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January 5, 2014

No denying Stoops was skipper when ship righted

NORMAN — It’s hard to call 2013 Bob Stoops’ best coaching job and yet the reason why it’s such a hard thing to do may be the most telling thing about the job he performed.

It’s hard to call it the best of his 15 campaigns because he didn’t win a national championship, didn’t win a Big 12 championship and, really, couldn’t be seen pulling so many strings.

There was a fake field goal at Bedlam, yet it was a game won by a one-time starting quarterback who, that day, was nonetheless OU’s third choice.

The turnaround that ended in New Orleans actually began at Owen Field, with a Jalen Saunders’ punt return against Iowa State, but that’s just a great player making a great play.

Trevor Knight replaced Blake Bell in that game, too, and came back to life, but his re-elevation appeared overdue and, even taking Stoops and offensive coordinator Josh Heupel at their word, was made necessary by injury.

The first big eye opener was not that OU upset Kansas State in Manhattan, but how it pulled it off, without bells and whistles, but simply by being the better team, a possibility that seemed impossible after the Baylor loss. 

Still, without bells or whistles, it’s hard to find the head coach’s fingerprints all over it.

Then, four nights ago in New Orleans … what? Just try making sense of it.

If Bell’s emergence in Stillwater was inexplicable, Trevor Knight’s Big Easy makeover was stranger than fiction.

Having never completed more than 14 passes in a game, OU’s running quarterback completed 32 of 44 for four touchdowns. He ran the ball five times for 12 yards, 10 of it on a single scramble. 

Without giving it much thought, it seems entirely possible that no quarterback in the history of the college game has ever improved that much from one outing to the next, while also asked to play the position differently than he’d ever been asked to play it before. But Knight pulled it off. 

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