Oklahoma 29, Ohio State 28
September 24, 1977 | at Columbus | Attendance 88,119
Oklahoma (2-0), now ranked #3 in the AP poll behind Michigan and USC, traveled north with their potent wishbone offense to play fourth ranked Ohio State (2-0). It was the Buckeyes' late season loss to Michigan State in '74, and their Rose Bowl loss to UCLA following the '75 season, both when they were ranked #1, that opened the door for Oklahoma to claim both national championships. In the first ever meeting between the two storied programs, Switzer and the young Sooners would have their hands full.
The Buckeyes had a legend as their coach, Woody Hayes, who in his 27 years at the helm had won three national championships. He had also guided Ohio State as Big Ten conference champions seven times, co-champions another five, and had been to eight Rose Bowls, including four straight following the 1972-75 seasons. His teams had also been ranked in the top ten in the final polls eight straight years. It was a huge early season game.
The Buckeyes came into the game with a strong running game, led by quarterback Rod Gerald, junior fullback Ron Springs and senior halfback Ray Griffin, a defensive back pressed into duty because of injuries. Behind a two tight end formation that featured consensus All-American tackle Chris Ward, they had gained an average of 336 yards per game rushing, and were ranked second in the nation. Their defense was just as strong, yielding just seven points in the first two games. A pair of All-Big Ten players, senior middle guard Aaron Brown and junior linebacker Tom Cousineau, both strong candidates for All-American honors, anchored it.
Oklahoma countered with their wishbone attack, led by junior quarterback Thomas Lott. Lining up behind him were junior fullback Kenny King, and two halfbacks, senior Elvis Peacock and a red shirt sophomore, Billy Sims. Averaging 315 yards per game rushing, sixth best, there was much debate prior to the game as to which backfield was the better group. However, the Sooners' were prone to turnovers, as they had already fumbled the ball 17 times, losing 12 of them, and thrown a pair of interceptions in their first two games. The game was in the hands of youngsters, as Oklahoma only started three seniors on offense, and four on defense.
In front of over 88,000 fans, the largest to ever see a game at horseshoe-shaped Ohio Stadium, Oklahoma won the coin toss. Electing to take the wind at their backs from the open south end of the stadium and kickoff, Uwe von Schamann sailed the ball out of the closed north end zone. Ohio State started at the 20-yard line, and could not get going against a fast and physical Oklahoma defense. After three running plays netted nine yards, they were faced with a fourth down. Punting into the wind, the ball was shanked and traveled only 33 yards, and Oklahoma took possession on their own 38.
Lott was making his first start of the year at quarterback for the Sooners. After King went up the middle for three yards, Lott kept the ball on a pair of 4-yard options, the second on a broken play, as the Sooners earned a first down at the 49. Sims, who came in averaging 11 yards on his 15 carries in the first two games, showed the audience his potential when he burst up the middle, leaping for a six-yard gain. Lott then ran the option to the right, pitching to Peacock, who ran down the sideline for a gain of 12 to the Ohio State 33. Five plays into the game and each Oklahoma back had already carried the ball.
With another set of downs, Lott attempted to handoff up the middle to King, but the ball was fumbled. Ohio State defensive end Paul Ross trailed the play and accidentally kicked the ball downfield, right in front of Peacock. The ball hit Elvis in the chest, bounced back on the ground, and then right back up into his hands at the 27-yard line. He broke an attempted tackle by defensive back Mike Guess at the 23, and ran into the open, angling towards the left end zone. He barely outran two Buckeyes, and was tackled by Lenny Mills as he crossed the goal line. Barely three minutes into the game, the Ohio State crowd was shocked. Von Schamann kicked the extra point, capping the six play, 62 yard scoring drive.
After the ensuing kickoff went into the end zone, Ohio State again took over at the 20. On their first play, Gerald ran an option to the left, but All-Big Eight linebacker Daryl Hunt came in and issued a wicked hit, causing a fumble, and fellow 'backer George Cumby recovered at the 17. Gerald had the wind knocked out of him, and laid on the carpet for a while, before being helped off the field.
Lott started the assault with a meager two-yard gain, but it was costly for the home team. After the play, Cousineau left the field injured, having separated his shoulder. He would be lost for the game.
When play resumed, Sims took a handoff and exploded through a huge opening up the middle, leaping over Guess at the three, en route to the end zone. His 15-yard run stunned Buckeye crowd, and the Sooners were ahead 14-0 with not even four minutes elapsed in the game.
Once again, Ohio State started at their 20-yard line after another kickoff sailed out of the end zone. Changing tactics, Gerald dropped back to pass, but was incomplete down the right sideline. He again dropped back to pass, but this time faked, and took off up the middle for a gain of eight, bringing up a third down and two. Back to pass a third time, Gerald was forced to scramble right, and lost three when Cumby came running in and brought him down at the 25. On the ensuing punt, Freddie Nixon signaled for a fair catch at the Oklahoma 40.
On Oklahoma's first play, Sims went up the middle and again leaped, gaining seven. Lott then ran an option with Sims to the left, pitching to Billy, who was knocked out of bounds, but not before gaining nine yards to the Ohio State 44. With a new set of downs, King went up the middle, but the Buckeyes' defense smothered the play for a gain of only a yard. They also finally corralled Sims on the next option, driving him out of bounds after a gain of only one. However, Ross hit Sims late and out of bounds, and the penalty flag moved the ball down the field 15 yards.
Ohio State stacked King up the middle on successive plays, limiting Oklahoma for a gain of two and none. After Lott gained seven on his option, the Sooners were faced with a fourth down and one at the Ohio State 18-yard line. Despite a strong and accurate kicker, and having the wind at their backs, Switzer decided to trust his proven offense and go for it. Running up the middle, Sims was the second man through and carried the ball easily for five yards, and a new set of downs. The crowd was starting to get restless, as the Oklahoma offensive line was manhandling Ohio State, and the backs were running at will, against a defense that had allowed but seven points in their first two games.
On the next play, Oklahoma was guilty of illegal motion, moving the ball back five yards. Lott then tried his hand, but was stopped after a gain of three. Running the option to the right, Sims was nailed hard by the defense for no gain, and came up hobbling after having twisted his ankle. On third down, the Sooners ran a reverse to end Steve Rhodes and gained nine yards to the Ohio State nine. Faced with a fourth and four, Switzer this time opted for the points. In came von Schamann, who was born and raised in Germany before moving to Ft. Worth, TX at the age of 16. He kicked a 23-yard field goal to extend the lead to 17-0, and there was still 3:29 left in the opening quarter.
When von Schamann's kicked traveled into the end zone, Ohio State would again start from the 20 for the fourth straight series. Springs carried up the middle on consecutive attempts, gaining four and then two yards. Running left on the option, Gerald pitched to Griffin, but All-American defensive back Zac Henderson came up and made a nice open-field tackle, stopping the Buckeyes again and forcing another punt. This time, Ohio State interfered with Nixon's attempt to catch the ball, and the penalty moved the ball to the Buckeyes' 45-yard line.
With a minute and a half still left in the quarter, Oklahoma went to work. After Lott gained five yards, Sims continued his demonstration when he slashed up the middle for a gain of ten. Lott kept the ball and tried the right side, gaining three. Freshman halfback David Overstreet carried and was dropped for a loss of one, as the first quarter was over.
Oklahoma had dominated the first quarter on both sides of the ball. Their offense had gained 135 yards rushing compared to Ohio State's 19, who did not move past their own 29-yard line. The play of the Sooners' defense had been a pleasant surprise, for in the team's first two games, they had allowed 23 points to Vanderbilt and 24 to Utah, both inferior opponents compared to Ohio State.
When the teams switched ends, Ohio State now gained the advantage of the wind, but Oklahoma had the ball resting at the Buckeyes' 27-yard line. Faced with a third down and eight, Lott ran the option to the right, kept the ball and dove for the first down, barely making it. He also gained a pair on the next play, before running a keeper down the left line, and turning the corner for a gain of four. Injured, Lott laid on the ground after the hit, then was helped to his feet and left the field. Freshman Jay Jimerson, who in the first two games replacing Lott at quarterback had gained 131 yards on 16 carries, was in the lineup.
Overstreet's gain of eight was negated by another illegal motion penalty. Now faced with a third and nine from the 18, Jimerson gained just three yards, and von Schamann trotted onto the field. He kicked another field goal from 33 yards out, and the Buckeye crowd began to get restless, with their team trailing 20-0. ABC, sensing a blowout, switched its national TV coverage away from the game to regional telecasts.
Following the field goal, Oklahoma now had to kick into the wind for the first time. Springs was back to return, grabbed the kick at the six, and returned it out to the 19, roughly the Buckeyes' same starting position again. Ohio State changed tactics again as Gerald dropped back. However, his pass down the middle of the field fell incomplete. Back to pass yet again, the Oklahoma pressure forced Gerald out of the pocket, and he took off, running up and finally sliding close to the 29, near a first down. A debatable late hit penalty was called against the Sooners, moving the ball 15 yards farther, and the Buckeyes had their initial first down of the game.
On first down, Gerald again scrambled for a nine yards gain, before freshman fullback James Payton rumbled up the middle for four. Ohio State followed the same recipe, as Gerald again scrambled for eight, then Payton went into the line for five more, moving the ball to the Oklahoma 30-yard line. From there, Gerald ran an option left with Springs trailing, who grabbed the pitch and rambled into the open and down the sideline, crossing the goal line for Ohio State's first score. Ohio State had finally solved the Oklahoma defense with an 81-yard seven-play drive. Vlade Janakievski tacked on the extra point, and the lead was 20-7 with ten and a half minutes left in the half.
When Ohio State's Tom Orosz booted the ball out of the end zone on the kickoff, Oklahoma was now faced with starting at the 20-yard line, their worst field position of the game. Lott returned to the helm, and was stopped after a gain of only one. On second down, Lott stuffed the ball into Peacock's belly, but the exchange was fumbled, and Ohio State pounced on the loose ball at the Oklahoma 19.
It took the offense only one play, as Gerald called his own number. Running the option to the right, he kept the ball, weaving and staggering across the goal line, sending the crowd into a frenzy with their second touchdown in less than a minute. After the extra point, the Oklahoma lead was down to six points.
With the wind at the kicking teams' back, another kickoff went out of the end zone. Jimerson trotted back onto the field to replace an injured Lott. Running the option to the left with Sims trailing, Jameson went to pitch the ball as he was being hit, and fumbled. The Buckeyes jumped all over the loose ball again, this time on the 20-yard line. The Sooners were self-destructing offensively, and the defense needed to come through.
On the first play, Gerald was back to pass, but tucked it away and scrambled for a gain of six. Springs followed with a pair of attempts up the middle, gaining two yards, then none. Faced with a fourth down and short two, Hayes decided to go for the jugular. Payton entered the game, took the hand off, and dove up the middle. Unfortunately, he came up inches short, and Oklahoma took over at the ten-yard line.
Suddenly ineffective, the Sooners offense was stopped for no gain on consecutive plays, before Sims carried up the middle, gaining five. Forced to punt into the wind, Ohio State took over in Sooners territory with 5:53 showing on the game clock.
Oklahoma's defense was challenged, and they responded, as Ohio State did not march forward, but backwards. On first down, Gerald ran an option right, fumbled and recovered, but for a loss of two. Following an incompletion, Gerald was back to pass, scrambled, and was hauled down by end Barry Budget for a loss of five, bringing up fourth down and 17. The Ohio State punt sailed into the end zone for a touch back, and once again Oklahoma started at the 20.
Jimerson tried running an option to the right, but was hammered hard at the 23. Peacock went up the middle for three, and Jameson earned a new set of downs when he kept the ball and jumped for a first down. However, once again Oklahoma fumbled. Jameson attempted to handoff up the middle to back up fullback Jimmy Rogers, replacing an injured King, but the exchange never happened, and the opportunistic Buckeyes were once again on the scene as Kenny Beacon recovered.
Taking over at the 33, Ohio State went to work. Gerald gained two, then Springs went into the middle for four, and Griffin took a pitch for two. Faced with a fourth down and two at the 25, Hayes again went for the first down. This time, Gerald was confused on a broken play, and was forced to adlib. He headed back to the left, but Budget made another great play to drag him down for a loss of five, giving the ball back to the Oklahoma offense. Ohio State once again was unable to capitalize on a fumble.
There were only 40 seconds left on the clock. Oklahoma, down three players with a patchwork backfield, was content to run out the clock. First Jimerson gained two, then Rogers rambled up the middle for 15, before Overstreet swept left for a gain of four. Rogers pounded into the middle for no gain as time expired. The wounded Sooners lead was 20-14, but the Buckeyes had the momentum heading to the half.
Lott and Sims were hobbling with bum ankles, and King was nursing a bruised arm. Despite, Oklahoma led the halftime statistics, rushing for 197 yards and ten first downs compared to 118 yards and five first downs for Ohio State. Oklahoma had turned the ball over three times to just once for the Buckeyes.
To open the second half, Ohio State would again have the wind advantage at their backs. Oklahoma received the kickoff, and started at the 22. On the first play, Jimerson ran an option down the left. Again he was hit hard, this time by Kelton Danzler, again he dropped the ball on the carpet, and again Ohio State recovered, as Mills came up with the ball.
The Buckeyes went to work at the Sooners 23. The defense was doing their part, as they stopped Springs for no gain. When Gerald dropped back to pass, end Dave Hudgens came up big, sacking him at the 38 for a loss of 15, and taking Ohio State out of field goal range. Faced with a third and 25, Gerald threw too far into the end zone for end Jim Harrell. Hayes sent the field goal team on to try a long attempt anyway, but the ball fell into the end zone, and the Buckeyes had squandered their third straight opportunity following a Sooners' turnover.
Oklahoma took over at the 20. Overstreet gained three, but there was a mix up on the next play, as the whole backfield went right and Jimerson went left. He was dropped for a loss of seven back at the 16. Switzer pulled a trick out next, as Jimerson pitched back to Peacock, who quick punted the ball away to the Oklahoma 48. Switzer was counting on his defense and playing for field position.
On the first play, Hunt hit Springs in the backfield, but the back was able to still get a pair of yards. Hayes sent his tight end down the right sideline on the next play, and Gerald threw towards Bill Jaco. Oklahoma defensive back Darrel Ray was called for pass interference, and the penalty gave Ohio State the ball at the Oklahoma 16-yard line.
After Springs went up the middle for three, on the next play, Oklahoma jumped off sides. Strangely, the officials only marched off four yards, instead of a five-yard penalty, and clearly laid the ball on the nine-yard line. After Payton dove up the middle, but came up short, Gerald ran an option to the right and carried for the necessary yard, earning a first and goal at the five.
Ohio State sent in their full house, short yardage backfield. Payton again went up the middle, moving the ball just short of the goal line. Giving his back a break, Hayes sent Folley into the line, but the Sooners stacked him up for a negligible gain. Payton ran back into the huddle, and everyone in the stadium knew who was going to carry the ball. It was Payton off left tackle, and into the end zone for the tying touchdown. Janakievski's extra point gave Ohio State the lead, 21-20, at the 8:04 mark of the third quarter.
As quite a bit of rain began to fall, Orosz's kickoff sailed into the end zone. When the Sooners trotted onto the field, senior reserve quarterback Dean Blevins was with them. Switzer had seen enough of his freshman, who had been ineffective, gaining only a yard on eight carries and losing two fumbles, and another on an exchange.
Overstreet was stopped for no gain, and Blevins followed with a gain of only three, bringing a third and seven at the 23. Blevins faked up the middle, and dropped back to pass looking for Rhodes down the right flat. As the ball sailed toward him the Oklahoma end slipped and fell on the wet turf. Ohio State's Dansler, who had dropped back into coverage, intercepted the ball at the 39, returning it to the 33 before he also slipped and fell. It was another Sooner turnover, their fifth.
First, it was Springs up the middle for six, then Gerald kept it for five and a first down. He again kept the ball on an option to the left, but was slammed into by both Budget and Henderson for no gain. Gerald injured his wrist, and had to leave the game. Sophomore Greg Castignola replaced him in the huddle.
Jeff Logan went up the middle for six, carrying the ball to the 16. With three backs in their full house backfield again, Castignola faked up the middle and went back to pass. He threw over the middle for tight end Jimmy Moore in the end zone. Luckily for the Buckeyes, the ball bounced off Oklahoma safety Bud Hebert at the two, and into Moore's hands for a touchdown. The Buckeyes' lead was now eight.
Once again, Oklahoma started at the 20. Sims, sore ankle an all, was back in the game. Peacock gained three, Sims went up the middle and gained little, then Peacock grabbed a pitch wide and ran for eight, and the first down. After Blevins threw a strike to Rhodes, gaining 15, it appeared that the Sooners were back. They weren't.
Blevins ran an option to the right, and when he pitched late to Peacock, thankfully the ball rolled out of bounds, and still gained two. Blevins dropped back to pass, and lobbed an ill-advised pass down the right sideline for Sims, coming out of the backfield. However, he was double-covered, and Guess jumped up, intercepted the ball at the Ohio State 28-yard line, and slipped on the turf a few yards back. It was Oklahoma's sixth turnover since jumping out to a 20-point lead.
The Ohio State offense came onto the field with 2:39 left in the third quarter. Springs carried the ball twice, gaining four yards each time. When Payton entered the game for the Buckeyes, Oklahoma put nine men on the defensive line. It was to no avail, as the freshman fullback went up the middle, earning a hard fought first down.
Castignola hit Griffin out of the backfield with a swing pass, gaining ten. After Ohio State was guilty of off sides, Castignola scrambled across midfield for ten more yards, ending the third frame. The two teams switched sides for the final 15 minutes, with Oklahoma trailing by eight points. However, the Sooners would be heading toward the north end zone with the wind at their backs. Of the game's 48 points, all but von Schamann's early field goal in the second quarter had been scored in the closed end of the stadium.
Griffin carried for three, before being stopped on third down for a loss of two by end Bruce Taton and Henderson. Ohio State's high punt hit one of their own players and bounced ten yards backwards out of bounds. Oklahoma would once again start at the 20.
Jimerson was back in at quarterback, as Switzer still could not find the right replacement for Lott. The offense had sputtered ever since Lott went down early in the second quarter. King was sent into the middle, and gained six. Overstreet followed with a pair, and Jimerson came up inches short on his carry. With 12 ½ minutes to go, and the ball just shy of their own 30-yard line, Switzer gambled. On fourth down, Jimerson kept the ball up the middle, and gained the important yard, and a new set of downs. Trailing by more than a touchdown, the Sooners desperately needed to march down the field.
On first down, a gang of tacklers stopped King up the middle for no gain. Peacock carried a pitchout for a gain of five, but when he was gang-tackled, fumbled. Fortunately, Oklahoma tight end Victor Hicks recovered. On third down, Peacock swept right, but was in trouble. He faked a pass, and then was dropped back at the 31 for a loss of five. Faced with a fourth and ten, Switzer had now choice but to punt the ball back to Ohio State. Von Schamann did the honors, punting it 38 yards.
Time was against the Sooners, as the Buckeyes took control at their own 31 with 9:45 remaining. It was doubtful that Hayes, from the old school of college football, would put the ball in the air. True to form, Castignola kept the ball off left guard, and gained nine. Payton came in and again earned a first down when he burst off right tackle for two.
Griffin took a pitch and ran for three. He followed by taking another on the other side and ran into Sooners territory for six, but stepped out of bounds, just short of the marker and stopping the clock. In came Payton, and there moved the chains, as he gained three up the middle.
After Springs only gained one up the middle, the Buckeyes surprisingly attempted to pass. Taton dropped Castignola at the 46, for a loss of two. Facing a third down and 11, Castignola ran an option to the right. Oklahoma's Hudgins burst through the middle and mauled Castignola, and then tackle Phil Tabor hit him with his arm, causing a fumble. The ball bounced back, and middle guard Reggie Kinlaw dove on it at the Ohio State 43. Oklahoma had life with 6:23 left in the game.
Switzer again rotated his quarterbacks, as Blevins ran onto the field. A pitch back to Overstreet gained four, and then King rambled through a hole up the middle for ten, moving the ball to the 29-yard line. Ohio State's defense swarmed onto Peacock, allowing nowhere to run and tackling him for a loss of four. Oklahoma end Rhodes ran a quick turn in route, and Blevins nailed him with a pass at the 20. Overstreet carried the ball up the middle to the 18, and Oklahoma had a fresh set of downs.
The freshman halfback also carried up the left side for five, and Oklahoma had a second down and five with four minutes remaining. Overstreet received a pitch in the backfield, broke a tackle, and was just able to get back to the line of scrimmage. After Ohio State stopped Peacock for a gain of one, Oklahoma faced a critical fourth down and four from the 12. With the Buckeye faithful cheering, their defense held the Sooners, but middle guard Aaron Brown had jumped off sides, moving the ball five yards to the seven. More importantly, Oklahoma had a first down and goal to go.
David Adkins stopped Peacock for no gain. Overstreet took a pitch and ran left looking for an opening, but could not cut around the corner, and was run out of bounds after gaining two. Finding it difficult to gain real estate, Blevins tried running off left tackle, but barely gained a yard. Oklahoma was again faced with a decisive fourth down, with the ball lying just inside the two-yard line and the game on the line. This time, Peacock took a pitch to the right, ran over Guess, and dove into the end zone. Oklahoma was now down 28-26, and a two-point conversion would tie the game.
The ball was placed at the three. Blevins ran an option to the right, and pitched to Peacock. Ohio State's Ross hit him high, and Guess hit him low, to stop him for no gain. With only 1:29 left, Buckeye players and fans celebrated wildly, thinking they had the game won. That's when Switzer brewed up some of his patented "Sooner Magic".
Oklahoma lined up for the kickoff, and everyone in the stadium knew an onside kick was coming. The kick went to the left and bounced off Ohio State reserve quarterback Michael Straheen's hands. A huge pileup ensued, and after the referees sort through it all, Oklahoma reserve Mike Babb emerged with the ball on the 50-yard line.
Oklahoma needed just a field goal, so putting the ball in the end zone was not a necessity. On first down, Blevins hit Rhodes with a pass at the 40, and he ran it down to the 33 for a 17-yard gain with a minute to play. King went up the middle and picked up six important yards, and the clock kept ticking, showing 44 seconds left. On second down, Overstreet got stopped for no gain, and there were only 18 seconds left. King again moved the ball down to the 23, and the stadium clock kept ticking down. With six seconds left, Oklahoma called time out.
Switzer sent in von Schamann, perfect in five field goal attempts thus far in the season, to attempt a 41-yard field goal. Ohio State called a time out to try to "ice" him, and the crowd started chanting, "Block that kick". Uwe calmly removed his helmet, walked around, and started to wave his arm leading them in their own cheer.
Oklahoma lined up, with Hebert kneeling down to hold the snap from Mark Lucky. In a play that would come to be known in Sooner lore as "The Kick", von Schamann booted the ball over a leaping mills and Brown, and split the uprights, putting the Sooners up 29-28.
Oklahoma's players and fans stormed the field momentarily, while Ohio State players walked off the field dejected, before realizing there were still three seconds left in the game. A penalty flag for delay of game was thrown against Oklahoma, and would be assessed on the kickoff.
Oklahoma kicked off from the 35, and von Schamann lofted a short kick down the left side. Three Sooners jumped up to try to catch the ball before it fell out of bounds, but to no avail. Ohio State got the ball on their 33-yard line with two seconds left, time for one last play. Castignola dropped back to pass, but the rush got to him. He scrambled for 14 yards before being tackled by Hudgins, and Oklahoma won a thriller, 29-28.
It was the most points scored against Ohio State in the last 49 games, covering more than four seasons. Von Schamann was named Chevrolet's offensive player of the game. Ohio State's Paul Ross claimed defensive honors, despite David Adkins' 24 tackles breaking Cousineau's two-year old school record. Combined with top-ranked Michigan's narrow 14-7 win over Navy, Oklahoma vaulted back to the top spot in the next AP poll, while Ohio State dropped to sixth.
Source: Jeff Linkowski
Video courtesy ABC, ESPN, and JimsOklahomaSportsPage.com