Photo: Andy Lyons, Getty Images
The hugs at Neyland Stadium were long and expressive. They were the kind that come when deeply connected people celebrate something unique.
Oklahoma expected to beat Tennessee Saturday night. But after fighting through three and half quarters of offensive futility and then claiming a 31-24 double-overtime victory, there was an outpouring of emotion.
“It’s one of the more special wins. Maybe my favorite of all of them,” OU coach Bob Stoops said. “A little ‘Sooner Magic’ came back out and reminded me when we were back at (Texas) A&M in 2000, when we made some plays that you feel pretty fortunate and blessed to make. I felt that way tonight.”
He wasn’t alone. Stoops has 170 wins over 17 seasons. One claimed a national title. Eight more claimed Big 12 championships.
What was different about this one was it came in front of 102,455 mostly orange-clad fans fully expecting to see the 23rd-ranked Volunteers (1-1) return to the national stage.
With 10 minutes left in the game, that’s the way it was heading. The Sooners (2-0) were an offensive mess. Just 173 yards of total offense and miserable 2-for-12 third-down conversion rate.
Defense kept OU in the game and won it at the end. Cornerback Zack Sanchez sealed it when he picked off Joshua Dobbs on the game’s final play.
The maligned unit that finished 117th in pass defense in 2014, held Tennessee to 125 passing yards, just 254 yards overall and out of the end zone for the final 42 minutes of regulation.