NORMAN — Trevor Knight was throwing balls over receivers’ heads, throwing balls into the Owen Field turf, throwing balls everywhere except into receivers’ hands.
The Sooner faithful grumbled, and the Twitterverse shuttered.
“Time for Bell,” one Oklahoma fan wrote. “Trevor Football not working.”
But not once did Blake Bell even reach for his helmet.
Nor should he have.
Even though Knight struggled early in a 34-0 victory against Louisiana-Monroe, it is obvious that this is his offense. The Sooner coaches aren’t going to have a short leash with him.
Nor should they.
Knight has earned this chance to show what he can do, and even though the Trevor Knight Era didn’t get off to the most rousing of starts, he showed the kind of promise that could pay big dividends down the road.
“I thought he handled himself well,” Sooner offensive coordinator Josh Heupel said. “He carried himself with great body language, great energy. Not that everything was going right all the time, but he was confident.”
It would’ve been easy for Knight to hang his head after the way things started. Heupel called a couple of wheelhouse plays for Knight, dialing up throws that the quarterback feels comfortable making. But instead of hitting Jalen Saunders near the sideline on the first pass attempt of his career, Knight overthrew him by a good five yards.
Instead of a first down, Knight found himself facing a third-and-long.
He ended up making amends for it, scrambling 24 yards for the first down and giving Sooner fans a glimpse of the wheels that he has, but his passing was off the entire first half. Knight started 3 of 10 and finished the first half 7 of 21 for 42 yards.
“We got him into a couple situations that I didn’t want to get him into early,” said Heupel, who had hoped to give his young quarterback some early confidence.
But the thing is, “He continued to play,” Heupel said.
No hanging his head. No slumping his shoulders. Even as he struggled, Knight continued to show the leadership that helped earn him the starting job. He took control of the huddle. He spoke up on the sidelines. He encouraged the guys around him.
“Doing things that veteran quarterbacks do,” Sooner center Gabe Ikard said.
Heupel said, “When you play quarterback, you’re going to make some mistakes. I thought he bounced back and continued to play the next play.”
And eventually, Knight settled down. After halftime, he was 4 of 7 for 44 yards and two touchdowns. He finished the game with only 86 yards passing but had three passing touchdowns.
Many of the short throws that he misfired on early were solid late.
“I’m sure he’ll settle down and get smoother with some of his throws,” Sooner coach Bob Stoops said. “We see him make these throws over and over daily.”
Knight didn’t win the starting job in a day, and he certainly wasn’t going to lose it in a day. The Sooners have a chance to grow something really special in Knight. He could be a starter for three or four years, and if he continues to improve, he could become a force.
Yes, he didn’t have the debut that some were hoping. This wasn’t Sam Bradford, but this wasn’t Paul Thompson either.
I know Thompson became a solid quarterback, but in his debut, he was shaky enough to have to give way to Rhett Bomar. Thompson wouldn’t have played quarterback again had Bomar not been a knucklehead and gotten himself booted off the team.
Never once did Knight look incapable of being the Sooner quarterback.
He just looked a little bit off.
“I promise, he really throws the ball well,” Ikard said. “That’ll be better. He’ll be better next week.
“He’s only going to go up from there.”
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at (405) 475-4125. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.