Every week Sooners Illustrated will break down a few players and a few units and assign them grades based on their performance.
Here are the Game 2 grades:
Oklahoma’s will – A+: There’s no way to prove it, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this sort of comeback wouldn’t have happened last year. This is a different team, and any deficit of more than one score would have caused a team-wide collapse.
That didn’t happen, and it was a team-wide effort to keep it going. The defense never gave in, and the offense never stopped trying to get a rhythm. Part of that is the coaching staff and part of it is the players. Either way, it shows that this is a much more mature team than it was last year, and that’s a big positive for Oklahoma moving forward.
We were going to learn something about the Sooners this weekend. It was a pretty good lesson.
And that dangerous Neyland Stadium atmosphere - forget about.
Offensive line – D: There wasn’t much improvement from the offensive line from Game 1 to Game 2, but Oklahoma still managed to survive. Josiah St. John got the bulk of the playing time, including the start, but it didn’t help too much. The Sooners’ offense averaged 3.4 yards per carry.
The unit probably should have given up more than one sack, but Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield helped save a few of those sacks – turning some into big plays.
Receivers – C: Without Sterling Shepard late re-emergence of sorts, the receiving corps would have been much worse. The pass catchers outside of Shepard weren’t very good, anyway.
Shepard made three huge plays connecting with Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield in overtime and at the end of regulation – the game-tying fade, the game-winning touchdown in overtime and a big gain in the first overtime that set up Mayfield’s touchdown.
That’s the good. There was some bad too: Way too many dropped passes just to start. Both of Mayfield interceptions could be directly contributed to receiver mistakes – a drop by Dede Westbrook and a bad read route by Jarvis Baxter.
Devante Bond – A-: It’s becoming quickly apparent that Eric Striker isn’t the only game-changer that Oklahoma has at outside linebacker. Bond isn’t quite up to his teammates level, but if he keeps putting together games like this, he’ll be there soon.
Bond nearly had an interception in the first quarter. He continues to find himself in the right places. He finished the game with five tackles, two sacks, a forced fumble and a quarterback hurry.
Zack Sanchez – A+: He’s put up a lot of great performances in his career at Oklahoma, but Saturday might have been Sanchez’s best. At least from an all-around perspective, it won’t get much better than what Sanchez did to Tennessee.
Sanchez made key plays on three-straight plays early to keep the Volunteers out of the end zone, dispelling the belief that he can’t tackle for at least one series. He is a leader on a defense the had its best performance in the past year and is a veteran in the secondary, which allowed just 125 passing yards.
And he still got his interception, jumping an out route and sealing one of the greatest regular-season victories of the Bob Stoops era.