November, 13 2023
A “bowl game in September” pitted third ranked Oklahoma against fourth ranked Ohio State on the banks of the Olentangy River in Columbus. This 1977 contest marked the first time both storied programs met each other on the gridiron.
Oklahoma raced out to 20-0 second quarter lead before Ohio State earned its first first down, but then everything started to go wrong for the Sooners. Starting quarterback Thomas Lott and running back Billy Sims were lost to injury. The ground-based Wishbone offense of head coach Barry Switzer also misfired, turning the ball over a staggering six times. Sooner generosity allowed the Buckeyes to turn the 20-0 deficit into a 28-20 advantage in the fourth quarter.
Woody Hayes’ “three yards and a cloud of dust” approach was bleeding the clock and wearing out the Sooners. Things looked dire when Ohio State crossed midfield with five minutes remaining in the game. Then Lady Fortune went Beyond the Call for Oklahoma.
It started with defensive lineman Dave Hudgens forcing a fumble by Ohio State quarterback Greg Castignola near midfield. Fellow lineman Reggie Kinlaw recovered. For the first time since the second quarter, the Sooner offense held onto the ball. Backup quarterback Dean Blevins displayed more poise than he had earlier with 88,000 Buckeye partisans in a full-throated roar. Calmly executing the pitchouts of the Wishbone, Blevins timed his releases to David Overstreet and the wonderfully named Elvis Peacock as the Sooners marched down the field.
A major disadvantage of the Wishbone is that while it chews up yardage, it also churns clock. By the time the Sooners crossed the Ohio State ten-yard line just a little less than two minutes remained. Ohio State stuffed the Wishbone on fourth and four, but for the second time Lady Fortune veered toward Oklahoma. Buckeye lineman Kenneth Fritz was called for encroachment and the five-yard penalty gave the Sooners new life and a first and goal. Three plays later, Peacock scored on another fourth down to cut the lead to 28-26 with just one minute left. The two-point conversion attempt failed, setting the stage for Lady Fortune to make yet another Crimson and Cream appearance.
Kicker Uwe von Schamann’s onside attempt flew straight into the waiting arms of Ohio State reserve quarterback Mike Strahine. Strahine could not corral the ball and it bounced right to Oklahoma defensive back Mike Babb, who alertly fell on the ball. “It hit my leg and bounced,” Babb said later. “You don’t know what’s going to happen on a kick like that. There are many (things) the ball can do.”
Riding a wave of momentum, but with little time, the Sooners got to the outer limits of field goal range and called a time out with six seconds to go. von Schamann trotted onto the field and endured back-to-back timeouts called by Woody Hayes to ice the kicker. Instead, von Schamann showed just how loose he was. As the Ohio State student section yelled “Block that kick!” von Schamann faced them, raised his arms, and led the Ohio State contingent in the cheer.
“I guess the crowd got to me,” von Schamann told the Oklahoman. “So, I started leading the chant. After leading the chant, I knew I had to make the kick.”
Lady Fortune favors the bold, and after his audacious act, von Schamann’s kick sailed straight between the goalposts 43 yards away and Oklahoma had a 29-28 victory in a game that appeared all but lost 15 minutes earlier.
“It would have been embarrassing if I had missed,” von Schamann said.
The win moved Oklahoma to first place in the polls, but they would not stay there for long. Two weeks later they lost to archrival Texas. Lady Fortune only smiles for so long.