Commentary

Can Okla. State stop the 'Belldozer?'

Cowboys have struggled against the run, and Blake Bell has been almost unstoppable

Updated: November 29, 2011, 4:18 PM ET
By Jake Trotter | SoonerNation

NORMAN, Okla -- In Stillwater last season, Oklahoma unveiled its "50" front defense to befuddle, then defeat Oklahoma State. This Saturday, the "Belldozer" could be the key to another Bedlam victory.

The package, which features a backfield of quarterback Blake Bell and fullbacks Trey Millard and Aaron Ripkowski, has been almost unstoppable since its implementation four games ago.

After seeing the difficulty in preparing for Kansas State power-running quarterback Colin Klein, Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops swiped a page out of old boss Bill Snyder's playbook and ordered the Sooners to install a similar set.

On 33 carries, Bell has plowed for 11 first downs and nine touchdowns. Millard has added two rushing touchdowns out of the Belldozer formation.

"I'm not surprised," Stoops said last week of the Belldozer's startling efficiency. "I know how difficult it is when we have had to deal with it."

[+] EnlargeBlake Bell
AP Photo/Sue OgrockiOklahoma's Blake Bell has rushed for nine touchdowns this season.
Now, it's Oklahoma State that has to deal with it. And the Cowboys haven't dealt with similar sets all that well.

Earlier this month, Klein ran wild in Stillwater as the Wildcats came 5 yards away from taking the Cowboys to overtime. Oklahoma State had no answer between the tackles for Klein, who rumbled for 144 yards and three touchdowns.

"Anytime the quarterback can run, it's tough," said Oklahoma defensive coordinator Brent Venables. "In those sets, they have the extra hat on you. That makes it really hard."

Those are reasons why the Belldozer could be a Bedlam game-changer for the Sooners, in the way the "50" defense that limited the Cowboys to just three offensive touchdowns was last season.

Notwithstanding what the numbers suggest, the Oklahoma State defense has excelled in many areas. The secondary is vastly underrated, headlined by a cornerback tandem as good as any in the Big 12. The entire back seven is loaded with ball-hawks, underscored by 37 forced turnovers, the most of any defensive in the country.

But what the Cowboys do not do well is stop the run. Especially when it's between-the-tackles. And particularly when it's smash-mouth. The Belldozer is both.

In more ways than one, Oklahoma enters Bedlam week an ailing club. The offense has sputtered since Ryan Broyles' season-ending knee injury, and wideout Jaz Reynolds' suspension and sore shoulder hasn't helped, either. The defense has yet to prove it can stop a proficient passing offense. And guess who leads the Big 12 in passing?

Then again, few thought the Sooners were capable of pulling off a Bedlam victory last season. Until Oklahoma's "50" defense changed the game.

With the Belldozer, the Sooners could change Bedlam once again.

Jake Trotter covers University of Oklahoma football for SoonerNation. He can be reached at trotterjake@gmail.com. and look for answers every Friday.

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