NORMAN, Okla. -- Oklahoma has a quarterback problem. Or controversy. Or situation.
Whatever you want to call it, the Sooners won’t win the Big 12 title without better quarterback play. In Oklahoma’s 16-7 win against West Virginia at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium on Saturday night, redshirt freshman Trevor Knight struggled so badly in his second start, the Sooners replaced him with Blake Bell to start the fourth quarter.
Knight and Bell will likely battle this week to start against Tulsa on Sept. 14 as the Sooners' coaching staff refused to commit to starting either player after the game.
“We just felt things weren't as good as they could be in some of the throwing game, so we wanted to give [Blake] a chance,” OU coach Bob Stoops said of the move.
It wasn’t that Knight was significantly worse as a passer against the Mountaineers than he was in Week 1. It was his inability to protect the ball that doomed him. In his first start he had one turnover, an interception when the ball was taken away from receiver Trey Metoyer.
On Saturday, he had two interceptions and one fumble -- three total turnovers. In addition to his miscues, Knight finished 10-of-20 on pass attempts for 119 yards and one touchdown, as the Sooners offense could never really get rolling. Unlike his first start, Knight never settled down and never looked comfortable through three quarters of action.
The Sooners' coaching staff is willing to deal with bad throws and struggles to move the ball. They aren’t ready to tolerate turnovers, particularly Knight’s red-zone interception in the third quarter that sucked the life out of Memorial Stadium after the Sooners had cruised down the field behind 34- and 26-yard runs by Brennan Clay and appeared poised to take complete control of the game. The redshirt freshman QB followed the red-zone mistake by throwing another interception on OU’s next possession.
One possession later, Bell replaced Knight and promptly drove the Sooners down the field for a field goal, which made it a two-possession game at 16-7. Bell only threw one pass, an incompletion, on the night.
The Sooners, somehow, were able to secure the win with strong defense and by placing the game on the shoulders of Clay and Damien Williams, who combined for 265 of OU’s 316 rushing yards. Clay had 22 carries for a career-high 170 yards, and Williams added 21 carries for 95 yards.
But that won’t get it done if OU hopes to win a Big 12 title. And the Sooners know it.
“We have to be more balanced,” Clay said.