Notre Dame ready for another dual
BY LAMOND POPE Sun-Times Media September 24, 2013 8:52PM
Oklahoma quarterback Blake Bell throws before an NCAA college football game against Tulsa in Norman, Okla., Saturday, Sept. 14, 2013. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Updated: September 24, 2013 10:26PM
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Temple quarterback Connor Reilly finished as the team’s leading rusher against Notre Dame. In Week 2, Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner gave the Irish fits.
The next week, Purdue quarterback Rob Henry was effective through the air, but not much of a factor running the ball. Notre Dame successfully bottled up Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook last Saturday.
All four of No. 22 Notre Dame’s opponents have had quarterbacks capable of doing damage through the air and on the ground. This week, the Irish are preparing for another dual-threat quarterback in No. 14 Oklahoma’s Blake Bell.
“From a scheme standpoint, they put you in a position where you have to cover a lot of different scenarios,” coach Brian Kelly said Tuesday. “You’re put in a very difficult position when you can be running the football and have options to throw, as well. That constant bind that the running quarterback gives you is a stress on your defense.
“We’ve had that for the last couple of weeks. Our staff and [defensive coordinator Bob] Diaco have done a great job of formulating the plan, and we’re going to have to have another great one this weekend.”
Bell made his first start in the Sooners’ last game, Sept. 14 against Tulsa. He passed for 413 yards and four touchdowns in a 51-20 victory. Bell also had 10 rushes for 24 yards.
“We have the ability with Blake to have more [of a] quarterback run game and the opportunity to scramble a little better than some of the guys we had in the past,” Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said Monday.
In 23 career games, Bell has 566 passing yards and 427 rushing yards. He has 24 rushing touchdowns, including a one-yard touchdown in Notre Dame’s 30-13 victory last year in Norman, Okla.
“He’s got a nice touch on the ball, a good presence about him,’’ Kelly said. ‘‘He looks like a thrower, not a runner. I know he’s a big [6-6, 252 pounds], physical, strong kid, and I think he was used last year more in the goal-line offense.
“He’s much more than a goal-line-offense quarterback. He’s a skilled passer, and I think he maybe got a reputation that is not really fitting of who he is. He was a five‑star quarterback, and he can throw the football. There’s no question about that.”
Notre Dame already has put in a ton of time working on slowing down dual-threat quarterbacks. Reilly rushed for 65 yards and passed for 228 more in the opener. Gardner had 294 passing yards and 82 rushing yards in Michigan’s Week 2 victory. He accounted for five touchdowns (four passing, one rushing).
Henry threw for 256 yards and two scores, but he rushed for only two yards on four carries.
Cook finished with 135 passing yards and one touchdown Saturday. He had four yards on four carries.
“A lot of it has to do with our ability to not give up big plays, and keeping the ball in front of us has been one of our mainstays defensively,’’ Kelly said. ‘‘You start there. There’s going to be some completions. You’ve got to minimize the big plays off of that attack. You’ve got to be sound and fundamental and contained.
“You can’t give up easy runs. That’s really what it comes down to. When the quarterback is running the football, you’ve got to make sure that you’re minimizing their ability to get big plays.”