That was made a lot easier by a career outing by junior wide receiver Sterling Shepard as the Sooners cruised to a 52-7 victory against the Golden Hurricane on Saturday afternoon.
It was evident from the first play. On a day that felt tailor made for the run game to be the story with the constant rain, it was a 54-yard flip pass from Knight to Shepard.
The two would connect seven more times on the game as Shepard tied his career high with eight catches and set a career high with 177 yards.
“Sterling is a really special player,” OU coach Bob Stoops said. “He has a chance to have a really big year. Sterling can run it. He can get behind you. He can return it. He’s really special.”
Knight finished 21 of 34 for 299 yards with two touchdowns and also added a 31-yard rushing touchdown in the first half.
Most of Knight’s damage came in the first half as he was 15-of-25 and OU had already built a 31-0 lead at halftime.
“I think it was good,” Knight said. “Once again we started off fast and that was big for us. Early on we missed a couple of shots down the field that we need to connect on. But as the game went on, I ended up hitting a few to Sterling down the sidelines.”
Saturday illustrated why Shepard has been so excited to make the move from the slot to the outside. OU didn’t connect on every deep ball, but Shepard gave the Sooners a chance to make several big plays down the field.
He has stressed making the move wasn’t that big of a deal since he played outside when he was in high school. The first two weeks are showing exactly why Shepard has been so confident.
“It’s all matchups,” Knight said. “Sterling does a good job of being explosive out on the edge and beating coverage.
As good as Knight and Shepard were in developing their chemistry, it was also arguably the best game of Durron Neal’s career at OU.
The junior had a career day with six catches and 70 yards. He didn’t find the end zone, but the game meant a lot to his confidence.
“I felt like we executed well,” Neal said. “Us as wide receivers take pride in people saying we’re the weakness of the team. We want to show them what we can do.”
It’s not like OU abandoned the running game. The Sooners rushed for 261 yards on an incredible 8.4 yards per carry. It was career days for Alex Ross and Keith Ford, who combined for 15 carries for 177 yards and three touchdowns.
But for the Sooners to be where they need to be, the passing game had to get on track. It was solid, but the statement of the day following the game was it needs to get better.
“As well as they all played, we left a lot of yards on the field,” wide receivers coach Jay Norvell said. “Pleased with Durron. Pleased with K.J. (Young) and getting some young guys in. But we need to keep improving.”