At least according to offensive coordinator Mike DeBord, who watched as his unit racked up a 17-point lead until the Sooners threw the kitchen sink at his offense. The first-year Tennessee offensive coordinator documented how Bob Stoops' team brought the corner from the boundary, the strong safety from the field and every linebacker it could muster as it stymied the Vols.
"There's no doubt what happened," DeBord said. "They had given up 17 points in the first half and they had blitzed us some, but not very much, so in the second half it was a blitz fest. It turned into that. They knew that they had to do that. They couldn't give up more points, so that's what the game turned into."
After sputtering in the second half due in part to Oklahoma's intense pressure, DeBord understands his unit will have to win more battles downfield to exploit those blitzes and keep defense honest moving forward. Citing what he called "execution problems," the former Michigan offensive coordinator hopes to work to effectively fix the problems they faced last week.
"We didn't take advantage of it like we should have," he said. "We're working real hard this week versus that, and we're going to take advantage of it when that happens again. That's something that we're practicing against but we've got to obviously get better at."
The Vols expect to see more of the creative blitz packages Oklahoma threw at them down the road with other teams as they work toward correcting their blitz pickup and ability to work around pressure.
"People will do that, and so that's why we worked hard at it yesterday, we worked hard at it today. We've got to make people pay, so we're preparing for that," DeBord said.
"The multiple blitzing that we got, again, they were keeping us off balance with that. Yesterday and today we've had excellent practices. Our players are focused, and we're going at it like we should be."
Like a rock
Despite struggling for just 125 passing yards on 13-of-31 attempts, Josh Dobbs was unshaken. The junior team leader didn't have his best game, but it hasn't affected his confidence or leadership style heading into this week's game with Western Carolina.
"I've only known him since February, but I don't know how you could ever shake him," DeBord said. "He's as steady as anybody could ever be."
Dobbs stopped into DeBord's office on Sunday to chat with his offensive coordinator and has yet to let Saturday's performance and the subsequent loss damper his spirit of change his approach to the game. That's good news for a Tennessee team that needs a steady leader after coming off such an emotional loss.
"A rock — he's a rock and that's the way he goes about his life, that's the way he goes about his football and he's out there leading right now," DeBord said. "I don't know how you can get to Josh Dobbs."
With Curt Maggitt out for an extended period of time due to a hip injury, a host of players will be asked to step up into his role as a hybrid defensive end/linebacker. In relief of Maggitt coming off the edge with their hand on the ground will be a mixture of Corey Vereen, Kyle Phillips and Dimarya Mixon.
"All of those guys will get some time in there," defensive coordinator John Jancek said. "In today's game you have to roll a lot of players in. It's really who gets the first four reps and who gets the second four reps is how it works itself out. We'll roll those guys in throughout the week."
When Tennessee is in its base 4-3 formation, freshman Austin Smith will fill in for the veteran Maggitt as the strongside linebacker.
"We'll play with Austin," Jancek said. "He's done some really good things throughout camp. He's going to make mistakes. He's a good football player. He just needs time to develop and get ready, and that's what we plan on doing."
Darrin Kirkland Jr. received less playing time against Oklahoma than he did against Bowling Green at the middle linebacker spot, but it wasn't by design. To Jancek, the defense was in a rhythm he didn't want to disrupt by replacing starter Colton Jumper with Kirkland.
The third-year Vols defensive coordinator praised Jumper for setting the fronts and identifying offensive coverages that helped the defense while acknowledging his desire to not tinker with the lineup due to the defense's early success.
"We were in a good rhythm on defense. It was kind of like we were going three-and-out, three-and-out, three-and-out," Jancek said. "The guys weren't getting real winded, so we just stayed with Jump. Coach Thigpen asked me during the game and I said 'Let's just stay with Jump. We're in a good rhythm right now.'"