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Sooner Magic Sparks 2OT Win Over Vols

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KNOXVILLE, Tennessee -

After erasing a 17-point deficit, the No. 19 Sooners were able to pull out a 31-24 double-overtime win on Saturday night against No. 23 Tennessee inside of Neyland Stadium.

Oklahoma put together a crazy comeback, but throughout most of this thriller a Sooner win looked unlikely.  

But no one told OU quarterback Baker Mayfield that.

After struggling to find a rhythm throughout the first three quarters, the gunslinger took matters into his own hands in the final frame, and led the Sooners to an epic fourth quarter comeback that will live on forever in OU history.  

Trailing 17-3 with 8:20 left in the game and the ball on the Volunteer two-yard line, Mayfield rolled right and faked a run before lobbing a pass over the Vols’ defender, right into the hands of running back Semaje Perine. Not only was it the first Sooner touchdown of the game, but the score gave OU life for the first time in this clash of top 25 teams.

Then after the Sooner defense forced its second consecutive three and out, Oklahoma had the ball back with a chance to tie the game with the clock ticking down.

The drive got rolling with an incredible sideline catch by Sterling Shepard on second down to get the Sooners to the Tennessee 27-yard line. After a blatant pass interference penalty on Tennessee a couple of plays later, OU was in the redzone with a chance to score and force overtime.

On the next play, Mayfield hooked up with receiver Dede Westbrook who carried the ball to the 7-yard line before fumbling. Fortunately for the Sooners, Westbrook fell right on top of the pigskin to recover his own miscue and keep OU’s chances alive.

Three plays after an OU holding penalty that moved the ball back to the 12-yard line, Mayfield threw his best pass of the night when he hit Shepard on a fade route in the corner of the endzone to send the game into overtime and silence the crowd in Knoxville.

Shepard wasn’t done playing the role of hero.

After Tennessee running back Jalen Hurd scored from nine yards out on the Vols’ first possession of overtime, the Sooners had a response.

On the Sooners’ first play, Shepard caught a Mayfield pass over the middle and finessed his way to the five yard line to put the Sooners in great field position. Oklahoma failed to score on its next three plays, setting up a 4th and goal from the one yard line, but Mayfield showed great poise, and kept it for himself for a quarterback keeper and score that sent the game into a second overtime.

Oklahoma had the first chance on offense in double OT, and they took advantage of the momentum that had been building since the start of the fourth quarter. The Sooners also decided to get the ball back in the hands of Shepard, their biggest playmaker.

After catching a Mayfield pass on the right side of the field, Shepard appeared to be running out of bounds before leaping over a diving Tennessee defender and tight roped the sideline for the go ahead 18-yard touchdown.

The Sooners had the lead for the first time in the game, but they still had to make a defensive stop if they wanted to complete the crazy comeback.

That was no problem for a defense that kept the Sooners’ in the game throughout, even when the offense was struggling to get going. On Tennessee’s third offensive play of double-overtime, quarterback Joshua Dobbs was intercepted by Zack Sanchez to seal the game, and give the Sooners’ the road win.

The comeback marked the biggest blown lead in Tennessee’s school history, and shocked the fans who checkered the legendary Neyland Stadium.

OU’s win was made possible by the toughness of some of their key players.

Despite the early offensive struggles that featured only 77 passing yards in the first half, it was evident that Mayfield wasn’t going to let his team walk away from this game without a fight. Even though he was forced out of the pocket on nearly every pass attempt, Mayfield was able to extend plays with his legs, and his poise to find the open receivers was quite impressive. He finished the night with 187 yards through the air to go with three touchdowns compared to two interceptions. Mayfield also scampered for 46-yards and a touchdown on the ground.

After 10 OU receivers caught passes the previous game against Akron, the Sooners’ receiving corps wasn’t as crisp against Tennessee. Oklahoma let many early opportunities slip by due to dropped passes, and if it weren’t for Shepard’s heroics, that position group would’ve taken a lot of heat in the coming week.  Shepard finished the game with seven catches for 74 yards and two touchdowns while Westbrook added 54 yards receiving of his own.

Running backs Joe Mixon and Perine each had impressive nights as well, and offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley unleashed a wildcat package that lined up both running backs in the backfield with Mixon taking the snap from center. Perine finished with 78 yards on the ground while Mixon added 38 of his own.

The fourth quarter comeback was the story of the game, and it was only made possible by the play of the OU defense. When it seemed like the OU offense would never get it going, the Sooner defense was the glue that held the team together. Tennessee struggled the entire second half, and the OU pass rush that featured Devante Bond, Eric Striker and the rest of the OU front seven was too much for the Vols to handle.

Ahmad Thomas led the Sooners in tackles with 11 while Dominique Alexander added nine of his own. Bond totaled two sacks and Sanchez had the only OU interception to go with his six tackles.

With the win, Bob Stoops improves to 6-4 overall against the SEC while the Volunteers fall to 1-28 in their last 29 games against ranked teams.

Oklahoma will be back in action on September 19 when the host Tulsa. Kickoff is set for 11 a.m.

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