NORMAN — Oklahoma fans saw something Saturday that hasn’t been done by a Sooner player in almost 70 years in OU’s 34-10 win over Tennessee.
Julian Wilson picked off a Justin Worley pass at the goal line as Vols were threatening to get back in the game early in the fourth quarter, becoming the first Sooner since Al Needs against Kansas State on Oct. 27, 1945, to return an interception 100 yards for a score, but not before prompting a scare or two when he dropped the ball in the end zone.
That prompted a replay review from officials, who confirmed Wilson had crossed the goal line before dropping the ball.
“Once I had seen red, I knew I could drop the ball,’’ Wilson said.”I knew I was in the end zone. I wasn’t worried. Coach (Bob) Stoops asked if I dropped the ball too soon and I said ‘no.’’’
The play was the final nail in the Volunteers’ coffin as the No. 4-ranked Sooners raised their record to 3-0. It was Wilson’s first career touchdown and the 50th defensive score in the 16-year Stoops era at OU.
“I’ve got to thank Jordan Evans for getting his hands on the ball and tipping it in the air to me and my teammates for getting out in front and blocking for me,’’ Wilson said. “I was never worried about getting caught from behind. All I was thinking about was getting into the end zone and back on defense. It was a great honor to tie the record.’’
Stoops joked that he wished Wilson had gone another five yards before dropping the ball.
“I guess he was pretty tired,’’ he said.
“I was,’’ Wilson said. “I am tired right now. They threw a lot of deep balls in the game. That’s part of being a corner. You have to cover all night. That’s what Zach (Sanchez) and I had to do.’’
Sanchez stopped Tennessee’s previous drive with an interception in the end zone after the Vols had moved to the OU 26. The Vols were on the OU 4 when Wilson picked-off the pass.
“Red zone defense is a big thing,’’ Wilson said. “We focus on that throughout the week. Coach Stoops lets us know if they’re on the one-yard line, not to give up because anything can happen. As you saw, we ended up getting a pick, and it changed the momentum of the game around.’’
Sooners’ defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said Wilson is playing with “a lot more emotion’’ than in the past.
“That’s what I’ve seen, Julian is maturing and coming into his own as a player,’’ Mike Stoops said. “Even last year at times, he was feeling his way. It’s taken time, but he’s finding his rhythm and his place on the field.’’
Wilson said he has always played with emotion.
“I’m from Oklahoma, you always have to play with a chip on your shoulder,’’ he said. “This was an SEC game. You’ve got to step up your game to another level. I play with a chip on my shoulder every game.’’
Wilson moved from being the Sooners’ nickel back to corner for his senior season.
“Maybe since I am getting more plays, more action my way, it (emotion) is standing out more,’’ he said. “Even when I was the nickel back last year, I played with a chip on my shoulder.’’
Wilson still feels he has to prove himself.
“You always have to have that chip on your shoulder,’’ he said. “Nothing is going to be given to me. I have to work for everything that I get. I have to go out every Saturday and be an asset to my team.’’
Mike Stoops said Wilson played one of his best games. Wilson didn’t give himself that grade yet. Wilson was credited with six solo tackles and two other pass breakups.
“I don’t know,’’ he said. “I have to wait when I get my grade on Monday. I felt like the secondary played great tonight, but I feel like we can still improve. Coach Mike does a great job of keeping us humble and to let us know that we’re never perfect. There’s always room for improvement.’’
Wilson and the secondary were helped by a front seven that had five quarterback sacks.
“The quarterback doesn’t have all day to stay in the pocket,’’ he said. “If he does, he’s going to get sacked. It makes the DB’s job easier because we don’t have to cover as long.’’
Wilson will be tested again this Saturday when the Sooners visit West Virginia. The Mountaineers had 778 yards in total offense in a 50-49 loss to OU the last time the Sooners visited in 2012. OU won last year 16-7.
“We felt like we played well against West Virginia last year,’’ Wilson said. “We’ll review the tapes and go down to Morgantown and be ready to play. We always want to eliminate the big plays.’’
The OU-WVU game kicks off at 6:30 p.m. and will be televised by FOX (Channel 8, Suddenlink). OU was ranked No. 4 in the AP football poll that was released Sunday.