The Norman Transcript

September 2, 2013

First-game jitters aside, Knight feeling relaxed and poised to improve

By John Shinn
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — When Trevor Knight committed to Oklahoma back in 2011, even he didn’t envision what transpired Saturday night in the Sooners’ 34-0 victory over Louisiana-Monroe.

Sure, he anticipated having the job. But winning, and winning handily, in a game where OU’s starting quarterback only throws for 86 yards wasn’t part of it.

“Oh no, not at all,” he said.

In terms of throwing the ball like predecessors Landry Jones, Sam Bradford or Jason White, Knight left something to be desired. But his ability to run — something OU’s coaching staff and Knight teammates have raved about for a year — resonated as planned, rushing for 103 yards.

The only part that didn’t go as planned was some wild throws, especially early in the game.

OU offensive coordinator Josh Heupel called several short throws early in the game that were designed to help settle in. Knight threw some high, some low, but a few on the mark.

But he wasn’t rattled after throwing for just seven yards in the first quarter.

“The great thing about that was he continued to play,” Heupel said.

The Sooners weren’t expecting the season-opener to be a showcase event for Knight’s wide assortment of talent. Their first-game jitters eased away long ago. Knight had to deal with his Saturday.

“It’s his first ever college football game, so it’s expected. I felt like he did a great job, better than I expected,” said wide receiver Jalen Saunders, who caught two of Knight’s three touchdown passes. “But, overall, he did a great job tonight and he’s going to move forward from this.”

If Knight’s passing accuracy improves there was a lot of positives to bring out of the season opener. OU was able to let Knight settle down by simply running the ball. The offseason work the offensive line and running backs did in the hopes of transforming into a physical running team was displayed early and often.

“We didn’t identify a few things and they got us and hit us right at the line,” OU coach Bob Stoops said. “Then, about the third series, I thought the line did an excellent job of just figuring it out, blocking it up and giving us space to run.”

The 305 rushing yards OU collected was its highest total since putting up 343 in last season’s Red River Rivalry meeting with Texas.

That was a game where OU dominated in every phase. The struggles throwing the ball kept it from hitting on every cylinder. Ordinarily, if a Sooner quarterback would have gone 11 for 28, which Knight did Saturday, his job might be in jeopardy.

The running game mixed with one of OU’s best defensive performances in several years, gave Knight time to sort out his problem early.

He threw one interception, but the turnover came on a deep route where Knight put the ball in wide receiver Trey Metoyer’s hands from 40 yards away.

“I’m sure he will settle down and get smoother with some of his throws. We see him make these throws over and over daily. Some of the ones he missed, we know he is capable of making,” Stoops said. “We expect him to continue to improve in that part.”

If he does, the Sooners left Owen Field Saturday feeling like it has a chance to have special offense. The ability to run the ball and set up play-action passes makes it different than what it’s done the previous four years, but it can be very effective.

Knight knows it. The offense he ran Saturday night might not have been the one he saw when he decided to go to OU, but it was one that accentuated his abilities.

All he has to do is keep getting better.

“I felt like I did enough to get us the win,” he said. “I know I can improve on a lot of stuff — decision making, running the ball, anything. I know we can go up from here, which is exciting for our team.”

John Shinn

Follow me @john_shinn

jshinn@normantranscript.com