One throw. It wasn’t even a completion.
I saw it back when Trevor Knight was stumbling around Owen Field and Sooner fans were asking how the hell he had beaten out Blake Bell to become Oklahoma’s starting quarterback. Still, that one throw convinced me that he could be special.
Later in the year, OU’s redshirt QB drilled a similar pass to ice one of the Sooners’ biggest wins in recent memory.
In the discussions that I’ve had with other writers and media hacks since the end of the Sooners’ 2013 season, I get the same question over and over. Which is the real Trevor Knight: the one who stumbled early in the year, or the one who torched Alabama’s defense in the Sugar Bowl?
My answer is both. That throw against West Virginia–and the one that came later against the Crimson Tide–gets at what I mean.
Knight did struggle in his first two starts. He was geeked up. He was scattered. He was making the kinds of mistakes that would be expected of a young quarterback trying to force the issue, the sins of commission that lose games. (I suspect offensive coordinator Josh Heupel would admit that he was still getting used to implementing a non-Air Raid scheme, too.)
If you were paying attention, though, Knight and the rest of OU’s offense showed glimpses of what was to come.
True, Knight gave no indication that he could rock and fire with the likes of a Landry Jones or a Sam Bradford. On the other hand, he showed he has the legs to tax defenses and the arm to get the ball down the field. He also demonstrated plus ability to throw on the move. (See the clip above.) He flashed the potential to be the kind of multidimensional playmaker at quarterback that Bob Stoops had never had.
When Knight got another shot later on, he came off as far more relaxed and decisive. He played somewhere between solid and very good throughout the final three games of the regular season. Then, everything coalesced in a dominant performance versus the Tide.
In that sense, I object to the question of which Knight is for real because it presupposes the possibility that he is some kind of straight-arrow Stephen Garcia–erratic, but deadly when he’s on his game. Or, it implies that he had one of the luckiest nights in the history of the sport.
The reality is that Knight’s 2013 season didn’t really fit the standard young quarterback script. The combination of an injury and Blake Bell’s competence when called upon inserted a pregnant pause of seven games in the middle of Knight’s development. The Sugar Bowl marked just his fifth start and the sixth game in which he got significant game action. If framed as a linear progression from game to game, I suspect the story would be Knight coming into his own in less than a half season.
Instead, that gap in the middle of the year somehow creates a perception that one end of the timeline must be an aberration.
By their very nature, bowl games often produce irreplicable results, so I understand the cynicism. But if you want to know who the real Trevor Knight is, I'm betting you'll be able to find him in December hoping to hear his name called at the Heisman Trophy presentation. If not there, maybe try the College Football Playoff in January.