NORMAN — Late in the third quarter of Saturday's 16-7 win over West Virginia, a sizable group of frustrated Sooner fans chanted, “We want Bell! We want Bell!”
When OU coaches finally gave the fans what they wanted and replaced struggling — and, as it turns out, injured — redshirt freshman quarterback Trevor Knight with junior Blake Bell, the crowd erupted in loud cheers.
Knight's parents expected some harsh criticism to come eventually when Trevor was named Oklahoma's starting quarterback several days before the season opener. It's impossible to be fully prepared for the intense, often unfair attacks, but the Knights tried their best to ready themselves for it
“I was telling a friend earlier today that I thought Tricia and I needed to become Bartmans,” George Knight joked in a telephone interview with The Oklahoman last month, referencing the iconic image of Chicago Cubs fan Steve Bartman after he interfered with a possible third out late in a playoff game that could've clinched a 2003 World Series berth.
“We need to get our headphones on, and our little hats, and our turtleneck sweaters and go sit in the corner of the stadium and listen to Toby Rowland do the play-by-play, and not listen to anybody else.”
Parents in the stands, wearing headphones to block out criticism and Bell-mania? Yes, to prepare for the potential avalanche of negativity, the Knight family talked to experts in the field — Kevin and Kellye Jones, Landry's parents.
Landry Jones won more games, passed for more yardage and tossed more touchdowns than any quarterback in Oklahoma history. He was a two-time Big 12 champion, went 3-1 in bowl games and beat Texas three times.
But for many fans, none of that was good enough. A vocal sect of Sooner Nation even believed coaches should've benched Jones after an early season loss to Kansas State last year.
As Trevor Knight redshirted last season, his family got a firsthand look at what a Sooner quarterback goes through, and how to best handle it.
Jones' parents reached the point where they sat in their seats and listened to gospel music.
“Landry's mom gave me her phone number, and she just told me that it's hard,” Tricia Knight said last month. “If the team is winning and doing well, the quarterback is the greatest thing. But if they're losing, he's the worst thing.
“I'm one of those moms who, the momma bear comes out. I don't like to hear people say bad things about my kid, or about anyone's kid. I don't think parents should have to hear that. I think people should be decent enough. But, of course, sometimes they're not.”
Knight's career as Oklahoma's starting quarterback started a bit shaky. Many of his passes weren't on target in the Sooners' 34-0, season-opening win over Louisiana-Monroe, but he showed flashes of his impressive athleticism and led the team in rushing yards that night.
Just before halftime last weekend against West Virginia, Knight ran up the middle toward the end zone and sustained a hit to his leg. He continued to play in the third quarter, but didn't record any rushing attempts and threw two interceptions in West Virginia territory.
OU coaches replaced Knight with Bell to start the fourth quarter, a decision Bob Stoops said was made for both health and performance reasons.
Stoops announced Monday that Knight will miss at least one game with a bruised knee, and that Bell will get his first career start Saturday morning against Tulsa on Owen Field.
Also, Stoops said sophomore Kendal Thompson returned to practice Monday and will serve as Bell's backup for now. Thompson was competing to be the Sooners' starter before a foot injury early in fall camp.
“He practiced hard like he always does and had a positive attitude with everybody like he always does,” Stoops said of Bell's demeanor since Knight was named the starter. “He just kept working.”