It was one of the biggest games for the Tennessee Volunteers football program in a number of years. The Vols came into the 2015 regular season with a bevy of hype, looking to make their first SEC Championship since Erik Ainge was under center and a guy named Arian Foster was toting the rock.
And for a while on this Saturday night in Knoxville, with a loud, raucous crowd checkerboarding Neyland Stadium with the signature colors of orange cream and white, it seemed like the Vols were ready to make a statement. They punched blue blood Oklahoma in the mouth a number of times, holding the Sooner offense to almost nothing as the usual prize fighter Sooners looked like they were one uppercut to the jaw away from being dealt a knockout blow and, subsequently, vaulting Tennessee into the national spotlight again.
Then, the walls caved in.
It became 17-10 after Samaje Perrine came down with the ball in the end zone late in the fourth quarter. A three-and-out later by Tennessee, the Sooners raced down the field methodically. 13 plays, and 60 yards later, it was standout wide receiver Sterling Shepard who came down with a spectacular touchdown reception in the back corner of the end zone to equalize the game's score at 17 apiece.
Curiously, with 40 seconds remaining, Tennessee decided to kneel the ball down and try their luck in overtime. At first, it looked like the decision, while conspicuous, paid off. Jalen Hurd marched into the end zone to give the Vols the lead, and pushed Oklahoma to the brink. A fourth-and-one on the one yard line was all that stood in the way of Tennessee capturing one of the biggest wins in recent memory for the program.
The Sooners would choose not to be denied. Baker Mayfield powered into the end zone with the game on the line, and pushed the game to a second overtime period. And in that, Shepard again grabbed the attention and the game by its throat. After captivating the crowd with his terrific reception to even the score, the 5-10, 191-pound Oklahoma City native danced out of trouble on the sidelines and plunged into pay dirt for the go-ahead touchdown.
Three plays later, the nightmare was complete for Tennessee. Joshua Dobbs' pass was picked off by Oklahoma's Zach Sanchez and with that, victory was snatched away in gutwrenching fashion.
An all too familiar feeling for Tennessee fans returned Saturday night, and the only thing left to do is see how these Volunteers respond.