April 5, 2011
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.