Oklahoma CB Sanchez keeps making big plays
The sophomore has a pick in each of his three games this season, tying for the national lead. His interception of Tennessee quarterback Justin Worley in the end zone was a key play in the fourth-ranked Sooners' 34-10 win over the Volunteers on Saturday night.
Sanchez left Oklahoma's previous game against Tulsa after taking a helmet to the shoulder, limiting his ability to handle contact against Tennessee. The interception was especially important to him because he felt he missed tackles while dealing with pain.
''I had to make up for not being able to tackle tonight,'' he said. ''For me to make a play like that was huge for the momentum of the defense and making up for trying to tackle with one arm. Regardless, I should have made those tackles, so I had to do something to redeem myself.''
Sanchez has intercepted five passes in his past six games, and he blocked a field goal in the opener against Louisiana Tech.
His run of interceptions started late last season, when he took his first career pick back 74 yards for a touchdown against Kansas State. Two games later, he intercepted Alabama's A.J. McCarron in the Sugar Bowl and returned it 43 yards. He has picks this season against Louisiana Tech, Tulsa and Tennessee.
''Maturing in the defense, maturing as a player on the field,'' Sanchez said. ''Kind of diving into film more than I did last year and understanding route concepts and offenses a little more and how they'll attack me this year. That's the biggest thing, just growing and getting older with experience.''
Sanchez had two tackles against Tennessee. He got up slowly a few times after contact but fought through it.
''He practiced all week, we just didn't do any tackling drills with him,'' Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. ''He's done those so much through the years that he isn't going to forget in a week. He practiced, so he was prepared to play. He will be prepared next week.''
Sanchez should get plenty of action Saturday when the Sooners play at West Virginia. Mountaineers quarterback Clint Trickett passed for 511 yards in a win over Maryland on Saturday, and his team ranks fourth nationally in yards passing.
Sanchez doesn't mind getting a lot of action.
''Last year I didn't want to get beat deep for big plays,'' he said. ''Now, they're kind of trying me a little more. I'm making sure I'm more technically sound against the things they do when they come at me. I feel like I've handled it pretty well. I've just got to continue to get better each week. It's always a growing thing when you're a DB.''
Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP .