OU Out Hustled by Tennessee

Arrynn Wilkinson breaks away with Zac Givens in support

It was a warm and windy day in Norman as Tennessee came to town for the first time in anyone’s memory.  The Vols were coming off a big win against Texas A&M and OU was looking for their first win in Mid-South conference play. The two teams traded punches early but turnovers and penalties stalled several drives.

Tennessee used quick hands to find their way around the outside of OU’s defense, wing Mason Howard dotting down in the corner. OU responded quickly with Junior Wing Brad Henry picking up an errant Tennessee clearing kick and beating everyone around the corner to score the center post try.  After the Zac Givens conversion, OU led 7-5.

Oklahoma had bright spots and some good breaks from both forwards and backs but had trouble putting it all together.

“We definitely improved in some technical aspects of the set piece. We now need to put it all together for a full match and start finishing some of our drives with points. That will come with the hard work that we have been putting in this season.”- Coach Kenny Forehand

OU would not get another score in the first half but had its opportunities. Tennessee would get one from McCartney and another from Mason Howard at the 35th minute to make it 17-7 at the half.

“We felt good about our chances at the half.  We came out very flat and didn’t play to our strengths in the first half, but were still within striking distance.  We knew that if we played the rugby we were capable of we would come out with a win.  Unfortunately we never put all the pieces together and still have a bitter taste in our mouths with the result,” Coach Tyson Meek.

The second half started well for the Sooners as they quickly attacked deep into Tennessee territory and were awarded a penalty 10m out in the center of the field.  Captain Arrynn Wilkinson opted to run a penalty play over the sure points and it paid off with hooker Mike Lair diving over for the touchdown.  The conversion attempt failed

“I know the coaches probably wanted me to go for the sure thing, but I could feel a momentum shift and felt like we needed to make a statement. Thankfully it paid off,” said Wilkinson.

Tennessee continually pressured OU’s defense out wide and were rewarded for their effort.  Tennessee’s pressure combined with missed tackles by the Sooners stymied the Sooners short lived rally.  Vols fullback Jared Wilson converted one of Tennessee’s scoring opportunities and slipped in for a try to make it 22-12.  OU would quickly pull to within a converted try after a Zac Givens penalty at the 63rd minute. OU had several opportunities deep in Tennessee territory during the final 20 minutes but did not execute.  Props Joe Bach and Austin Ryan produced go forward for the Sooners and flanker Nate Schaeffer caused a lot of problems for the Vols offense but penalties and turnovers proved costly.

Two quick tries put Tennessee out of reach at 32-15 with less than 10 minutes to go. OU did not quit and after receiving a pass from Givens, Henry showed his breakaway speed once again to bookend the Sooners scoring with another center posted try. Givens conversion rounded out the scoring leaving the score line 32-22.  The Sooners tried to get another try in the waning moments to secure 2 valuable bonus points, but once again fell short.

Coach Meek stated, “we improved in the set piece, which is an area we have struggled with mightily in the early going of the season. Unfortunately today we struggled with the things we had been doing well in the first couple of games of the season.  We can’t fault the effort, and must focus on improving our execution.  In the backs, freshman Bobby Impson and sophomore Matt Koch showed that they are going to be quality rugby players. Ryan Bachman played hard even though he was banged up a bit.  Zac(Givens) and Arrynn(Wilkinson) both played through injuries and gave great effort once again. In this league you have to put together a full 80 minute performance.  If you let up for one minute and try to arm tackle someone, they are going to run through you and make you pay.  Hopefully we have learned that lesson.”

Forehand added, “we now have to get focused on LSU. We will watch the film of this one, learn what we can and start focusing on getting a win this week. “

OU will play LSU in Baton Rouge Saturday at 1:00

Tennessee will host Arkansas State.

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Arkansas State Match Report

Number 4 ranked Arkansas State was too much for the Sooners Saturday March 26th, ultimately prevailing 41 – 3. The game was much closer than the score line reads and was still a contest until the Sooners Captain and Number 10 Arrynn Wilkinson was yellow carded in the 65th minute for a dangerous tackle. Arkansas State took advantage of their opportunity with the Sooner playmaker off the field and ran in four trys in short order while Wilkinson was in the bin.

OU’s set piece continues to struggle with the pressure exerted by its College Premier Division opponents. Arkansas State benefited early from an Oklahoma miscue at the second scrum of the game on the OU 5 meter line. The Oklahoma backrow allowed the ball to escape the scrum between the number 6 and number 8 while OU scrumhalf Mike Diver was out of position; the Arkansas State halfback Yoshiyasu Abe took advantage of the mistake scooped the ball up and scored the easiest try of his career. Pat Sullivan converted for the extras.

Oklahoma struck back when a penalty was awarded for a late tackle on Wilkinson after a nifty line break and kick ahead – OU aptly took the kick up and Zac Givens converted the opportunity making the score 7 – 3 advantage Arkansas State. Arkansas State and Oklahoma traded free kick infractions at scrums and played rugby between the 22s without a serious advantage of territory or time of possession for the next 10 minutes. Between the 20th and 40th minute Arkansas State, with the wind behind them, gained a time of possession and territory advantage camping out in the Sooners end. Oklahoma’s defense stiffened at the Oklahoma line and resisted a number of promising Arkansas State attacking opportunities. However, from an attacking center field 10 meter Arkansas State scrum the visitors showed their skills and put wing Caleb Gragg away for a 5 pointer at 37 minutes making the score 12 – 3. Playing into a stiff wind Oklahoma would have been happy to get out of the half with that score, Arkansas State had other thoughts. Oklahoma played a few phases from the kick off and got some go forward. Wilkinson made a smart play to kick ahead into the visitors 22, but the OU chasing defenders were left grasping by a nice piece of running by the Arkansas State wing who then kicked ahead deep into Oklahoma territory forcing OU to kick to touch, giving Arkansas State a lineout inside the OU 22. Arkansas State maintained possession for a few phases and eventually prop Jake Mizell scored a forwards try on the last play of the half to stretch the lead to 17 – 3.

OU and Arkansas State played to a stalemate for the first 15 minutes of the second half. The Sooners best attacking opportunity came when Wilkinson put fullback Zac Givens through a hole, Givens sidestepped two Arkansas State defenders before being pulled down 2 meters short of the try line. During the ensuing ruck Arkansas State got their hands on the ball, but knocked it on giving the Sooners a 5 meter attacking scrum in front of the posts. The Sooners let Arkansas State off the hook by feeding at the scrum, awarding a free kick to Arkansas State. As was the case most of the day Arkansas State capitalized on OU’s mistake moved the ball wide for an outside break followed by a kick deep into the Sooners half. Not long after Wilkinson received the yellow card that proved to be the Sooners undoing.

Arkansas State put their foot on the gas and really started to spread the ball from sideline to sideline. Arkansas State’s Fullback Donnie Swanepoel put his stamp on the game with a number of outside line breaks during the last 20 minutes of the second half. In a matter of minutes Arkansas State scored a converted try by replacement center Dale. Arkansas State flyhalf Pat Sullivan controlled the game well and was rewarded with his first try at 70 minutes. Swanepoel quickly followed that up with a touchdown of his own. At 75 minutes Sullivan scored and converted another try to round out Arkansas State’s onslaught.
Arkansas State showed why they are a highly ranked team. The Arkansas State backrow, half back combination and fullback were all difference makers. Oklahoma played with Arkansas State for 65 minutes, but were completely outmatched for the last 15 minutes of the contest. Wilkinson played well at 10 for the Sooners and newcomers Zac Givens, Rich Immel and Joe Bach all made their presence felt.

Arkansas State will be playing the game of the week in the College Premier Division against Life April 2nd. The Sooners host Tennessee Saturday, April 2nd. Tennessee upset Texas A&M and will come into Norman with some confidence based on that result.

Arkansas State Trys: Yoshiyasu, Gragg, Mizell, Dale, Sullivan (2), Swanepoel
Conversions: Sullivan (3)
Oklahoma Penalty: Givens

OU’s Struggles in the Set Piece Lead to Loss

OU lost a tough, but winnable match Saturday in College Station 28 – 18 against a big and well drilled Texas A&M side. Both teams scored 3 trys and missed out on the bonus point for 4 trys. OU failed to convert any of its trys and kicked only one penalty. A&M was much better in the set piece and did not let the wind affect them as much as it did the Sooners.
OU looked good in the opening minutes of the game with Michael Lair connecting with Meaad Muse on a lineout deep in A&M’s half allowing OU to maintain possession which led to a penalty at the breakdown against A&M at 2 minutes. Kelton Miller took advantage of the opportunity for the Sooners and notched 3 points to gain the early lead over the Aggies. However, the three point advantage was short-lived and the Sooners only lead of the game. OU’s defense was solid for the majority of the first half, but was continually penalized at the breakdown. OU’s mistakes in their own end and decisions to play multiple phases inside its own half cost the Sooners. A&M capitalized on OU’s mistakes and notched three penalties in a span of about 10 minutes to make the score 9 – 3 advantage Aggies.

OU showed some patience and found its way back into the A&M half by putting together a number of phases leading to a couple of A&M penalties. Lair connected with Muse again on a lineout deep in A&M’s half leading to another penalty against A&M near the try line. Captain Taylor Mokate quick tapped the penalty and drove over the line for the try to cut the Aggies lead to one point, 9 – 8.
The OU backs looked dangerous with ball in hand, but could not capitalize on their opportunities in the first half. The Aggies loose forwards on the other hand got involved on the outside and created a few line breaks in the final 15 minutes of the half. The line breaks and territorial advantage combined with a couple of missed tackles by the Sooners led to 2 trys by the Aggies, both of which they converted.

Playing with a strong wind in the first half the Aggies led at halftime 23 – 8. At halftime OU felt they were still in the game and hoped the wind advantage in the second half along with a more disciplined approach would see them come away with the W in the College Premier Division opener. Unfortunately OU was unable to take advantage of the massive territory advantage during the second half.

The Sooners passed on the opportunity to kick at goal multiple times and opted instead to kick to the corner, but were unable to secure their own lineout. The Sooners inability to capitalize on their opportunities frustrated them and they lost focus on a few occasions allowing A&M to escape the pressure without the Sooners scoring any points in the first 25 minutes of the second despite spending the majority of that time in the A&M half. On one of A&M’s forays into the Sooners half OU looked as though they were going to repel the Aggies, but a veteran play from one of the Aggies forwards allowed him to sneak in the try zone to dot down despite the Sooners being in position to defend the pic and go attack. After that score seemed to put the game out of reach the Sooners started flinging the ball around more freely and were rewarded with a try from wing Heath Thompson. Replacement 2nd row Matt Long benefitted from his high school teammate Bobby Impson’s very nice line break which allowed Long to touch down in the corner. Long and Impson both came off the bench for the Sooners and are promising freshmen recruits from Jenks High School. The Sooners looked poised to score their 4th try of the game which would have given them two bonus points one for 4 trys and one for losing by less than 7 points, but it wasn’t to be. The Sooners inability to secure their own set piece possession ultimately cost them an opportunity at winning the match.

This weekend the Sooners will rest a few players in the annual Varsity Alumni Match allowing some of the newer players to get some much needed game time. The Sooners will then take a few days off for Spring Break before meeting back on campus Wednesday the 16th to get additional practice time in before the first home game. The Sooners will be thoroughly tested in there first home match as they take on Arkansas State who made an appearance in the Final Four last year and played the Cal Bears tough. The Sooners did play with great effort against A&M and did not quit, they will look to build on that over the next two weeks in preparation for the Arkansas State clash.

Please come support the Sooners this Saturday at high noon as they take on the Alumni and Saturday March 26th for their first home game of the Inaugural College Premier Division.