Knight Time

It was the kind of moment University of Alabama fans have come to expect from Ezekial Knight.

Early in the second quarter of No.5 Alabama's 35-3 victory over Utah State Saturday, on third-and-six, quarterback Brodie Croyle dropped back and fired a flat pass to Knight.

Right on cue, he dropped it.

"The old Zeke, usually, his day's over," Croyle said.

This wasn't "the old Zeke." He, apparently, is gone.

On the very next series, facing a second-and-eight from the USU 36, Croyle found Knight again, this time across the middle. The sophomore receiver caught the ball and turned upfield for a huge 23 yard gain.

One play later, Alabama had a 21-0 lead.

It was his last catch of the day, but the surest sign yet that Knight is morphing into a competent wideout. Saturday, the Wedowee native had the best day of his career – three catches for 59 yards and his first college touchdown.

With top receiving threat Tyrone Prothro watching the game from a wheelchair in the south end zone and fellow big-play threat Keith Brown watching from the sidelines with a bruised quad muscle, Knight's contributions were absolutely huge.

And they might resonate the rest of the season, as proof he's finally a confident wideout. "It's important, because we've been looking for Zeke the whole season, to step up and make big plays for us," said sophomore wideout DJ Hall, who had 11 catches for 157 yards and a touchdown. "Today was his day, and it kind of gives the coaches and players a lot of confidence. And it builds his confidence, too."

Knight wasted no time Saturday. With Brown resting his quad, he got his first career start. And on first-and-goal from the USU 9, Croyle lofted a pass his way into the right corner of the end zone.

Just like that, Knight had his first career touchdown.

"It was pretty good," he said, "it felt pretty good. "I'm going to try and get in there more."

He also set up the Tide's second score just minutes later, grabbing a 27-yard strike from Croyle before stepping out of bounds at the USU 1.

One play later, a screen pass to fullback Le'Ron McClain gave Alabama a 14-0 lead. Sure, Knight had a drop. But he rebounded from it – something he just hadn't done in the past.

"He's a great player," Hall said. "It's just, sometimes, if he has a mistake, he loses focus. He didn't do that today. He turned it around. Everybody told him to keep his head up, and he turned around and made a big play."

Croyle agreed, noting just how much Knight has grown up.

"He used to have that mindset where he kind of went into a shell, but he came back and had (another catch) after a drop," Croyle said. "That shows how much maturity he's gotten through the year. Having him as a threat, it's going to be big for us through our final three-game stretch."

With Prothro out, Alabama's offense has struggled to score points. Hall and Brown have done their part, but Croyle hasn't had a solid third target.

If Knight can keep his nerves in check, that just might change soon.

"I just have to relax," he said. "I'm kind of getting a feel for it now, getting more playing time. Once you get relaxed and comfortable, it's just like high school again. You go make big plays."


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