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September 1, 2013

Knight was solid in Sooners opener

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Trevor Knight became the first redshirt freshman since Sam Bradford to open the season as the starting quarterback at Oklahoma, and he announced his presence not with his arm but with his legs Saturday night at Memorial Stadium.

With 103 yards rushing on 13 carries, Knight became the first Sooner quarterback to rush for over 100 yards in 13 years. The last OU quarterback to accomplish such a feat was eventual Heisman Trophy winner Jason White.

HD: Knight solid in Sooners opener
Meeting with media for the first time since Aug. 3 in the Adrian Peterson Team Meeting Room, Knight spoke about overcoming a rocky beginning in No. 16 Oklahoma's 34-0 thumping of Louisiana-Monroe. The Sooners were tied at zero with Warhawks after the first quarter.

"I just got comfortable as the game went on," Knight said. "Made some big plays. Guys up front did a hell of a job."

He's right about the offensive line of course.

The Sooners' five-man unit dominated the ULM defensive line and led Knight and company to over 319 yards rushing on 50 carries.

"That's pretty rare for us around here," said senior center Gabe Ikard. "So we're pretty pleased with how that aspect went."

Oklahoma's offensive line kept Knight relatively clean when he dropped back in the pocket to pass, too. He was sacked just once all night.

Nine Sooners carried the ball for OU, and four of them accounted for at least 40 yards rushing each. But it was Knight who found small seams in the Warhawk defense that opened up space for other runners on fakes and option plays.

Ikard said he was most impressed with how Knight has assumed a leadership role on the team since being named the starter.

"He's a guy who has clearly been in the role before, whether it was in high school or grade school or whenever it was, but he knows what to do and he's not afraid to say what he thinks," Ikard said. "Very vocal on the sideline, in the huddle, so we're really impressed.

"He might only be a redshirt freshman, but he's very mature for a young player."

Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops felt the same, though Knight's play was average when throwing the football. He threw short on easy bubble screens and missed receivers completely on simple routes.

"I'm sure he'll settle down and get smoother with some of his throws," Stoops said. "We see him make these throws over and over daily, and some of the ones he missed we know he's capable of making. We expect him to continue to improve in that part of it."

Knight completed 11-of-28 passes for 86 yards with three touchdowns and one controversial interception.

He didn't fixate on any one receiver as nine men caught passes thrown by Knight. But none caught more than senior wide receiver Jalen Saunders.

Saunders hauled in three catches for 30 yards. Two of those catches resulted in touchdowns, the first of which scored the first points of the game and might have done the most to calm Knight down in the second quarter.

Saunders attributed much of his success to the sustainability of Oklahoma's running game.

"I'm really impressed with it because it makes the safeties come down, play the run a lot," he said. "So it's leaving those two corner backs on an island, and it's usually just 1-on-1, receiver on corner back."

Co-offensive coordinator Josh Heupel planned to try to give Saunders and the other wide receivers those opportunities. He used formations that sometimes had three running backs in the backfield with Knight and forced the ULM defense to play eight men in the box most of the night.

Under those circumstances, with the offensive line and running backs doing their part, he could call plays that best suited the abilities of Knight who he said looked poised and ready.

"I thought he handled himself well," Heupel said. "He carried himself with great body language, great energy. Not that every thing was going right all the time, but he was confident."


That was Knight's best trait on the field in his first game of football since December 2011. He let the game come to him, didn't overreach and trusted his teammates to come through in pressure situations.

He also made it clear his being confident against a ULM team that had the weapons to beat the Sooners on another night was not a coincidence.

"I've always tried to be the guy that's first," he said. "I try to set the tone every day -- to have energy, passion."

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