The changes Oklahoma made to its offense Saturday were subtle. There were no plays it hadn’t run before. Most of it just seemed new in the 41-31 victory over Kansas State.
It’s different because everything was tailored to fit redshirt freshman quarterback Trevor Knight and he wore it well.
“I think he was really decisive with the football. When it wasn’t there, for the most part, he went through his progression and then found a way to make a play,” OU offensive coordinator Josh Heupel said.
The Sooners (9-2, 6-2 Big 12) have gone most of the season without that element. Plays had to be executed perfectly to succeed. Miss a block, be slightly off in a route, don’t fit a whole perfectly and the play became a waste.
Knight, who threw for a career-high 171 yards and a touchdown and ran for 82 more and another touchdown, played poise throughout the game and never seemed uncomfortable at any point.
But OU’s coaching staff did a better job of putting him in a situation where he could drive. The swing passes, which have been a staple since Sam Bradford’s day, were not part of the game plan. Knight struggled to accurately make those throws back in September. He wasn’t asked to make them Saturday. Most of his throws were crossing routes that could be thrown without having to worry about touch.
When his initial reads were covered, he was advised to tuck in and run.
He converted a couple third-downs and a key fourth-down play in that manner.
“Eventually I want to be a guy that can make my reads on those third-down passes,” said Knight, who did make some quality third-down throws. “But I think it’s good that I have the ability to make those plays on third and fourth down. It just adds another dimension.”
The dimension Knight has added to the Sooners’ run game cannot be ignored. Since the beginning of the third quarter of the Iowa State game through all four quarters against Kansas State, OU has rushed for 640 yards and averaged 8.2 yards per carry. Knight ran for 177 yards, but his presence has opened a lot of doors in the run game that had been closed previously.
“But Trevor came in and did a great job of executing the offense. Coach Heup did a great of calling plays,” said Brennan Clay, who rushed for a career-high 200 yards. “It was a great rhythm, and we got it going.”
The Sooners have two weeks to tweak before they play again. All that’s left in a regular season is the Dec. 7 meeting with No. 7 Oklahoma State at Pickens Stadium in Stillwater.
It could be a game for a Big 12 championship or it could be a game where the rivals are simply playing for pride and bowl positioning.
After what OU has done the last six quarters — 79 points — there is a can’t-wait-to-see-what’s-next aspect to its offense that hasn’t been there all season.
OU has hit its stride late in the year. Knight has been the catalyst.
“We just have to keep getting him comfortable in the moment and the guys around him playing. But he has great speed, a quickness to make some things happen when they’re not there and he has great talent to make things happen when they are there,” OU coach Bob Stoops said. “We just have to keep getting him more of it.”