NORMAN — The Oklahoma defense was better than expected.
Trevor Knight was not.
On a night when the defense had its most dominating performance since Mike Stoops returned as defensive coordinator and the offense ran all over Louisiana-Monroe, the only thing that soured a 34-0 victory in the season opener was a less-than-stellar debut by the Sooner signal caller.
Knight finished with 189 yards of total offense, and even though he was splendid on his feet at times, he struggled with his arm. He went 11 of 28 for 86 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.
“I felt good,” Knight said. “Just missed a few throws here and there.”
Since Knight was named the starter a little over a week ago, coaches and teammates have raved about how great Knight's arm has been in practice. One teammate even compared him to Heisman Trophy winner and Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel.
Expectations were high.
But Knight misfired repeatedly in the first half. He missed open receivers, throwing behind them or beyond them, and many of the passes were basic throws.
The good news: the Sooner defense held Louisiana-Monroe in check until the offense got rolling.
“It allowed the team to hang in there,” Sooners coach Bob Stoops said.
Mike Stoops and his defense rebounded after a disappointing end to last season. After giving up 40-plus points in three of their last four games a year ago, big changes were promised throughout the offseason.
They were obvious Saturday.
Louisiana-Monroe and its spread offense managed only 166 yards and nine first downs as OU notched its first shutout since it blanked Iowa State in 2010.
“Defensively, it's one of the better games we've had in a long, long time where all the assignments, the communication was as clean and sharp as maybe any that we've had,” Bob Stoops said.
Even though Louisiana-Monroe is a mid-major program, it upset Arkansas last season and came within a touchdown of doing the same to Auburn and Baylor. It scored at least 28 points in all three of those games.
Saturday, Louisiana-Monroe managed to get into the red zone only once.
“They give you a lot to work on with all the formations, the personnel groupings, the empty sets,” Bob Stoops said. “I thought our guys really did a great job of handling that.”
More good news for the Sooners: Knight settled down in the second half.
Knight, who became only the fourth freshman to start at quarterback for OU in a season opener, connected on only three of his first 10 pass attempts, and he was just 7 of 21 for 42 yards at halftime. But after the Sooners established a strong running game -- they finished with 305 rushing yards -- the redshirt freshman from San Antonio was 4 of 6 for 44 yards and two touchdowns in the third quarter.
“It took us a little while,” Knight said, “but we got it going.”