Sooner defense shines in win over Tennessee

Photo by Greg Duke, Tulsa Today

Photo by Greg Duke, Tulsa Today

The Oklahoma Sooners, behind a suffocating defense and efficient offense, boosted their record on the young season to 3-0, defeating the SEC’s Tennessee Volunteers Saturday night in Norman.

After receiving the game’s opening kickoff, the Volunteers began play on their own 25-yard line.  In a hint of how most of this evening would go, the Tennessee offense lost eight yards on their first play.  The relentless Sooner defense made life miserable for Vols quarterback Justin Worley from the outset, and he was never able to get comfortable in the pocket.  For the game, Worley was sacked five times, two others were negated by penalties and he was intercepted three times, including Julian Wilson’s record-setting 100-yard pick six to seal the win in the fourth quarter.

Following a three-and-out on Tennessee’s opening possession, the Sooner offense took over on their 43-yard line and went 45 yards in nine plays, and opened the scoring with a 29-yard field goal by Michael Hunnicutt.

Trevor Knight vs. Tennessee, Photo by Greg Duke, Tulsa Today

Trevor Knight vs. Tennessee, Photo by Greg Duke, Tulsa Today

The Vols’ next series ended abruptly when Worley was blindsided by OU safety Quentin Hayes on a delayed blitz, causing Worley to fumble which was recovered by Hayes on the Sooner 46-yard line.  OU extended its lead to 10-0, capped off by a 23-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Trevor Knight to Keith Ford on a swing route.

The Sooner lead ballooned to 13 at the end of the first quarter after another Hunnicutt field goal, this time from 27 yards.  The kick was set up following a nice 45-yard catch and run from Knight to Sterling Shepard, who advanced the ball to the Tennessee 15-yard line.  For the season, OU has outscored its three opponents by a combined 55-0 in the first quarter.

The Sooners were driving with their first series of the second quarter, but it stalled inside Vols territory when, on second and one, OU was flagged for a false start penalty to make it second and six.  Unable to move the chains, Jed Barnett was called on to punt, and Tennessee began play at their own 21.

Photo by Greg Duke, Tulsa Today

Photo by Greg Duke, Tulsa Today

The OU defense appeared to stuff this drive by registering back to back sacks of Worley, but Quentin Hayes drew a penalty for being offside.  With new life and facing third and 11 from his own 20, Worley found true freshman running back Jalen Hurd with a screen pass and Hurd took it all the way to midfield.  Five plays later, Worley connected with Josh Smith for a 40-yard touchdown catch to slice the Sooners lead to 13-7 with just under ten minutes before intermission.  On the drive, Worley converted a third and 11 and a third and 12.

OU closed out the first half scoring with a nine play 81-yard drive, culminating with Keith Fors’s second touchdown of the contest, this time a ten-yard scamper that gave the Sooners a 13-point cushion.  This was Ford’s third consecutive game with multiple touchdowns.  The Sooners were denied more points prior to heading to the locker room when Knight’s pass was tipped by Tennessee’s Justin Coleman and intercepted by teammate LaDarrell McNeil at the Vols’ 16-yard line with just three ticks left on the clock.

The Sooners stretched their lead to 20 points to start the second half, driving 75 yards in just six plays with Knight finding the end zone on a five-yard quarterback keeper.

Later in the third quarter, Tennessee got a huge break when punter Matt Darr’s low kick hit the ground and bounced into OU’s Steven Parker, who was blocking during the play.  The Vols’ Jalen Reeves-Maybin recovered the ball on the OU 30.  After two more negative-yardage plays, Worley and the Tennessee offense faced third and 17 from the 36, and it looked as if Eric Striker and Charles Tapper were going to combine for another sack of Worley, but Tapper grabbed the quarterback’s facemask, resulting in a 15-yard personal foul penalty, giving the Vols a fresh set of downs.  The Sooner defense stiffened, and Tennessee had to settle for a 31-yard field goal from Aaron Medley to cut the deficit to 27-10.

Tennessee’s next possession took them deep into OU territory, highlighted by Hurd’s 43-yard gallop to the Sooner 26.  The scoring threat ended when OU cornerback Zach Sanchez picked off Worley’s pass in the corner of the end zone, managing to get his foot down while maintaining control of the ball as he fell out of bounds.  It was the fifth time in the last six games that Sanchez has intercepted a pass.

Photo by Greg Duke, Tulsa Today

Photo by Greg Duke, Tulsa Today

It was only fitting that the Sooner defense put the game’s final points on the board.  Once again, the Volunteers had driven deep into Sooner territory, and on third and two from the OU four yard line, Worley’s pass was deflected by Jordan Evans and into the hands of Julian Wilson, who returned it 100 yards for the score, the 50th defensive touchdown scored under Sooner coach Bob Stoops.  Final score: Sooners 35, Tennessee 10.

The Sooners open Big 12 play on the road Saturday night when they travel to West Virginia to take on the Mountaineers in a 6:30 contest.  The Sooners don’t play at home again until October 18, when they host Kansas State.