Oklahoma wide receiver Sterling Shepard (3) celebrates his touchdown with teammate Dede Westbrook (11) in the first quarter of an NCAA college football game against Oklahoma State in Stillwater, Okla., Saturday, Nov. 28, 2015. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Sue Ogrocki
November 30, 2015

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) Sterling Shepard will go down as one of Oklahoma's great receivers.

The top option for Heisman hopeful Baker Mayfield has 226 career receptions (2nd in school history) 3,395 yards (2nd) and 26 touchdowns (tied for 3rd).

This season, he has 79 catches for 1,201 yards and 11 touchdowns. The yardage total is third in school history for a season.

Most important to Shepard, he has helped put No. 3 Oklahoma (11-1) in position to reach the College Football Playoff after a disappointing 8-5 season a year ago.

''I said it at the beginning of the season: This school is known for winning championships, being one of those top-tier programs,'' Shepard said. ''I was going to do everything possible that I could do to get us back to that point, and as senior leaders we've done a great job of keeping everybody focused and showing everybody that we have a goal we're trying to get to. We're not going to stop until we get it.''

Shepard's most spectacular game this season was against Tennessee. He had a 13-yard reception on a third-and-four in Tennessee territory to keep the game-tying drive alive, then hauled in a spectacular 5-yard touchdown grab over a defender while falling back near the side of the end zone. Later, he leaped over a defender near the sideline to score the game winner in a 31-24 double overtime victory in Knoxville.

''You've got to get him involved in big-time situations,'' Mayfield said. ''Third downs, obviously, he's a guy that, when you target him, he's going to catch it. You can count on him. Ultimately, he's a game changer.''

Shepard's 2014 season was on the verge of being one of the best seasons in school history. He had 49 catches for 911 yards and five touchdowns his first seven games, 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.

He came back healthy this year and caught seven passes for 74 yards and two scores against Tennessee.

Shepard has been particularly tough late in the season. He has 47 catches for 652 yards and six touchdowns his past five games. In the three games against Baylor, TCU and Oklahoma State, all ranked in the top 11 when they played, he had 32 receptions for 375 yards and four scores.

Shepard takes great pride in the blocking aspect of his job. He said the team emphasized that area after getting manhandled against Texas. In seven games since, Oklahoma has averaged 300 yards rushing per game.

''As a unit as wide receivers, we had to do a better job of blocking down the field, and that's one of the things we made a big emphasis on, and we did a great job of changing that,'' he said. ''You see Samaje (Perine) and them busting big runs. Without us blocking downfield, it wasn't going to happen. Texas game, we didn't do a good job of that.''

Trevor Knight, Oklahoma's quarterback last season, has enjoyed watching Shepard evolve.

''He's got a knack for getting open, obviously, but he also has a competiive fire in him that's unmatched,'' Knight said. ''He's a guy who brings the offense up before every single game in the locker room and gets everyone going. He just has a passion, especially this year. I've noticed it's raised to a different level and it's really helped us out in a big way.''

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