KNOXVILLE — A promising start turned into a long night of struggles for Tennessee's offense.
The Volunteers jumped out to a 17-0 lead against No. 19 Oklahoma on Saturday night, but the inability of their offense to put the game away in the second half ultimately doomed No. 23 Tennessee in its 31-24 double-overtime loss on Saturday night.
Tennessee finished with just 254 yards of offense and averaged a paltry 3.3 yards per play.
"It was just a lack of execution," quarterback Josh Dobbs said. "We've got to pick it up moving forward. They started pressuring us and hitting us up in the second half. They made adjustments, like any good defense is going to do. We have to be able to adjust and execute on the fly."
Tennessee couldn't sustain drives in the second half against the Sooners, who brought more pressure to rattle Dobbs in the second half. Oklahoma was able to keep Tennessee's mobile quarterback hemmed in and sacked him three times.
Dobbs never looked comfortable, and he completed just 13 of his 31 passes.
"They started sending blitzes a lot more," left tackle Kyler Kerbyson said. "They started stemming the fronts some and moving guys across the line. It did kind of mess up some of our blocks and the scheme we were running. They were able to take advantage of it. We just didn't do a good job of seeing it and being able to counter it."
The Vols were just 6-of-18 on turning third downs into firsts, and the longest pass play of the game was 20 yards.
Running back Jalen Hurd's 31-yard run on the opening play of the second half — on a drive that ended in a missed field goal — was Tennessee's only other play of 20 or more yards.
In the third quarter, the Sooners nearly came up with two fumbles, one that would have resulted in a defensive touchdown if the officials hadn't ruled that Dobbs' forward progress had been stopped.
Three of Tennessee's six possessions in the second half ended in three-and-outs, and the Vols' longest drive took only 3:05 off the clock, which didn't help a wilting defense.
Tennessee's defense played well enough for three-plus quarters to win the game, but its offense was unable to produce the score that could've put the Sooners away.
"We all have positive mindsets," Dobbs said. "We're all mentally tough. We know our last drive can't affect our guys moving forward. We were constantly talking, trying to stay up and have our defense's back. Our defense did a great job all night giving us short fields and holding our opponent to a low-scoring game."
Tennessee's defense played the better part of three quarters without defensive end Curt Maggitt, a key piece of the puzzle.
The Vols don't disclose injuries during games, but with Maggitt out, Corey Vereen got more work.
"The next guy came in, Vereen, he did a good job," defensive end Derek Barnett said. "I don't think it hurt us too bad."
Added Jones: "Any time you lose a player of Curt Maggitt's magnitude, you're going to be affected a little bit. He brings so much to the table."
The Vols let Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield escape the pocket too often and keep plays alive with his legs, and he made them pay on the first of the Sooners' two fourth-quarter touchdowns.
Tennessee often had multiple shots at sacking Mayfield, but he was able to run out of some trouble as the Vols failed on numerous opportunities to sack him.
"He was savvy in the pocket. He was good," Barnett said. "I think we lost some of our discipline. We hurt ourselves more than they beat us. I don't think they beat us. We beat ourselves."
Jones miffed by calls
Jones was unhappy with two calls that didn't go Tennessee's way on Oklahoma's tying drive.
The first was a pass-interference penalty on Malik Foreman in the back of the end zone when the ball appeared to be uncatchable, and it bailed the Sooners out of a third-and-14.
"It hit the brick wall," Jones said.
The right side of Oklahoma's offensive line appeared to jump a split-second ahead of a third-down snap later in that posssession, and the Sooners picked up the first down to set up a goal-to-go situation.
"We had an illegal-procedure penalty on third-and-3 that would've brought it to third-and-8," Jones said. "That changes the game considerably."
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