Knight, quick start spark Sooners' win

Kansas State entered the game playing as well as any team in the Big 12 Conference. Oklahoma entered the game with a quarterback who had never started a road game making his first start in Manhattan, Kan. So, naturally, the Sooners looked dominant at times on their way to a 41-31 win over KSU on Saturday. The old cliche of “that’s why they play the games” came through once again.

Here are five revealing stats that helped the Sooners improve to 9-2.

Yards per play in the first quarter: Slow starts have become the signature of OU’s offense. That changed on Saturday as the Sooners averaged 7.53 yards per play in the first quarter en route to a 7-0 lead that helped take the crowd out of the game early. OU’s 128 total yards, 79 passing yards and 49 rushing yards were all season highs in Big 12 play. It’s hard to overrate the importance of getting off to a quick start with redshirt freshman Trevor Knight triggering the offense.

Knight’s adjusted QBR: Can’t really ask for a better performance from a redshirt freshman quarterback. Knight’s 90.3 adjusted QBR (scale of 0-100 with 50 being average) was No. 14 nationally this week. He finished 14 of 20 for 171 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Oklahoma State’s Clint Chelf was the only Big 12 quarterback with a higher adjusted QBR on Saturday.

Drives with zero first downs or touchdowns: For the first time in Big 12 play, OU did not have a drive without a first down or touchdown against the Wildcats. Just two games ago the Sooners offense was so inept it had 53.3 percent of its drives (8 of 15) end without a first down or touchdown against Baylor. This stat is perhaps the biggest representation of how dominant OU’s offensive line was against the Wildcats and how poised Knight was as he helped OU convert 9 of 15 third-down attempts.

KSU’s third-down yards per play: OU’s defense made some mistakes and, quite simply, lost some individual battles against KSU. But the Sooners defense was superb on third down. KSU ran nine third-down plays and gained two total yards. The Wildcats’ 0.22 yards per play on third down was easily the season low for a Sooners’ opponent, although OU has held three teams (KSU, TCU, Kansas) to less than one yard per play this season. OU’s ability to come up big in those key moments is one reason the Sooners’ defense is one of the Big 12’s best despite entering the season with several questions.

Percent of KSU runs for zero or negative yardage: The Sooners run defense was stellar, allowing 22 carries for 24 yards, 1.09 yards per carry. OU held the Wildcats to zero or negative yardage on 36.4 percent of their rush attempts. Only TCU had a tougher time gaining positive yardage on run plays against the Sooners defense this season (37 percent). OU’s season average is 22.3 percent.