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Oklahoma QB Trevor Knight rises to occasion in Sugar Bowl


Oklahoma has found itself a quarterback.

If you think you've heard that one before this season, it's because you have. It found one when redshirt freshman Trevor Knight showed off unreal explosiveness as a runner in the Sooners' season debut, rushing for 103 yards on 13 carries against Louisiana-Monroe. It found one -- again -- when Blake Bell replaced the injured Knight and threw for 413 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions against Tulsa and followed it up with another impressive outing at Notre Dame two weeks later. It found one -- for the third time -- when Knight replaced the injured Bell against Iowa State and sparked the offense again with his running ability.

But in the Sugar Bowl, Oklahoma found itself a quarterback in Knight. No more debates, no more discussions, no more nothing. He was as special as head coach Bob Stoops hoped he would be when he picked Knight (6-foot-1, 201 pounds) in the first place.

Knight was hardly dynamic on the zone-read, carrying the ball just five times for seven yards, but he kept the Alabama offense honest and was able to avoid the pass rush and buy time.

But it was his arm that shredded the undermanned Crimson Tide secondary, throwing for 348 yards and four touchdowns. Showcasing touch and power on the deep ball, Knight connected on touchdowns of 45 and 43 yards. Even his lone interception was a great throw, hitting Jalen Saunders on the hand and skipping into an Alabama defender's.

"I think he showed the whole country what we've been watching for two years in our practices and our scrimmages and things like that, that the game has started to slow down for him where he's really starting to feel comfortable in what he can do when he is," Stoops said. "He's got a very live arm with great legs."

Stoops has never really utilized a mobile quarterback as his starter -- Bell was a change-of-pace option in short-yardage and goal-line situations the last few seasons -- but after getting sliced and diced by Johnny Manziel in the 2013 Cotton Bowl, he learned what so many coaches have come to realize at both the college and NFL levels: If your quarterback can't move, the defense has a significant advantage.

Knight can move. He can be a dynamic runner, as he showed in flashes. However, if he can be a great passer with the ability to run, be it on designed plays or when the pocket breaks down, Oklahoma will have an offense nearly impossible to stop when the rules are already so heavily weighted in that direction.

If Knight can throw like he did Thursday night, with timing and accuracy to push the ball all over the field, Oklahoma can again be a legitimate national championship contender and Knight a viable future draft prospect.

It's not a surprise that the top three potential top quarterback prospects in the 2014 NFL Draft -- Teddy Bridgewater, Blake Bortles and Manziel -- all have that added dimension of movement. Even the NFL, once the land of lead-footed pocket passers, is trending heavily toward escapibility, and so too is Stoops.

Oklahoma has found itself a quarterback, its quarterback of the future, in Knight.

Follow Dan Greenspan on Twitter @DanGreenspan.

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