NORMAN — Oklahoma coaches benched Trevor Knight for Blake Bell at the beginning of the fourth quarter Saturday, when the Sooners beat West Virginia 16-7.
The reason behind the quarterback switch seemed pretty obvious. Knight was coming off a quarter in which he'd recorded more interceptions (two) than pass completions (one). Both picks came in Mountaineers' territory on drives that could've helped OU firmly take control of the game.
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops did nothing to change that perception in his postgame news conference when asked why he made the quarterback change.
“I was talking to Josh (Heupel) and I'm not going to detail much of it, but at the end of the day, this was a tight competition and I just feel that it wasn't as good as we needed to be in the throwing game, so we gave (Bell) his chance,” Stoops said.
But Sunday, new information surfaced that might help explain Knight's poor performance — and the noticeable change in play calling — in the third quarter.
Tricia Knight, Trevor's mother, posted a Facebook status Sunday morning from Oklahoma City's McBride Orthopedic Hospital that said, “Praying no damage to Trevor's knee.”
Later Sunday, ESPN.com reported Knight had an MRI on his knee but that the injury isn't thought to be serious, citing a team source.
Just before halftime, Knight kept the ball on an option play from West Virginia's 9-yard line and ran down the middle toward the end zone. He picked up six yards before Mountaineers safety Karl Joseph dove at his legs and brought Knight down at the 3.
Knight was a little slow to get up, and seemed to limp around on the field as OU called a timeout.
During the timeout, OU staffers examined Knight's leg, but the redshirt freshman went back into the game for one more play — he overthrew Jalen Saunders in the end zone — before halftime.
In the first half, Knight completed 9 of 15 passes for 113 yards and a touchdown, and also rushed seven times for 55 yards.
In the second, though, he didn't record any rushes, and coaches appeared to move away from dialing up options, instead asking Knight to either hand off to running backs or drop back and pass. He completed only 1 of 5 pass attempts in the second half for six yards.
Knight, a San Antonio native, emerged from a tough, long quarterback derby with Bell and sophomore Kendal Thompson that began last January after four-year starter Landry Jones' eligibility ran out.
Bell was the odds-on favorite to win the spot because he'd been Jones' primary backup in 2012, and had gained valuable game experience working in the popular short-yardage “Belldozer” package.
By all accounts, Thompson had an impressive spring and, for a time, appeared to present the biggest challenge to Bell. But the Southmoore product broke his foot on the first day of fall camp.
Knight impressed coaches throughout fall practices with his big-play ability and athleticism, which seemed like a perfect fit for Oklahoma's new pistol, zone-read offense. A little more than a week before OU's season opener against Louisiana-Monroe, Stoops named Knight his starter.
Knight struggled some with his passes in the Sooners' opener, but wowed fans with a 100-yard rushing game. Stoops always insisted that the competition was ongoing, but also made clear that he wouldn't make any impulsive changes based on a few early mistakes.
Stoops said Thompson might be able to return to action after the Sooners' bye the weekend of Sept. 21, and didn't rule him out of the position battle when he's healthy again.
No one will know the full extent of Knight's knee injury, his status moving forward or who will start next weekend's home game against Tulsa until at least Monday when Stoops speaks to reporters.
But — because of injury, ineffectiveness or some combination of both — one thing is now abundantly clear: Oklahoma's quarterback derby is back on.