He covered an expansive swath of ground, rolled over the entire field and seemed to be just about everywhere.
Tennessee’s junior linebacker played one of his best games ever against the Sooners in a heart-wrenching 31-24 double overtime loss. He logged 21 tackles, 13 of them by himself. He forced a fumble. He recorded a bone-crushing sack.
But Reeves-Maybin couldn’t do it all by himself, no matter how much he wanted to, and Tennessee’s failure to score or come up with a final stop on defense was the difference in the team’s first loss of 2015.
“The balls didn’t go our way,” he said. “The calls didn’t go our way. We didn’t get the job done.”
After ending the third quarter 2-of-12 on third down, Oklahoma converted eight of its next nine third down attempts in spite of Reeves-Maybin, who seemed to never stop running to the ball carrier.
“Later in the game, we stopped being a disciplined defense,” Reeves-Maybin said. “We gave up a lot of penalty yards. A couple of times we had them stopped and we just let them make their plays.”
Tennessee’s defense was on the field for 11 minutes in the fourth quarter and seemed to simply tire out by playing so much late in the game. But Reeves-Maybin, somber and measured in his post-game press conference, refused to make excuses for his unit.
“It doesn’t really matter if we’re tired or not. We’ve got a job to do,” he said. “Doesn’t matter how long we’re on the field or how long we’re not on the field, we’ve got to get the job done. We didn’t do that late in the game.”
The defensive star of a game Tennessee thoroughly dominated on that side of the ball for so long ended the night in heartbreak. After helping hold the Sooners to 348 yards in four quarters and two overtimes, the Vols simply weren’t able to get it done.
Butch Jones knows it, and he reminded his players of how they felt as they looked each other in the eyes in the locker room. The third-year head coach told them to remember it in hopes that players like Jalen Reeves-Maybin won’t have to feel that way again for a long time.
“When we talk about 'My All,' they gave their all. And we came up a little bit short. That's competition,” Jones said. “
“So what do you do? You roll your sleeves up, you come back in at it tomorrow and you work. You let this drive you. You let this fuel you. I told them, don't ever lose this feeling. When there's a day you don't feel like coming to practice or you don't feel like working hard, think about how you feel right now."