TU faces OU after a big Sooner OT victory at Tennessee

Could Tulsa catch Oklahoma relaxing after a marquis win over Tennessee and pull a major upset?

It’s possible (Toledo beat Arkansas last week) but oddsmakers have made TU a 31-point underdog.

Tulsa is 2-0 under first-year head Coach Phillip Montgomery with a 40-21 road victory over New Mexico last Saturday.

Montgomery was the offensive coordinator for Baylor the last two years when the Bears shredded the Sooner secondary in two lopsided wins. His TU team has already won as many games as all of last year.

And Oklahoma players and coaches are still on an emotional high after beating Tennessee 31-24 in double overtime in front of 105,000 screaming fans in Knoxville. The Sooners dug a hole early and trailed 3-17 entering the fourth period.

After the game, OU coach Bob Stoops called it his best victory ever (he changed his mind Monday and said it was “definitely one of the best.”)

Stoops credited his defense for saving the game. He said OU has not changed defenses but there are fewer mental breakdowns. Stoops cited the maturity of his defense and a greater depth than last year.

The Sooner defense allowed no points and only 51 yards in the third and fourth quarters. Oklahoma held Tennessee to just eight total yards in the fourth quarter.

“Tulsa is a really good football team,” Stoops said. “Quarterback Dane Evans does an excellent job. I thought he did a year ago as well.

Stoops likes the in-state rivalry (he has never lost to TU – see chart).

“I think it’s good for the state,” Stoops said. “When you think of the fans, travel expenses, and the convenience of traveling – for all those reasons it’s  positive.”

Montgomery’s early success at Tulsa is not unexpected, either.

“It doesn’t surprise me,” Stoops said. “Phil does a great job. They have been effective running and throwing. We are very aware of that. I think the world of (defensive coordinator) Bill Young, too. I think he’s an awesome coach. They are doing a really good job.

“They will wear you out running the football if you try to get too extravagant in your coverages.”

The last time Oklahoma had trailed by 14 points or more at the end of the third quarter and won was in the Bedlam game against Oklahoma State (coached by Jimmy Johnson) in 1983. OU, coached by Barry Switzer, trailed 17-3 at the start of the fourth and yet won 21-20.

The Tennessee crowd was the largest ever to watch an Oklahoma game.

“It felt like, offensively, we were in the hole all day due to penalties, kicking mistakes, letting punts go where they shouldn’t have, returning the kickoff out of the end zone,” Stoops said after the game. “They were constantly at the 50 or better, and we were constantly at the 15 and back. It was hard to overcome. Give their defense credit, we could not do much for three quarters.

“What I loved was that Baker [Mayfield] stayed positive, stayed confident and made plays in the fourth quarter to make a difference. Defense kept us in that position. When [Tennessee] got the ball in positive position, we backed them up. We couldn’t catch a break by picking up one of those fumbles, so we were snake bit a little bit with that. But, we were still making all kinds of big plays defensively, and that kept us around to give us a chance to win when we did score and got things going. The confidence was sky high.”

Sterling Shepard scored his 16th and 17th career touchdowns in the game. His second touchdown of the night came in the second overtime period and put the Sooners up for good, 31-24.

“I loved overtime and the way out guys played. Sterling Shepard is absolutely spectacular,” Stoops said. “He makes the most competitive, tough catches and plays. For him to get in the end zone in that situation was pretty spectacular. Some of the tough catches he made were leading us in our last drive. Just really special how competitive he can be and his inspiration to make plays. That was a great, great night. It was an absolute blast in that environment.”

OU’s offense scored twice in the second half to force overtime.

“The offensive line settled in,” said OU running back Samaje Perine. “They still had their jitters, but once they got used to the crowd noise, we knew what we had to do. They just settled in and got the job done.

“We’re never going to quit. We’re trying to make a new identity. Last year we kind of gave up in the fourth quarter a little bit. This year we are going to come out strong and we’re never going to quit.”

Mayfield, in only his second start, got the first rushing TD of his Sooner career on a 1-yard carry at the end of the fourth quarter. He had three passing TDs for the second consecutive game. Mayfield finished 19-of-39 for 187 and four total TDs and two interceptions.

“It’s huge,” Mayfield said of the win. “It’s a great, great crowd that we just played in front of, and you know, its huge for out team to be able to come back and get a victory out of that situation.

“I mean we were down, I mean we had three points going into the fourth quarter. So it shows a lot about our team never giving up, we were shooting ourselves in the foot the first half. Two turnovers. We stuck with it and never got negative, and trusted each other.”

Against New Mexico, Tulsa had its second straight game of 600 yards of total offense, the first time to have 600-yard back-to-back games since the 2008 season.

Evans equaled his first-game total of two TD passes with two TD passes in the first half. Evans has thrown for 745 yards and four TDs in the two games this year to rank fourth nationally for passing yards per game.

Evans has completed 37 passes and averages a nation-leading 20.1 yards per completion.

Josh Atkinson’s 68-yard touchdown reception was the longest catch of his career and his 119 yards on 3 receptions was also a career-best.

D’Angelo Brewer had his first career 100-yard rushing game with 133 yards, while Zack Langer had his fifth 100-yard rushing game with 139 yards.

Tulsa has thrown for 372.5 yards in its first two games to rank 10th nationally for passing yards, while Oklahoma ranks sixth for fewest passing yards allowed with 106.5 allowed per game.

Tulsa averages 609.0 yards in total offense, while Oklahoma has allowed its opponents to gain only 240.0 yards per game, which ranks 10th in the nation for total defense.