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September 18, 2013

Stars align for OU’s Shepard

NORMAN — When Oklahoma’s football players arrive at their lockers each game day, everything is perfectly laid out. Uniform, pads, gloves, tape — anything they’ll need is right there in a specific spot.

The only thing that changes from week to week is the program that is also perfectly placed in each locker. Some peruse it to kill some nervousness. Others throw it in their bag as a keepsake.

When Sooner receiver Sterling Shepard arrived at his Saturday morning and saw it, he knew it was good omen. There on the cover were intertwining images of himself and his father, the late Derrick Shepard.

“I told myself that this is me and my dad’s day … It was just going to be a special day. I was going to try to keep pushing and get open,”

Shepard said.

He did, and new Oklahoma quarterback Blake Bell kept finding him. By the time the 14th-ranked Sooners’ 50-21 victory over Tulsa was complete, Shepard had established single-game career highs in catches (eight), receiving yards (123) and touchdowns (two).

It was the kind of performance the Sooner offense needed to have. There were a lot of reasons for it. Bell, obviously, threw the ball better than Trevor Knight did in the first two games.

But the receivers played better as well. There were no drops, and the passing game looked like the well-oiled machine it was supposed to be.

The fact that it hadn’t in the first two games was irritating to Shepard. The sophomore, who had 45 receptions as a freshman, believed this was going to be a breakout season. Three catches for 23 yards in the first two games was not up to par.

“It was getting underneath my skin a little bit. It has happened to me before in my life,” Shepard said. “With those things, you just have to keep pushing and keep going and it will come to you. It did.”

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