Is this what the Oklahoma coaching staff saw in August?
That question was on the minds of Sooners fans as they watched redshirt freshman quarterback Trevor Knight lead the Sooners to a 41-31 win over Kansas State in his first ever road start on Saturday. Coach Bob Stoops and the rest of the OU coaching staff named Knight the opening-day starter after he won the job with a stellar performance during preseason camp in August.
“At the end of the day we watch these guys every single day,” Stoops said when asked if he feels validated by Knight’s performance after his decision to open the season with Knight instead of Blake Bell.
“Now maybe some people are seeing some of what we’ve seen through these years working with these guys.”
Knight was outstanding, going 14-of-20 for 171 yards with a 90.3 adjusted Total QBR against the Wildcats. His performance in OU's last two games could be setting him up as the Sooners’ signal-caller of the present and future. Let’s use a little film study to take a closer look at five plays that show Knight’s long-term potential and should have OU fans excited about the future.
Knight’s first completion of the game: On OU’s second play of the game, Knight rolled out after a play-action fake, then found Jalen Saunders on the sidelines. It was a superb, accurate throw on the run. The fact Knight could throw a dart on the run is a scary development for OU opponents. If he starts proving he can do it consistently, a scary development turns into a nightmare for opposing defensive coordinators, particularly with his quickness and running ability on the perimeter.
Knight’s touchdown pass to Sterling Shepard: Great read, great throw. On 3rd-and-goal from the Wildcats 12-yard line, everyone knew it was a passing situation yet Knight found a wide open Shepard in the end zone. KSU played zone and rushed four defenders but an excellent play call by offensive coordinator Josh Heupel was able to isolate Shepard in a one-on-one situation with KSU cornerback Randall Evans. Knight saw it, was decisive and made a terrific throw that would have been tough for anyone to defend. It should make Sooners fans excited because of Knight’s decisiveness, timeliness and accuracy with a strong throw. It’s the kind of play that should make anyone questioning his ability to run a pass-heavy offense think twice before continuing to question his talent.
Knight’s interception: Huh? Yes, what happened during and after his interception is a great sign for the future. First of all, he made the right read and throw, but Saunders, for some odd reason, went behind the defender instead of in front of him as Knight expected. But, most importantly, Knight didn’t run off the field after Evans intercepted his pass. He went straight to Saunders to ask why the senior changed his route. A clear sign that Knight, as a freshman, already considers himself a leader who isn’t scared to hold others and himself accountable. Quite possibly a better sign for the future than any one throw he made all afternoon.
Knight’s 20-yard run early in the second quarter: Knight rolled left looking to pass after a play-action fake. When Kansas State safety Dylan Schellenberg realized Knight still had the ball and was looking to pass, he scrambled back to get into coverage despite being two yards from the line of scrimmage with nothing between him and Knight. As soon as the Sooners quarterback saw him retreat, he was decisive and tucked the ball, easily outrunning K-Stte linebackers to gain 20 yards including an extra five yards with some nifty open field running. That’s an element to OU’s passing game that the Sooners simply haven’t had in previous seasons. Knight’s ability to adapt to the defense on the fly is another great sign for the future. He scored on a eight-yard run on the next play to cap a 98-yard scoring drive.
Knight’s 20-yard completion to Shepard before halftime: With the Sooners driving to try to take the halftime lead, the San Antonio native found Shepard on 3rd-and-10. Knight zipped the ball into a window between two Wildcats defenders playing zone in the secondary. The velocity and accuracy of the throw allowed Shepard to secure the ball before he was hit and the decision to throw to the sophomore showed good anticipation. Knight was confident in what he saw and made a quick decision.
OU has a bye week before getting the chance to ruin Oklahoma State’s Big 12 title hopes during their Bedlam battle on Dec. 7. And if Knight plays the way he did against the Wildcats, OSU’s road to winning its second Big 12 title in three seasons might be filled with more potholes than most people think.