STILLWATER — Trevor Knight passed his first road test two weeks ago, when he started and led Oklahoma to a 41-31 win at Kansas State.
Knight performed well despite a loud, below-freezing environment unfamiliar to the redshirt freshman from San Antonio who said until then, he'd never played in anything but nice weather.
Saturday morning, the temperature will be even colder inside Boone Pickens Stadium as Knight makes his first career Bedlam start, encounters the Big 12's best defense and attempts to tune out what is arguably the league's most hostile home crowd.
“It's nothing I can't handle,” Knight said.
Of course, that's easier said than done. Between the Paddle People at the front of OSU's student section, the proximity between fans and the sidelines and the passionate hostility Bedlam brings out, Knight will be tested Saturday unlike ever before.
Seven years ago, when OU won 27-21 in Stillwater, Paul Thompson was a senior with loads more experience than Knight has today, and remembers huddling up on the sideline before an offensive series and being unable to hear anyone else speak.
“One of the fans had an air horn or something,” Thompson said. “It feels like the O-State fans are hovering over you. It was very loud and very annoying.”
OSU fans bothered former Sooner quarterback Nate Hybl so much that he vowed to never cheer for the Cowboys under any circumstances.
Hybl went 0-2 in his starts against Oklahoma State, including a 2002, 38-28 defeat in Stillwater.
“Those people stained me for life,” Hybl said in a 2009 interview with The Oklahoman.
The bitter cold will also present a major challenge for Knight. The temperature is expected to be at around 17 degrees when Bedlam kicks off Saturday.
Thompson's Bedlam experience wasn't frigid, but he quarterbacked Oklahoma's 2006 Big 12 Championship Game victory over Nebraska in a numbingly cold Arrowhead Stadium.
“One thing that some people don't think about is enunciating, saying words in the huddle,” Thompson said. “Trevor doesn't have to deal with it as much because he's not in a huddle, but still, getting through your cadence or making a check is tough. It was almost like leaving the dentist's office. Your mouth and your face is frozen.”
In addition to a hostile crowd and the freezing cold, Knight faces an Oklahoma State defense that has forced 29 turnovers this season. The Cowboys rank second in the nation in turnover margin.
Knight took care of the ball against Kansas State for the most part, save for one first-quarter interception that the Wildcats failed to turn into points. The Sooners also fumbled twice in Manhattan, but recovered them both.
Miscues like that on Saturday — in that environment, in that weather and against this opponent — could be catastrophic.
“Coming off the big win against Baylor, they're gonna be rocking,” Knight said. “It's a big-time rivalry game, so there's gonna a lot of fans going crazy and it's gonna be a crazy atmosphere.
“We just have to stay even keel and do what we're supposed to do.”