KNOXVILLE – It took a 17-point comeback and double overtime for Oklahoma to fend off Tennessee in Knoxville. But when the smoke cleared, the Sooners escaped from a rowdy environment with a 31-24 victory.
Tennessee’s defensive secondary, which was the focal point of worry for many Tennessee fans during the week, improved upon last week’s performance, giving up only 187 passing yards to a lethal Oklahoma passing attack.
However, Sooners’ quarterback Baker Mayfield did throw three touchdown passes late in the game after tossing a pair of interceptions earlier. The Vols defense appeared to wear down as Oklahoma established the run in the second half.
Mayfield was a key component in Oklahoma’s 161 yards on the ground, eluding Tennessee defenders much of the second half to gain yards. Tennessee’s defensive linemen were able to get their hands on Mayfield but they struggled to wrap up and bring him down.
“Last week the offense had our back and we should have done a better job having their back tonight,” said Tennessee linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin. “We had them on the ropes and let them off. It’s not a good feeling.”
Indeed, the Vols did have the Sooners on the ropes.
Tennessee led 17-0 at one point in the first half before Oklahoma notched a field goal to cut it to a two-touchdown deficit at halftime. The Vols controlled the pace of the game early but second half adjustments helped Oklahoma make a comeback.
Head coach Butch Jones was proud of his team’s effort. “We played a hard fought game but came up short. On critical downs in the game we came up short,” said Jones. “Oklahoma brought a little more pressure in the second half and we needed to do a better job of handling that.”
Running back Jalen Hurd was one bright spot for Tennessee. The sophomore picked up 106 yards and a touchdown against the Sooners’ defense behind an offensive line that looked far better than it did in last year’s contest against Oklahoma.
Josh Dobbs threw for 125 yards and a touchdown, but an interception from Dobbs in the second overtime sealed the win for the Sooners.
It was a disappointing loss for Tennessee’s coaches and players but Jones was confident in his team after the game and their ability to learn from the loss. “I love our team and I’m proud of them. They gave their all. We have to correct our mistakes from tonight and move on,” said Jones.
Tennessee takes on Western Carolina next Saturday at 7 p.m. ET on ESPNU.
Featured image by Jordan Dajani