NORMAN — For his first college game, Tom Wort's play resembled that of an English soccer fan.
Intense. Passionate. Occasionally nonsensical.
Wort's final grade against Utah State more than doubled that of any other linebacker.
But a pair of personal fouls coming three plays apart led to Utah State points and ignited a comeback that almost resulted in one of the worst losses in Sooner history.
"He was very productive on our grade sheet," said defensive coordinator Brent Venables. "But he got blocked too much, he missed too many tackles and he had two personal fouls, so the negative far outweighed the positive in my book.
"But there's definitely a great foundation to build from. He's a good player, he's a tough, hard-working kid, he's got great character and he wants to be coached. So he'll learn from the negatives. You've just got to know how to channel the emotion the right way."
The British-born Wort isn't the first Sooner middle linebacker who's had to learn restraint. Or who's sported a mohawk.
And just like ex-OU great Brian Bosworth, Wort relishes the contact in football.
"I love hitting people and playing the game," he said.
Despite growing up in a town just outside London, Wort always seemed destined to play football. American football, that is.
His dad, Brian, played running back and guard for a club team in England, which is how Wort learned the sport.
When Brian would take business trips to the U.S., he would bring back inflatable footballs for his son.
The tricky part for Wort was finding someone to play with. And then, keeping the alien ball from getting confiscated by paranoid administrators.
"I'd bring it to school, and a couple of the kids would know what it was," Wort said. "One time, we were playing catch on the playground, and the headmaster came out and took it away from me.
"He said the point of the ball might hurt someone."
Wort didn't begin playing football for real until his dad, an engineer for water parks, got a job in Rhode Island. There, Wort immediately signed up for eighth-grade football.
Dad's job with Schlitterbahn water parks eventually took the family to New Braunfels, Texas, where in high school Wort became a blue-chip recruit as a hard-hitting linebacker, ultimately landing him a scholarship at OU last year.
Wort's debut was delayed by an ACL knee injury just before last season's opener that knocked him out for the season.
But Wort's rehab went ahead of schedule, and he moved into the starting lineup after Austin Box suffered an injury of his own.
"Finally playing, it was awesome," Wort said. "I loved every second of it."
Channeling emotion will be a big key in the development of Wort, who otherwise possesses the tools necessary to become OU's next big-time linebacker.
With the Sooners leading 21-0 in the second quarter, Utah State fumbled on third down at the OU 44. The ball was kicked all the way into Utah State territory before the Aggies recovered, setting up a fourth-and-27. Instead, Wort was flagged for a late hit, which gave the Aggies an automatic first down.
"He plays with a lot of emotion," said linebacker Travis Lewis. "I don't want one of my players to be pushed around. That's what he felt like one of the guys in the pile was doing. So he pushed back. But you gotta know the down and distance. That was uncalled for."
Accentuating that mistake, Wort was called for roughing the passer three plays later, which gave the Aggies another first down on what would have been a fourth down.
"Outside of that, he had a really good day. But those were huge. That negated the positive play he had," said coach Bob Stoops, who issued Wort a tongue lashing on the sidelines after the second personal foul.
Wort says he's learned his lesson.
Play Intense. Play passionate. Avoid the nonsensical.
"I'm keeping my enthusiasm," he said. "But I'm going to control it better."