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Freshman QB, defense lead Sooners to 34-0 win

The SportsXchange

NORMAN, Okla. -- Trevor Knight became just the fourth freshman to start a season opener in school history for Oklahoma.

His finish was better.

No. 16-ranked Oklahoma and Knight didn't get off to a great start, but they were good enough to get by Louisiana-Monroe 34-0 on Saturday night in front of 84,911.

Knight was chosen over junior Blake Bell to start at quarterback for the Sooners about a week ago despite Bell having extensive experience and 24 rushing touchdowns the past two seasons. Yet it was Knight who started because coaches said he has an ability to extend plays with his legs. He did, too.

It was Knight's arm, though, that looked shaky. Knight wasn't particularly sharp in the first half, going 7 of 21, but he did manage a 12-yard second-quarter touchdown pass to Jalen Saunders, finishing a 14-play drive, 78-yard drive.

"It's a good positive way to start the season," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. "I'm sure he'll settle down and get smoother with his throws. We expect him to continue to improve."

Knight was 3-of-10 passing in the first quarter for 41 yards, looking pretty unstable on what looked like seemingly easy short passes to running backs and screens to wide receivers. However, Knight was impressive running the ball. He took off for a 24-yard run the first time he escaped the pocket and finished with six carries for 52 yards in the first half.

By the second half, Oklahoma was in control, and not surprisingly, Knight looked a lot looser. He had two third-quarter touchdown passes -- one to Saunders and another to Trey Metoyer - and wound up 11-for-28 passing in the game with three touchdowns and 86 yards.

"We tried to get him some easy throws early," Sooners offensive coordinator Josh Heupel said. "But for him, you want to give them some positive energy early. He continued to play and made some plays as he moved forward."

As for those legs Stoops and the coaches talked about? Well, Knight was good there, too. He had 103 yards on 13 carries through three quarters, leading all ball carriers.

"You try not to worry about stats," Knight said. "You take what they can give you. We did what you need to do to win."

Meanwhile, the Oklahoma defense, which came in with plenty of questions, particularly on the line where the team lost five starters from a season ago, was a lot better than expected, including defensive end Charles Tapper, who looked better than any defensive end the Sooners had last year.

It wasn't that long ago the Sooners finished the 2012 by getting gouged by Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl. Oklahoma also gave up massive numbers to West Virginia and TCU last season, but Oklahoma looked much improved in the season-opener.

ULM had just 6 yards rushing in the first quarter and only 83 at halftime as the Sooners led 13-0 and forced the Warhawks into six punts before the break. It was 34-0 after three quarters and by that time ULM had just 126 yards of total offense.

"We couldn't really move the ball that much," ULM quarterback Kolton Browning said. "As an offense, we have to move the chains and get more first downs. We didn't expect to not score."

Back to Bell. Considered by most to be the starter this season based on his production during the past two seasons, he was on the sideline for most of the first half without a helmet on. Bell didn't make an appearance until there was 10:53 left in the game, suggesting Knight has earned the starting spot for at least one more week. The Sooners face West Virginia at home on Sept. 7.

"It's a whirlwind," Knight said, "but it's a dream come true and you run with it. You know you're going to have to compete anywhere. It turned out it happened to be the right year here and I got my shot."

NOTES: Oklahoma posted its first shutout since 2010. "Last year, we were slow to adjust," Mike Stoops said. "We tried to make some adjustments and it wasn't solid." ... As easily as OU won the game, the Sooners' leading receiver was Jalen Saunders with three catches for 30 yards. Two of his catches were for touchdowns. ... Nine players caught passes for the Sooners. ... ULM's leading rusher was Jyruss Edwards, who had just 9 yards on three carries ... ULM opened the season with a win at No. 8 Arkansas last year in overtime. ... ULM punted 10 times. ... Oklahoma improved to 133-9 under coach Bob Stoops when leading at halftime. ... The 103 yards rushing by Knight were the most by an OU freshman quarterback since 1989. ... Stoops posted his 150th win as Sooners coach. ... The 124 yards passing were the fewest for the Sooners since 2006.
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