By John Shinn
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Did Oklahoma catch lightning in a bottle Saturday or did it really find a solution to its stagnant offense in its 48-10 victory over Iowa State?
There’s a definite answer to the question. But having to turn to redshirt freshman quarterback Trevor Knight certainly changed the complexion of OU’s offense.
It took a while, but the stretch OU went on in the second half that produced 38 points in a six-drive span was its best of the season.
“I thought our backs did a great job of finding the seams and fitting things on the second level with their linebackers. When you do that, you get explosive plays,” OU offensive coordinator Josh Heupel said. “When you can make people miss with both the quarterbacks and the running backs, it gives you the ability to make some big plays instead of just fours and fives (yard plays).”
OU rushed for 405 yards Saturday with 339 coming in the second half. A large chunk of that total came on three touchdown runs — 69 yards by Damien Williams on the second play of the third quarter, a 63-yard touchdown run by Brennan Clay late in the third quarter and Knight’s 56-yard touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter.
They were all on plays OU has run many times this season. Blake Bell had run them many times. But the zone-read offense OU turned in the second half was as productive as the Sooners have been all year.
Does Knight get all the credit for it? Too early to tell.
OU coach Bob Stoops didn’t reveal what exact injury Bell suffered Saturday, but he did take an apparent hit to the side of the head from Iowa State linebacker Willie Scott early in the second quarter and left the game for good after fumbling a snap two plays later.
There were no proclamations that OU is ready to name Knight the starting quarterback for this Saturday’s game at Kansas State.
There’s no guarantee the success the Sooners had against the Cyclones will carry over. After all, the loss was Iowa State’s seventh straight and Knight was a curveball.
“Having Trevor back there to run the read stuff, it worked out well for us,” OU center Gabe Ikard said. “Maybe something they weren’t quite as prepared for with Blake back there. We put it together in the second half, and anytime you rush for 400 yards it’s a good day.”
OU won’t have the same luxury against the Wildcats. They’ll be prepared for it.
But the biggest positive the Sooners took away from the Iowa State game is the fact that Knight was ready for his second shot at leading the offense.
“I had to go in there and run the complete offense despite getting minimal reps throughout the week because obviously Blake’s the guy,” Knight said. “You’ve just got to get in there and make the most of your opportunities.”
It had been 12 weeks since he lost the starting job after OU’s 16-7 victory over West Virginia Sept. 7. Turnovers and struggles throwing the ball were the reason for the change back then.
Knight was 8 for 14 against the Cyclones for 61 yards. He wasn’t perfect by any stretch. He missed a wide-open Brennan Clay for a potential touchdown in the second quarter. But he was decisive and he was explosive when he ran the ball.
Those were two things Bell was not in OU’s 41-12 loss to Baylor Nov. 7 or in the first quarter against Iowa State.
Suddenly, the Sooners have a different offensive dynamic as they head into the final two games of the regular season because Knight played like OU hoped he would be back in September.
“We have some big plays out there that we've got to be able to execute and connect on,” Stoops said. “But I thought just overall he looked more comfortable. I kind of expected he would.”
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