hard it can be to stop a physical runner at the goal line — he gets the chance to do it against Klein in practice all the time. Just because the defense knows what’s coming doesn’t make stopping it any easier.
“We know when he’s out there they’re going to try and get the ball into the end zone,” Milo said. “We know he’s coming out there to run the power play, the Wildcat play. So we just want to keep him out. That’s what we’re preparing to do.”