Shepard had a stellar catch in traffic, caught a long pass and looked dynamic in the open field on a short pass.
And yet Neal, who didn’t touch the ball, made a major impression with his pancake block on Roy Finch’s 15-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.
“You gotta play like your hair is on fire when you get in there,” receivers coach Jay Norvell said of Neal. “And he did a good job of that, so did Sterling. Those young guys, I wish we could play them more but their time is coming.”
Norvell has been stressing the importance of preparing like a starter to the freshmen, even though their actual plays have been limited.
“It’s hard for young players because they think they are supposed to just come in and be stars but your opportunities come at different times.” he said. “You can never tell when that’s going to be, you just have to be ready.”
With Shepard and Neal already on the Sooners’ two-deep depth chart, they could easily be one play away from being asked to make a game-changing play in a key situation.
“You have to practice every day like you’re going to start,” Norvell said. “You have to prepare like you’re going to play 70 plays because you never know when that’s going to happen and you’re in there for the most critical plays of the game.”