Trevor Knight is learning the hard way what it's like to be the quarterback at Oklahoma.
Two years ago, he was just a redshirt freshman when Landry Jones was finishing his much-scrutinized career. He probably saw and heard the criticism Jones endured and now, he's getting a taste of that same criticism.
Knight is not the sole reason why the Oklahoma offense has suddenly ground to a halt. He can't run block or make his wide receivers get open. He also can't play defense, but that's another topic for another day.
The coaching staff hasn't helped, either. Knight, whose mobility is one of the biggest reason he's the starting quarterback, has been confined mainly to the pocket this season, and the results haven't been good. Knight's completion percentage is hovering around 55 percent and he has just six touchdown passes to five interceptions.
Ground zero came on Saturday, when the Sooners ran just 14 plays for 29 yards in the first half against Texas. The struggles are real and the critics are howling. But Knight knows struggles in football are like struggles in life—they're always going to be there.
“You're going to go through those ups and downs,” Knight said. “Good things are going to happen, great things are going to happen and then there are going to be times when it's not going the way you want it to. That's a parallel to life and that's why I love football and sports so much. You learn those things and you learn how to get through them and you learn how to change the ties and get back on the right track.”
It's hard to play quarterback at Oklahoma. It'd be hard enough if the Sooners were simply a successful program over the years, but the success has been a direct result of great quarterback play. Steve Davis, Jamelle Holieway, J.C. Watts, Josh Heupel, Jason White, Sam Bradford, Jones. The list of successful quarterbacks at Oklahoma is long and very impressive. OU fans—while irrational at times—aren't dumb. They know good quarterback play when they see it, and what Knight is putting on the field right now is not good quarterback play.
“As long as things aren't going perfectly, there's going to be criticism, there's going to be those doubts,” Knight said. “You have to stay internal and stay confident in who you are as a player, who you are as a team, who you are as an offense and continue to press forward. Dwelling on things like that won't get you anywhere. You have to keep pressing forward, make improvements and ride that confidence into the next week and next practice.”
The good thing is Knight is not lacking for confidence; at least, that's what he says. Even though his play hasn't been good, he's made his mistakes going full speed and hasn't looked tentative on his throws, even the ones that sail 10 feet over the receivers' heads.
“I'm very confident in throwing the football,” Knight said. “I think we have a great plan going into each and every game. We've got to continue to get better, especially on third downs. That will be another emphasis for us this week but continue to stay confident in that and pitching it around and hopefully get better these next couple weeks.”
As Knight goes, so does the OU offense. The Sooners have cruised in games where he has been good, and won games when he has been OK. Being the quarterback has a lot of responsibility and the way the OU offense is constructed, the Sooners can't win without good quarterback play. Simply put, Knight has to play better, but he knows that. Every quarterback that's ever played at Oklahoma knows.