TCU's defense had a difficult first half, mainly because of one guy. Sterling Shepard. For the day, Shepard had seven catches for 215 yards and a touchdown, but his impact goes even deeper than the numbers suggest. Let's break it down by quarter.
With TCU already up 14-0, Oklahoma has its back to the wall early. Jaden Oberkrom's kickoff goes out of bounds, so the Sooners start with the ball on their own 35. On first down, Shepard lines up in the slot to the right, which matches him up against Derrick Kindred. Kindred is a fantastic safety with great speed, but Shepard has elite speed and it shows, as he gets free down the sideline. Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight hits Shepard for the 53-yard gain, down to the TCU 12. Oklahoma would score four running plays later.
After an 8-play TCU drive stalls out, the Horned Frogs punt, resulting in a touchback. On the first play from their own 25, Shepard is now lined up in the slot to the left, again matching him up with Kindred. He makes a cut about 10 yards down field, as if he's going to cross over the middle, gets Kindred to bite, and then blows past him. Knight hits him in stride, and it's a 75-yard touchdown reception.
Here's the step inside.
And here's the result.
1st Quarter Stats: 2 targets, 2 catches, 128 yards, TD
TCU's defense began adjusting to cover Shepard over the top in the second quarter, and it started paying dividends almost immediately. That didn't stop Knight from trying to get the ball to Shepard, as Knight targeted him four times in the second quarter. Fortunately, only one of those was completed, but it was a big play. A 37-yard reception to move Oklahoma deep into TCU territory. After the play, six straight runs by Samaje Perine resulted in a game-tying touchdown.
With 11 seconds left in the half, Shepard had a chance to give Oklahoma their first lead of the game, but a great defensive play by Kevin White held the Sooners to a field goal, and we entered the locker rooms tied at 24.
2nd Quarter Stats: 4 targets, 1 catch, 37 yards
This was easily the slowest quarter for Shepard, as the Horned Frogs came out of halftime with an obvious plan to slow him down. He was doubled everywhere he went, forcing Trevor Knight to look elsewhere to advance the ball. The result was a severe slowing down of Oklahoma's offense, after a touchdown drive to start the half. Shepard had a shot to catch a touchdown pass in the endzone with 11 seconds left in the half, but a great defensive play from Kevin White left Shepard unable to haul the pass in.
3rd Quarter Stats: 2 targets, 1 catch, 10 yards
Shepard did his best to keep the Sooners alive in the fourth quarter. After Paul Dawson's pick-6, Shepard was the main reason the Sooners threatened to score again. On a quick sidenote though, I can't tell if Knight was targeting Shepard on the Dawson interception. If anyone knows for sure (the tape doesn't give you a good look), let me know.
Shepard had a big 12-yard catch on 3rd and 7, helping Oklahoma continue a drive that threatened to stall out after a delay of game penalty on 3rd and 2. The drive, however, ended in a punt, after Trevor Knight couldn't connect with Shepard on 3rd and 5 later in the drive.
With about 6 minutes left in the game and Oklahoma driving, Knight looked to Shepard once again, this time deep in TCU territory. An overthrow, plus a great tip-drill from Chris Hackett, led to Knight's second interception of the game. He didn't put the ball in a good spot for Shepard to catch it, and Hackett made a great play on the ball.
Shepard still had another opportunity to keep the game alive for the Sooners though, and he did so with a 21-yard catch and run on 4th and 6, which provided an opportunity to throw a Hail Mary into the endzone. Ultimately, it wouldn't be enough. It's worth noting that TCU had backed off of the receivers for this play, and seemed willing to give up a chunk of yards as long as they didn't get beat deep. Earlier in this drive, Knight too a big shot down field to Shepard, who had lined up outside to the right. Kevin White played it perfectly, putting himself in position to make a play on the ball. Shepard kept White from intercepting the pass, but that's all he could do on the play.
4th Quarter Stats: 7 (maybe 8) targets, 3 catches, 40 yards
TCU will see more talent at wide receiver this week against Baylor than they did against Oklahoma, and there's no doubt the Bears will look to get their dynamic receivers in similar positions to succeed.