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Ohio State-Oklahoma clash harkens memories of 1977 classic

By Cliff Brunt | Associated Press Published: September 17, 2016 4:00 AM

By Cliff Brunt | Associated Press

NORMAN, Okla. -- The Associated Press recently ranked Ohio State and Oklahoma the top two programs in college football history -- the Buckeyes No. 1 and the Sooners No. 2.

The storied programs will meet Saturday for just the third time. No matter what they do, they'll have a tough time topping their original showdown.

On Sept. 24, 1977, the Sooners and Buckeyes played a classic worthy of those top two spots in the all-time rankings. Oklahoma defeated Ohio State 29-28 in Columbus, Ohio, in a game that had just about everything: a huge crowd, coaching legends, key injuries, eight turnovers and an Oklahoma squad that blew a 20-point lead before staging a furious rally in the final seven minutes to pull out the victory.

Uwe von Schamann was the biggest of many heroes for the Sooners. The German-born kicker executed a successful onside kick in the final minutes, then nailed the game-winning field goal from 41 yards out with three seconds remaining.

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Von Schamann toyed with the Ohio Stadium crowd before the kick.

"I remember the crowd," von Schamann said in a telephone interview with the Associated Press. "I usually block out the crowd, but I heard the crowd in this instance, yelling 'Block that kick!' I don't know why I did it, kind of a spontaneous reaction, but I raised my arms and I led the chant."

Von Schamann works in communication and development for the Children's Center Rehabilitation Hospital in Bethany, Okla. Dean Blevins, the backup quarterback who led the rally, is the sports director for KWTV News 9 in Oklahoma City. They helped the AP revisit that pivotal game.

Oklahoma was ranked No. 3 and Ohio State No. 4. It was Ohio State coach Woody Hayes, who had won five national titles, against Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer, who won national titles in 1974 and 1975. Ohio Stadium was packed with 88,119 fans, the third-largest crowd for an Ohio State home game at the time.

Oklahoma rolled to a 20-0 lead on the strength of Billy Sims' running and Thomas Lott's wishbone mastery. Both were injured, however, and Oklahoma's offense was stuck during the middle part of the game.

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Ohio State dealt with injuries, too. Their fullback, Jeff Logan, wasn't fully healthy. Ray Griffin, a star cornerback, switched to offense to fill in, which weakened the Buckeyes' defense. Linebacker Tom Cousineau left the game early with a shoulder injury, and quarterback Ron Gerald, a dangerous runner, did not finish the game.

A 30-yard touchdown run by Ron Springs on an option to the left side got the Buckeyes on the board for the first of 28 unanswered points.

Blevins said the Sooners, no matter how much they were struggling, always believed "Sooner Magic" would prevail.

"We had an unbelievable amount of confidence," he said. "That was just a trademark of Barry Switzer teams. We had come back at Nebraska the year before, and had come back a couple of times even prior to that."

Oklahoma's offense took over with 6:24 remaining in the fourth quarter and put together a 12-play, 43-yard touchdown drive. On fourth-and-goal from the 1, Blevins ran the option to his right and pitched to Elvis Peacock, who spun into the end zone after a hard hit to cut Ohio State's lead to 28-26 with 1:21 to play. The same play failed on the two-point conversion, leaving the Sooners no choice but to go for the onside kick.

Von Schamann said the Sooners had a plan. One of his coaches asked him which player he was going to hit with the ball so it would bounce off and give the Sooners a chance to recover.

"I told him the second guy from the left," von Schamann said. "Sure enough, I hit it good, and it hit him in the chest, and Mike Babb recovered it."

The Sooners took over at the 50-yard line.

Blevins, who bounced back after throwing two interceptions earlier in the game, connected on a 18-yard pass to Steve Rhodes. Kenny King burst up the middle for six yards to put the Sooners in range. After two short runs, it was time for von Schamann to handle business.

"We positioned it where it was only a 41-yard kick, and that's an extra point or a chip shot for Uwe," Blevins said. "So the only thought on the sideline watching it was the snap and the hold, because Uwe was going to do his job."


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