No. 4 Sooners make statement in win over La Tech

NORMAN, Okla. – Let us no longer wonder or worry or question why Oklahoma starters are playing late into games. 

It happened Saturday in the season opener against Louisiana Tech. It will happen until the moment the jury of college football’s playoff selection committee returns with its verdict.

Looks matter. Maybe more than ever, so, yes, quarterback Trevor Knight playing from early until dark is going to be a recurring theme (nightmare?).

And, yes, the Sooners won easily Saturday – 48–16 over Louisiana Tech. Didn’t need a crystal ball to see that coming, but in a season where there will be four teams that will make college football’s first playoff, OU didn’t want to come out with a statement that could be considered muted.

And if the Sooners are going to make football’s version of the final four, count on more of the same and mix in a bit of running up the score, too.

It’s the best way to make a lasting impression. You can argue it, but you’d be wrong. 

Oklahoma may very well go unbeaten this season, and if they do, it will certainly be enough to get into the playoff, but winning big will have to be part of the conversation, especially if the Sooners lose once along the way. 

That’s why quarterback Trevor Knight started the second half with the Sooners ahead 31-3 and that’s why Knight came out of halftime throwing down the field as if the Sooners were running the 2-minute drill. Consider the fact the OU quarterback situation was limited Saturday night. Back-up Cody Thomas was dressed, but clearly not ready to play. He didn’t take part in pre-game warmups. And it was somewhat obvious, coach Bob Stoops didn’t want to waste a possible redshirt on freshman Justice Hansen, leaving only former quarterback-turned tight end, Blake Bell available to play. 

And that didn’t happen. Stoops said Thomas could have played, could have gone into the game just to hand off the ball, but didn’t want him in there.

So that meant the Sooners were gonna get theirs Saturday night and it didn’t matter if it was the season opener and it certainly had nothing to do with Louisiana Tech. OU would have tried to put 60 points on the board against Norman High School, if need be.

That’s why Knight wasn’t just in the game, but was in the game, throwing deep down the field with a 31-3 lead and then completing a pass on fourth down with a 38-3 lead. And it was why he was back in the game into the fourth quarter. 

Expect Knight to play from dusk till dawn this season. Expect the Sooners to carpe a lot of diem – anything to look favorable, impressive and dominant just in case OU needs to win a conference room battle against an SEC or Big 10  team.

Knight played the entire game. He was running. With the ball. And a 38-point lead. In the fourth quarter. He threw, and completed, a fourth-down attempt with less than 9 minutes to go. He was also hurt last season. Twice. 

So, while the Sooners did mix and match linemen and play reserves, statements will eventually have to be made. Because that’s what happens when a league, top-heavy like the Big 12 is, doesn’t provide a lot of depth and strength. There’s Baylor, of course, but past that, OU is going to need help along the way if the Sooners do slip up and lose a game.

"Already?" Stoops asked about the possibility or concern about making the playoff. "I’m pleased with the overall effort of the team. I’m not worried about it."

OK, so it may be too soon to worry, but is it really? All the games count the same in the world of college football. A loss against Louisiana Tech essentially ends any hope of OU getting into the playoff, so Saturday was just an opportunity to make a first impression and establish 2014’s presence with authority.

 

Meanwhile, as the offense looked good in the first half, early on and before the game was decided, the defense did everything possible to make it look like a blowout until a Tech touchdown with less than a minute to play. Tech had just 28 yards in the first quarter while Knight went six-of-seven passing for 76 yards. 

"He was good early," offensive coordinator Josh Heupel said. "I thought he managed the game real well and was decisive."

Now, we’ll see how decisive the Sooners will be next week at Tulsa, another overmatched team, and beyond as they get closer to decision day.

Will Stoops be handcuffed by the quarterback situation that he said limited his decision making process Saturday? Or will Knight and the Sooners go after numbers and stats and the kind of performance that folks will remember come December?

"It felt good to get that first one under our belt," Knight said. Me, personally, I left a few plays out on the field."

Yeah, about that. Don’t expect the Sooners to leave much out there the rest of the season.

Follow Andrew Gilman on Twitter: @andrewgilmanOK