No. 1 Bama gets another shot at Texas A&M's Trevor Knight
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) Trevor Knight has changed teams, proven he's not a one-game wonder and re-emerged with a national title contender.
The Texas A&M quarterback was a redshirt freshman for Oklahoma when he picked apart Alabama's defense in the January 2013 Sugar Bowl and looked every bit the rising star. Now, the top-ranked Crimson Tide, with mostly new players, finally gets another shot at Knight when he leads the sixth-ranked Aggies into Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday in a matchup of the Southeastern Conference's top teams.
His career with the Sooners never took off, but Knight's doing just fine now. The Sugar Bowl was a stunner at the time even if it seems like ancient history to him.
''It was a long time ago,'' Knight said this week. ''I'm not even at the same school anymore. They talk about it's me and I guess (Mississippi's) Chad Kelly are the two teams that have beaten Alabama but again that's so far in the past that you can't look into that now.''
It's still noteworthy to reflect on just how good Knight was on that January night in New Orleans against a strong Alabama defense. Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops had kept his quarterback a mystery leading up to the game: Would he start Knight or Blake Bell?
He chose wisely. Knight wound up passing for 348 yards and four touchdowns to win Sugar Bowl MVP honors and outshine Heisman Trophy runner up AJ McCarron for the 16-point underdogs. His 32 completions set a Sugar Bowl record and was only 15 shy of his total the rest of the season.
''We won and that was a good feeling,'' Knight said. ''Again that was a great game, a long time ago. We came out and played really well and got a win. That's just another win under our belt back then and I don't think too much (about) it nowadays.''
He has more pressing matters on his mind. Knight is thriving in coach Kevin Sumlin's offense at Texas A&M. He has passed for 1,500 yards and nine touchdowns while rushing for 502 yards and another nine TDs.
More importantly, he has guided the Aggies to a 6-0 start and four straight SEC wins. Knight has passed for 200-plus yards and rushed for more than 80 in each of his last three league games.
Saban doesn't need to replay the Sugar Bowl to be impressed with Knight.
''He's very athletic. He's very quick,'' Saban said. ''He's a good decision-maker. He makes quick decisions with the ball. He changes angles of throws and gets the ball out of his hands quick on all the (run-pass options), and can extend plays in the passing game when they need him to. This guy's a complete player at the position. I thought he was that when we played him before and I think he's even better now.''
Now, Knight gets his biggest challenge perhaps since that Sugar Bowl. Alabama (7-0, 4-0) has the nation's top rushing defense and held Tennessee's dual-threat quarterback Joshua Dobbs to 61 yards of total offense in last weekend's 49-10 win.
''Trevor Knight makes all the throws, can run, can hurt you with his legs and his arms, so it's definitely going to be a challenge for us,'' Alabama linebacker Ryan Anderson said.
The present is what's on the minds of Knight, Sumlin, Saban and Alabama players and what they want to talk about. Sumlin said he hasn't even watched that Sugar Bowl.
''Storyline is two teams in 2016 who are two Top-10 teams playing to try and win the West,'' Sumlin said. ''That's where we are.''
But Knight vs. Alabama makes for a good sidebar.
AP Sports Writer Kristie Rieken contributed to this report.
AP college football website: www.collegefootball.ap.org