By John Shinn
CNHI News Service
NORMAN – Oklahoma doesn’t play again until Saturday. Officially, it will go without a starting quarterback until then, according to Sooner coach Bob Stoops.
“The quarterback issue, it does us no possible good to define all of that today or Friday,” Stoops said Monday during his weekly press conference. We’ll just go into the game and hopefully have all of them ready.”
Whether the job is Trevor Knight’s based on his play in last Saturday’s 48-10 victory over Iowa State, or whether Blake Bell, who appeared to suffer a head injury early in the second quarter of the Iowa State, will even play at Kansas State are mysteries the Sooner coach doesn’t want ponder right now.
The reason: Stoops wants Kansas State to prepare to face both and the different elements each brings to the offense.
Knight clearly gives the offense an extra — explosive — element to the run game. He rushed for 123 yards against the Cyclones and averaged 12.3 yards per carry. That element is something the offense — at least this season — has gained in Bell’s abscence. Sacks drop his rushing total, but Bell has averaged just 3.4 yards per carry and hasn’t scored a touchdown all season.
Knight has just one touchdown, but only has 37 carries. That will likely change.
The redshirt freshman looked much more comfortable when he took over the offense against Iowa State. Knight was only 8 for 14 throwing the ball, but a couple of those throws were on tight crossing routes that converted third downs.
The ability to consistently make accurate throws is the last piece of the puzzle when it comes to Knight. But he played with a poise he lacked 12 weeks ago.
“Just confidence,” Knight said after the Iowa State game when asked what he’d gained since his last start. “Going in there, knowing what to expect, being prepared throughout the week, working hard in the film room. You don’t get nervous when you’re ready to play. You don’t get nervous when you’re prepared, so preparation is everything.”
He’ll have an entire week to prepare to face Kansas State if that’s the direction the Sooners decide to go. The one thing that OU offensive coordinator Josh Heupel showed was a better understanding of how to best utilize Knight’s ability.
“We didn’t execute the way were capable of,” Heupel said of the offense in Knight’s two early starts. “You look at what we did against West Virginia running the football, and we had a pretty productive day. We just weren’t productive throwing and we didn’t take care of the football the last time you guys really saw him play a major part. That happens to young guys. I believe it is something that will get better.”
The ability to consistently complete passes will ultimately decide whether Knight can be OU’s starting quarterback going forward. For the season, he’s still just 30 for 63 with four touchdowns and three interceptions.
OU will likely rely on its running game against Kansas State, but it has to be able to complete some passes — preferably some deep ones.
If Knight gets his shot against the Wildcats, the opportunities will be there. The Sooners will have to take advantage.
Above all else, the coaching staff seems to have gained confidence in Knight after his performance against Iowa State.
“He did look much more comfortable in this game against Iowa State. And probably performed that way,” Stoops said. “It’s not surprising to us eight weeks down the road, you continue to practice, you continue to get better as you go through the year. He gets a chance to do it again and he’s more familiar with it. He knows what to expect and handled it great.”