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September 16, 2012
Making an impact
Time could have been running out on Russell Shepard.
In the first two games of his senior season, Shepard had as many drops as he had touches. Shepard had one carry and one pass reception for a net of six yards.
But, there was Shepard in the starting lineup for LSU against Idaho on Saturday night. With James Wright resting a sore shoulder, Shepard was a starter at the outside receiver position opposite Odell Beckham.
Shepard turned out to be a factor in the Tigers' 63-14 rout of the Vandals. On the first play of the game, Shepard was on the receiving end of a 33-yard pass from Zach Mettenberger. Three plays later, LSU had its first touchdown on a Mettenberger to Kadron Boone 17-yard pass.
"On the first play, we knew Idaho was going to blitz and play man on the outside," Mettenberger said. "I checked to that pass play. Russell made a great play on the ball."
Shepard only had two more catches, both of which resulted in first downs. A 23-yard completion from Mettenberger to Shepard gave the Tigers a first down at Idaho's 7. On the next play, Mettenberger combined with Jarvis Landry for a touchdown and a 14-point halftime lead.
Shepard's final reception of the night came in the fourth quarter. This time, Mettenberger and Shepard hooked up for a 12-yarder which put the ball in Idaho territory. Six plays later, Jeremy Hill ran for his first career touchdown.
"It feels good to have a night like this," Shepard said. "Everybody wants to be able to contribute to the team. We knew we were going to stretch the field. There were going to be one-on-one situations on the outside where we were going to have the opportunity to win."
Shepard also got the chance to run the ball on three occasions as a running back with Mettenberger in the shotgun. He picked up 24 yards on the three attempts, including one for 18 yards. It has been two seasons since Shepard had a longer run.
"Coach (Les) Miles and the rest of the staff told me to be patient," Shepard said. "They said that they wanted to get me touches and let me make my mark. It was great to touch the ball, make plays and have fun."
Shepard has never lived up to his billing coming out of high school. His adjustment from high school quarterback to college wide receiver has been challenging. His junior year was a tough one as he had just 21 touches for 242 yards. Shepard was also suspended for the first three games of the year.
Shepard exhibited a positive attitude following his nice performance Saturday night.
"(Wide receivers) coach (Adam Henry) told me for the last few weeks he wanted to get me more involved," Shepard said. "They want to get me downfield and use my speed. They want me more incorporated in the offense. I am being patient. If I'm not patient and get antsy, things don't go well."
As a group, the wide receivers were more efficient this week than seven days earlier against Washington. They reduced their drops from five to one for which Shepard was responsible. The wide receivers combined for 14 catches and 200 yards.
For the third time this season and the fourth time in his career, Boone caught a touchdown pass from Mettenberger.
"It was just a man route," said Boone of his 17-yard touchdown catch. "We knew they were going to be aggressive to the boundary. Zach threw a good ball. Once I caught it, I made a move and I was away to the end zone. The receivers had one of those games last week. We wanted to show better than that."