Oklahoma 42, Pittsburgh 10

September 15, 1984 | at Pittsburgh | Attendance 40,075

Oklahoma traveled north to Pittsburgh to play the Panthers (0-1) for the first time in nine years. In a series that dated back to the early Fifties, the Sooners had won seven and tied one in the nine games previously played, and Pitt's only win had occurred way back in '65. It was a game matching two schools that had been highly successful in the last decade, but who had both fallen on harder times, and headed in possibly opposite directions. The game would be a major barometer for both teams.

Oklahoma was coming off their third straight four-loss season for the first time in 23 years, and also a season in which they did not go to a bowl for the first time in eight years, and they came in rebuilding. They began the '84 campaign ranked #16 by the AP poll, but in their opener against unranked Stanford, 1-10 in '83, the Sooners were fairly unimpressive in a 19-7 win. Coach Barry Switzer also came in struggling of late against top competition, for after dominating teams ranked in the AP Top 20 early in his coaching career, he had only come out victorious once in his last 11 contests, including a tie.

Pittsburgh third-year coach Foge Fazio, promoted from his defensive coordinator position at the school, had inherited a very talented team that had finished three straight years with an 11-1 record under former coach Jackie Sherill from 1979-81, the 33-3 record representing the best mark in college football over that span, who had since departed for Texas A&M. In Fazio's first year, and with a gifted group of seniors, Pitt had occupied the top spot with an undefeated record before being knocked off by Notre Dame in their eighth game, and then finished in disarray with a disappointing 7-3 loss to SMU in the Cotton Bowl to close with a 9-3 record. He followed that up with an 8-3-1 record in '83 that included a narrow 28-23 loss to Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl, a team that had beaten Oklahoma earlier in the season, and then saw five seniors drafted by the NFL.

Pitt entered '84 ranked #3 in the preseason AP poll, but after getting upset by unranked BYU in their opener a few weeks earlier, they were a team searching for an identity and entered the Oklahoma game at #17. Their offense was under the capable direction of sophomore quarterback John Congemi, who as a frosh a year earlier completed 59.4 % of his passes for 1,940 yards, more than even the high profile Dan Marino threw for his inaugural year, and 16 touchdowns against just eight interceptions, named the offensive player of the game in the Fiesta Bowl for his Pitt-record 31-completion, 341-yard day. They also featured a tough offensive line anchored on the ends a pair of gifted tackles, senior consensus All-American Bill Fralic, a four-year starter, and sophomore Randy Dixon. However, the team was lacking top talent, experience and depth at the other key skill positions, running back and receiver.

Meanwhile, their defense was led up front by junior tackle Bob Buczkowski and a pair of sack specialist ends, senior Chris Doleman and sophomore Tony Woods. Lined up right behind them was a pair of senior linebackers who were working their way up towards the top of the all time Pitt charts in career tackles, Troy Benson, the team's interception leader a year earlier with four, and Caeser Aldisert.

In front of a crowd of 52,797 at Pitt Stadium, the Panthers worked their game plan of rushing behind their big and vaunted offensive line, running sophomore tailback Charles Gladman on eight of the first nine plays, but Oklahoma's young and fast defense, despite losing their best player on the second play of the game, end Kevin Murphy, held suit. They lined up tight on the Panthers' line of scrimmage and used their quickness to get past the large Pitt linemen before they had a chance to fire out and block.

Pitt's defense also was tough. Midway through the first period, Sooners' freshman fullback Lydell Carr fumbled, and tackle Dennis Atiyeh recovered at the Oklahoma 25. With Congemi and the offense unable to move the ball, it set up freshman kicker Mark Brasco's 37-yard field goal to put the home team up, 3-0, at the 7:28 mark. The rest of the period belonged to both defenses, as Pitt limited the Sooners to just one first down in their five possessions.

The second quarter was all Oklahoma. Early in the period, Pitt's Ducky Lewis left his position to back up on a Sooners punt deep in Panthers territory. The punt hit his back, and Oklahoma's Kert Kasper recovered at the Pitt five-yard line, setting up first down-and-goal. Four plays later, quarterback Danny Bradley jumped over center from the one, and Tim Lashar's extra point put the visitor's up, 7-3, barely two minutes into the frame.

Midway through the period, Pitt was in punt formation when a Sooner ran untouched into the backfield, forcing Chris Jelic to run. He gave a valiant effort, but was tackled a foot short of the first down just across midfield. Bradley directed the troops downfield, using a 26-yard run around left end by senior wide out Buster Rhymes, and capped the seven-play, 52-yard drive by again scoring form a yard out. Lashar's kick made it 14-3 in favor of Oklahoma with 1:54 left in the half.

On Pitt's next possession, Jelic's punt traveled only 34 yards, and Derrick Shepard returned it 12 yards to the Panther 37. Four plays later, Bradley threw a 22-yard scoring strike to Shepard, and Lashar made good again for a 21-3 halftime lead.

The Pitt defense had effectively shut down the Oklahoma outside running game, but deep in a hole, changed their tactics for the second half and would blitz regularly. From that point on, the Sooners' adjusted accordingly, and their wishbone took advantage of trap plays to Carr, who grinded out yardage and time off the clock.

To open the second half, another Oklahoma fumble gave Pitt the ball at midfield. Unable to solve the Sooners on the ground, they went to the air. Congemi, who had completed just six of 16 passes in the first half, hit wide receiver Bill Wallace with a 17-yarder that moved the ball to 25. From there, the pair again hooked up as Wallace out-leaped defensive back Andre Johnson on the right side of the end zone for a touchdown to complete the five-play drive. Brasco's kick pulled the Panthers to 21-10 at the 11:06 mark, and the two defenses made it stand for the rest of the period.

To open the fourth quarter, Oklahoma completed an 11-play, 80-yard drive. It was highlighted by a 41-yard connection from Bradley to Rhymes, and completed when Bradley hit freshman tight end Keith Jackson with a seven-yard scoring pass. Lashar's kick put the visitor's ahead, 28-10.

Later, the Sooners continued their ground attack, with Carr carrying the load. He broke off his longest run of the day, a 24-yarder, that choked off any remote comeback hopes that Pitt had and sent the stands' faithful scurrying for the exits. Bradley capped that eight-play, 66-yard drive with a ten-yard scoring pass to senior halfback Steve Sewell, and Lashar's boot made it 35-10 with 4:14 remaining.

Thirty-three seconds later, Oklahoma defensive back Rickey Dixon picked off a Congemi pass and returned it 41 yards for a touchdown. Lashar's kick made it a laugher, 42-10, and closed out the scoring.

The loss was Fazio's worst in three years at Pitt's head coach, and the Panthers were 0-2 for the first time since '72, a 1-10 season. "I told our guys we just got the 'H' beat out of us," he said afterwards. "They beat on us up front, they stuffed our running backs, they pressured our quarterbacks and they beat our receivers. Their defense manhandled us and we could get nothing going."

Oklahoma's defense completely stymied Pitt's running game, limiting them to 32 yards on 29 carries, and held the Panthers to 249 yards in total offense, with Wallace's nine catches for 135 yards representing the bulk of it. Meanwhile, the Sooners' wishbone gained 238 yards, mostly behind Carr's 137-yard day, and Bradley threw for another 145 yards. Switzer, criticized after three consecutive four-loss seasons, said the victory, "Kind of reminded me of the olds days, I loved it."

Source: Jeff Linkowski

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