WACO, Texas – Oklahoma Sooners receiver Sterling Shepard badly wanted to play against Baylor last year, but there was nothing he could do after warm-ups. He just wasn’t up to it. The year before, Shepard got into the game but was knocked out by a concussion in the first quarter.
Running back Samaje Perine played in last year’s embarrassing loss to Baylor but because of the Bears’ offense – or maybe more so Oklahoma’s offensive game plan – he had no impact. Perine had just five touches, hamstrung by the Sooners’ desire to keep the ball in the air.
So Saturday night was a second chance for Perine and Shepard. Well, it was more like a first real chance to have an impact on Baylor-OU series. It wasn’t a first impression, but it’s about the only one the two will remember up until this point.
Perine rushed for 166 yards, and Shepard hauled in 14 receptions, one shy of his single-game Oklahoma record, and totaled 177 yards. The duo combined for four of Oklahoma’s six touchdowns.
“I finally got a shot at playing against these guys,” Shepard said. “They’re a great football team, and you definitely want to perform against them. We came out with a win (Saturday).”
Big games highlighted by big plays: Shepard scored twice, once on a slant route and another time on a 39-yard touchdown that gave Oklahoma (9-1, 6-1 Big 12 Conference) a lead that it lost but never gave back to Baylor. Perine came off a great block from Nila Kasitati in the third quarter for a 55-yard run that gave Oklahoma a 14-point advantage, its largest of the game.
Neither had a chance to make those plays the last two years.
“We’re playing with a chip on our shoulder,” Perine said. “The past two years, they’ve blown us out. We made it clear that they weren’t going to blow us out this time. We were going to take them all the way down to the edge. They really hadn’t had to play four quarters this year.”
After the game, Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops looked down at the stat sheet, trying to find Shepard’s stats. He was shocked when he saw the total. Shepard smiled when asked whether he wanted a big game this year against Baylor (9-1, 5-1) after missing the two previous contests.
He always wants to have a big performance.
“You always want to make a statement for yourself,” Shepard said. “Your next performance is always what people are going to remember you by.
“You have to come out and compete.”
The big performances of Perine and Shepard fueled Oklahoma’s ability to challenge No. 6 Baylor, a team that had dominant the Sooners on both sides of the ball for the past two years.
Neither said it meant much more to have a great individual performance, but both said how much it meant for the team to come away with the victory. Both provided their own personal flare to the victory.
Shepard, a hyper-consistent outside weapon, caught his first touchdown with a little extra effort and strength; his second on a tough catch with a Baylor defensive back all over him.
“He’s a special player,” Stoops said. “The guy is dynamic. He makes so many competitive, tough catches. I cant’ remember when he hasn’t come down with one. Whenever you see him going out of bounds, falling in the corner of the end zone, people all over him. Does he have the ball? Everybody’s asking and you know he does. He’s just that way.”
Perine, who dropped weight in the offseason to be more compatible with offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley’s offense, showed a blend of speed and power that was non-existent in just five carries a year ago.
He broke around the edge on his 55-yard touchdown before stiff-arming a defender inside the 10-yard line. He constantly turned short carries into above-average ones and kept Oklahoma from falling behind the sticks. It’s not easy, but Perine has made it look easy.
“We knew we had to run the ball, and we did that,” Perine said.
And ultimately, Oklahoma needed its two best offensive weapons to answer every time Baylor threw a counter punch. The Sooners relied on their two of their best, who finally got a chance to sign in a budding rivalry game.