Norman, Okla. Not often does a defensive back earn the hat trick.
Three interceptions in one game are so rare, in fact, that senior cornerback J.T. Thatcher was only the seventh Oklahoma football player to do it.
Thatcher, a 5-foot-11, 217-pounder from Norman, stole three of Kansas quarterback Dylen Smith's passes in the Sooners' 34-16 victory in front of a homecoming crowd of 74,811 on Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
"You have to watch a lot of film and be ready to play against Kansas," Thatcher said. "They like to do a lot of misdirection like pulling linemen one way and throwing the other way."
Two of the passes Thatcher intercepted were misfires by Smith, but the other theft was a jumping, falling grab of an aerial Smith was trying to throw away.
Thatcher's first interception occurred on the game's third play and led to a 37-yard field goal by Tim Duncan. But Kansas answered two plays later when Smith hit Roger Ross on a 77-yard bomb over cornerback Michael Thompson.
Early in the second quarter, Kansas led 16-10, but the Sooners scored two touchdowns for a 24-16 halftime lead. Then the Sooners' defense stuffed the Jayhawks in the second half.
"To do what the defense did in the second half, limiting them to 77 yards, that was great," OU coach Bob Stoops said. "We really regrouped at halftime."
Stoops certainly didn't expect Smith to turn the ball over seven times five interceptions and two fumbles.
"Their quarterback is a great athlete," Stoops said. "In the first half, he really had us on our heels. Nobody panicked. Even in the first half what we were doing was right. We just broke down and the quarterback had some big plays."
Oklahoma QB Josh Heupel
While KU's Smith had five of his 29 pass attempts intercepted, OU quarterback Josh Heupel was 29-for-43 passing without throwing an interception.
"Coming into the game, we knew they were going to be a good football team defensively and had a great secondary," Heupel said. "We took it as a challenge, but basically we went into it with the same attitude as every game."
Although Kansas used five defensive backs for the first time this season, Heupel said the Jayhawks didn't do anything unexpected.
"They basically played what we had seen on film and we were prepared for that," Heupel said.
Heupel also thought that falling behind early was beneficial to the No. 14-ranked Sooners.
"There were things that didn't go our way," the senior southpaw said, "and we had to show toughness and play well. We needed this game today. We needed some tough times just to react and prepare for the rest of the conference season."
On paper, more tough times lie ahead. Oklahoma's next three games are against Texas, Kansas State and Nebraska.