Sunday, September 30, 2012
Shepard finally finds a moment this season
By David Helman
It's going to get overshadowed by the sloppiness of LSU's 38-22 win against Towson, but Russell Shepard finally had a good moment near the halfway point of this 2012 season.
Russell Shepard had a 78-yard touchdown run in LSU's win over Towson.
The Tigers' elder statesman receiver has been snakebitten when it comes to big plays all through September. He had an easy touchdown catch called back by a flag on the LSU offensive line in the season opener against North Texas. He dropped another touchdown just one week later in the rout of Washington. He only had seven rushing yards in the nail-biter win against Auburn last week.
That's a tough start to swallow for a guy who almost left the program for the NFL draft last winter. Shepard flirted with departure after a disappointing junior season, punctuated by a no-show performance in the BCS championship game.
With all that in mind, it was nice to see Shepard have a moment to shine early Saturday evening, when he took the handoff on a zone-read from the shotgun and raced 78 yards to a touchdown. It came on the first play of LSU's second drive and just LSU's ninth play of the game, giving the early (and mistaken) impression that the Tigers would make easy work of Towson.
"That was a nice start to the game," said LSU coach Les Miles. "It's a nice little change of pace and something we look forward to."
The play was good for several notables: it was Shepard's first touchdown of the season, it was the longest gain of his career and it was LSU's longest play from scrimmage since Jordan Jefferson's 83-yard touchdown run against Tennessee in 2010.
It was a nice reminder for LSU of what the Tigers' former top recruit is capable of. Shepard broke through the hole and was 20 yards downfield before the Towson secondary could begin to give chase.
Of course, the rest of Shepard's night was a perfect encapsulation of his career, as he didn't notch another carry and finished with one reception for nine yards. As ever, the Tigers know that Shepard possesses lightning in a bottle in terms of playmaking ability, but the odds of ever utilizing it efficiently seem slim.
The touchdown should look familiar to LSU fans, though -- nearly all of Shepard's biggest plays as a Tiger have come from that shotgun read. He has raced to touchdowns of 69 (against Auburn in 2009), 50 (against North Carolina in 2010) and 30 (against Vanderbilt in 2010) yards on that exact play.