Oklahoma WR Shepard making big plays again
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) Sterling Shepard is back to being a game changer.
Oklahoma's top receiver missed most of the second half of last season with a hamstring injury, but the senior came back in a big way against Tennessee. He scored the game-tying touchdown with 40 seconds left, then leaped over a defender near the sideline to score the game winner in a 31-24 double overtime victory last Saturday in Knoxville.
Shepard will have a little extra confidence Saturday when No. 16 Oklahoma (2-0) hosts Tulsa (2-0).
''I think everyone needs that type of game every once in a while,'' Shepard said. ''Me being hurt the last few games last season, I wanted to come back and have a good game. It happened to be against Tennessee.''
Shepard also had a 13-yard reception on a third-and-four in Tennessee territory to keep the game-tying drive alive. He called it his best play of the game.
''It was a difficult catch, but I knew my feet were in,'' he said. ''I knew I had to grab the ball. We had to stay on the field. There was no way I was gonna let that one go through my hands or step out of bounds.''
Later in that drive, he hauled in a spectacular 5-yard touchdown grab over a defender while falling back near the side of the end zone.
''The touchdown to tie it up - you expect stuff like that out of a big-time player,'' Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield said. ''He made a play at a clutch time. That's the type of thing that he can do. He couldn't have done it at a better time.''
Coach Bob Stoops said the game winner will be added to the Sooner Magic video he sometimes shows the team. Those plays just add to the resume of the most accomplished receivers in Oklahoma history. Shepard ranks fifth all time with 2,336 yards, is tied for seventh with 17 touchdowns and is tied for eighth with 157 receptions.
He has 10 catches for 142 yards through two games this season.
Shepard's 2014 season was on the verge of being one of the all-time great seasons in school history. He had 49 catches for 911 yards and five touchdowns his first seven games last season, including a school-record-tying 15 grabs against Kansas State and a career-high 215 yards against TCU. He injured his hamstring on a 46-yard reception on the first play against Iowa State and caught just one more pass the rest of the season.
Shepard had a relatively quiet opener against Akron with three receptions for 68 yards. He followed that with seven catches for 74 yards and two scores against Tennessee. Shepard had just three catches for 19 yards heading into the fourth quarter before taking over.
He could be in for a huge game on Saturday. In 2013, Shepard caught eight passes for 123 yards and two touchdowns against Tulsa. Last year, he caught eight passes for 177 yards and a score against the Golden Hurricane.
Stoops said more big games are likely on the horizon for Shepard.
''We want to get the ball to Sterling of course,'' he said. ''You see what happens when you do. If too often that's all you're trying to do, it doesn't work so well than when you're spreading the field and using all your options.''
Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP