On paper, Tennessee’s defensive performance Saturday against No. 4 Oklahoma was hit-and-miss. The Vol defense allowed 27 points in a 34-10 blowout win for the Sooners. But the score only tells part of the story.

Facing one of the most talented offensives in college football, the “Orange Swarm” actually fared better than expected. The Sooners began several drives with excellent field position and were forced to opt for field goals after big third down stands by Tennessee’s defense. Oklahoma finished with a 3-of-12 third down efficiency and were 0-of-1 on fourth down attempts.

The Sooners boast a talented, experienced and massive offensive line. Oklahoma’s big uglies matched up with Tennessee’s young, inexperienced front-four in the trenches. Specifically, Derek Barnett– the first true freshman defensive end in school history to start in a season opener– looked extremely impressive. Barnett recorded five tackles, including one for loss and helped the Vols pressure star quarterback Trevor Knight.

A.J. Johnson saw a season-best 11 tackles on Saturday. Johnson now leads the SEC with 29 total tackles. Despite the losing effort, Johnson proved once again that he can compete against some of the best offenses in college football and finish with impressive statistics. Jalen Reeves-Maybin also enjoyed another successful individual performance with nine tackles.

Cam Sutton had an up-and-down performance against the Sooners, taking on the nearly impossible task of containing playmaker wideout Sterling Shepard. Shepard finished with five catches for 109 yards, but was kept out of the end zone the entire game. Sutton also bested Shepard on a pass deflection that broke up a would-be first down on 3rd-and-8 in the second quarter.

Tennessee’s defense did all it could given its offense’s inability to score and force the football downfield. Considering the circumstances, the Vols actually played a fairly impressive game against one of the nation’s most complete offenses. The Vols have a long way to go before they can properly compete with the likes of Oklahoma, however, showed progress in their rebuilding process on the defensive side of the football.