Trevor Knight has gone 10-1 since winning the starting quarterback job at Oklahoma last season, but you wouldn’t know it based on the pessimistic words Sooners fans are using to describe him.
Knight piled up yards by ground and air in important victories over Kansas State and Alabama as a freshman last season, but now he is struggling to guide Oklahoma’s offense into the end zone.
Through six games, he has completed a near-Big 12 low 55 percent of his passes. He has thrown six touchdowns and five interceptions, predictably targeting Sterling Shepard deep whenever the Sooners need a big gain. The days of Landry Jones and Sam Bradford spreading the ball around to myriad receivers are over. Freshman running back Samaje Perine has emerged as the focal point of the offense.
“As long as things aren’t going perfectly, there’s going to be criticism,” Knight told reporters earlier this week. “There’s going to be those doubts. You just have to stay internal with that. You have to stay confident with who you are as a player, who you are as a team, who you are as an offense and continue to press forward because dwelling on things like that isn’t going to get you anywhere.”
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There is hope for a Knight turnaround, though.
Few viewed him as a better quarterback than Blake Bell when Oklahoma traveled to K-State for a game last season, but he broke out against the Wildcats, totaling 253 yards and two touchdowns in a 41-31 victory.
K-State defenders, particularly in the front seven, remember that day. They expect Knight to challenge them with his arm and legs, regardless of his down year.
“He is fast. He is probably one of the fastest quarterbacks in the nation,” K-State linebacker Will Davis said. “I am not for sure on his exact 40 time or anything, but you watch him on film and he can run. That is always dangerous when you have a dual-threat quarterback like that.”
Added defensive lineman Travis Britz: “We have to contain Trevor Knight as much as possible and create a pass rush against him. We have to hold our own against him.”
Most of Knight’s success against K-State came on zone-read plays, something OU offensive coordinator Josh Heupel told reporters the Sooners haven’t done much recently. With Bell at tight end and Texas Tech transfer Baker Mayfield ineligible, Oklahoma has seemed to take a cautious approach with Knight to keep him healthy.
That doesn’t explain his low completion percentage, but K-State coach Bill Snyder scoffed at the notion that Knight has taken a step back as a passer. Snyder thinks Knight is simply attempting harder passes than most quarterbacks. Instead of throwing into the flats, Oklahoma asks him to throw deep.
Snyder, once again, expects to see Knight to be at his best against K-State.
“He completed, I think, 60 percent of his passes against us last year,” Snyder said. “That was a great deal of balance in the offense. They have that capacity, as well. They could have two or three guys at running back who can be effective in that regard. Trevor Knight poses that question as a running quarterback and that creates more diversity in what they do. The more diversity that you have, the more effective you are in your offense.”
No. 14 Kansas State at No. 11 Oklahoma
WHEN: 11 a.m. Saturday
WHERE: Memorial Stadium, Norman, Okla.
Other story lines
▪ HALFTIME LEADS: This game could be decided by halftime. Oklahoma has won a nation-leading 46 straight games when leading at halftime. K-State is right behind it with 42 straight wins when up at half.
▪ ANSWERING THE BELL: Former quarterback Blake Bell has had a quiet season at tight end, catching eight passes for 101 yards and a touchdown. Perhaps Oklahoma will use him more against K-State, which has been vulnerable to tight end passes.
▪ TEACHER VS. STUDENT: Bob Stoops served on Bill Snyder’s staff before taking over at Oklahoma. They have met 10 times since. Stoops leads the series with an 8-2 record.