Oklahoma’s defense has been lights out this season, especially before halftime.
In their season-opening win against Louisiana Tech, the Sooners allowed just three points in the first half — and those came with 4 seconds left in the second quarter. On Saturday, the Sooners shut Tulsa out before the break and allowed just 95 yards.
The fourth-ranked Sooners have outscored their opponents a combined 62-3 in the first 30 minutes of their two dominant wins. They hope to carry that momentum into their matchup with Southeastern Conference member Tennessee on Saturday.
“Oh yeah,” Oklahoma linebacker Geneo Grissom said. “It’s a nice SEC matchup. It’s going to be a big game, lot of people there. Hopefully a sellout crowd, so we’re going to come ready.”
Oklahoma has controlled Louisiana Tech and Tulsa with a combination of solid fundamental defense and timely playmaking.
For the second straight week, Zack Sanchez intercepted a pass in the second quarter. He left the game against Tulsa with what appeared to be a shoulder injury, but coach Bob Stoops said he “checked out OK” after the game.
The Sooners almost got an unlikely score in the second quarter when 6-foot-6, 334-pound defensive tackle Jordan Phillips scooped up a fumble and ran about 70 yards for a touchdown, but a personal foul against Chuka Ndulue wiped the score off the board. Phillips’ teammates tackled him in the end zone for a wild celebration before the team realized the touchdown didn’t count.
“I just ran out of gas,” he said. “Besides that, I was good. I was done. I was ready to lay down. I’m glad they pushed me down because I was ready to be down.”
The Sooners allowed Tulsa to march 75 yards down the field to start the second half.
“The third quarter was a little bit disturbing,” Mike Stoops said. “They came down . but overall I love the way our kids are playing. It’s a great group to work with and they are very talented across the board.”
Tulsa didn’t score again. Grissom intercepted Dane Evans in the third quarter and returned it 38 yards for a touchdown. It was Grissom’s third touchdown in his past 10 games.
“I was happy for him,” Phillips said. “I was like, ‘Man, he really stole my thunder.’ But besides that, he scored in the Texas game, he scored in the Alabama game, so he’s a ball hawk. He’s going to score.”
The Sooners were tested again in the final minute, but walk-on Caleb Gastelum intercepted backup Tulsa quarterback Joseph Calcagni near the goal line in the final minute.
Gastelum led the team with eight tackles and had a sack and the interception. He got special recognition after the game.
“Coach was handing out game balls,” he said. “Then he paused and said he was handing out a special game ball. He tossed me a game ball and said he was giving me a scholarship, too. It was extremely special for me. Everyone really jumped on me when he said it. It was really special for me.”
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