- Associated Press - Saturday, September 6, 2014

TULSA, Okla. (AP) - Tulsa brings out the best in Sterling Shepard.

The Oklahoma receiver set career highs in receptions and yards last year against the Golden Hurricane. This year, the budding star matched his career-best mark of eight catches and set a new career high with 177 yards receiving on Saturday to help fourth-ranked Sooners defeat the Golden Hurricane 52-7.

Shepard could have done more damage, but he and Trevor Knight failed to connect a few times.

“I had two early on that I should have pulled down, that I’m used to pulling down,” Shepard said. “Most of the time, I will. I just tried to put them in the back of my head and pull down anything else they threw to me, and that’s what I did.”

Knight’s confidence in Shepard shows when he occasionally launches risky passes that force his No. 1 option to make exceptional plays.

“Sterling does a great job of being explosive out there on the edge and beating coverage, and I just try to put it up there for him,” Knight said.

Tulsa defensive coordinator Brent Guy said the Tulsa defense had no answers.

“Sterling Shepard is a very, very good receiver, and he had us overmatched a couple of times,” Guy said. “He’s an outstanding player. We should have had double coverage on him and we didn’t. We also had some coverage mistakes.”

Knight passed for 299 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another score. Alex Ross ran for 90 yards and a touchdown, Keith Ford ran for 87 yards and two scores and Blake Bell, a converted quarterback who now plays tight end, caught his first career touchdown pass for the Sooners (2-0).

It was Oklahoma’s sixth straight win overall and eighth in a row in the series against Tulsa.

“Have to give credit where credit is due,” Tulsa coach Bill Blankenship said. “Those guys in white are a very, very good football team. They were very machine-like in the way they approached it. And we didn’t do very well. You have to start the game with execution and we didn’t. Just have to put our hand to the plow and go back to work and try to win September.”

Dane Evans passed for 204 yards and Keevan Lucas caught 10 passes for 84 yards and a touchdown for the Golden Hurricane (1-1).

Oklahoma scored 57 seconds into the game on a 7-yard touchdown run by Ford. Two possessions later, Knight broke a quarterback draw up the middle for a 31-yard touchdown.

On the next possession, Knight found Bell over the middle for a 3-yard touchdown. A 38-yard field goal by Michael Hunnicutt boosted Oklahoma’s lead to 24-0.

On a third-and-goal at the Oklahoma 10, Evans fumbled in the backfield and 334-pound defensive tackle Jordan Phillips rumbled all the way back for a touchdown. The score was called back because of a personal foul, but Oklahoma retained possession. On the first play after the recovery, Ross ran 82 yards for a touchdown to make it 31-0 with 6:13 left in the second quarter.

Oklahoma rolled up 396 yards in the first half and held Tulsa to 95. The Golden Hurricane gained just seven first downs in the first half and finished with 9 yards rushing on 14 carries.

“Defensively, I am really pleased,” Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. “The first half couldn’t have gone much better.”

Tulsa finally scored on a 4-yard pass from Evans to Lucas, but Oklahoma quickly responded when Ford broke a 23-yard touchdown run to push Oklahoma’s lead to 38-7.

Linebacker Geneo Grissom intercepted Evans and ran it back 38 yards for a score to make it 45-7. It was Grissom’s third touchdown in his past 10 games.

Shepard finished a 99-yard drive with a 15-yard touchdown catch to make it 52-7 with 14:56 remaining. He said receivers coach Jay Norvell told him to make the most of that drive.

“Coach Jay told me, ‘This is your last series, so if you want to get a touchdown, so if you’re going to get in the end zone, you’d better do it.”


Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP.

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