Uwe von Schamann, an unlikely Sooner, kicked a 41-yard field goal with three seconds to play today and Oklahoma, scoring twice in the last 89 seconds, beat Ohio State, 29-28.
The von Schamann performance was memorable. Give or take two or three thousand Sooners who sneaked into town, 88,119 people filled Ohio Stadium with the chant, "Block that kick. . . . Block that kick."
The kicker heard every word and knew they were meant to spoil his day. And with those 80,000-odd chanters seeking to lift their heroes to one more miracle, with everyone south of Cleveland and north of Cincinnati wishing von Schamann ill, what did the German immigrant do?
With grace and rhythm of a symphony conductor, the former soccer goalie who first kicked a foot-ball five years ago, stood at the 40-yard line and, holding both hands high, led the multitude in its chant, even mouthing the words.
"I knew what they were trying to do," he said later. "So I do that, to get my mind off it. I was going with the crowd."
Then he broke Ohio's heart. After Ohio State called a time-out in hopes of rattling the junior kicker - he took off his helmet and wandered about, talking to his playmates, trying not to think of the possibilities - von Schamann was perfect in his work, the 40-yarder flying high above and far past the goal posts.
Three seconds remained, and Ohio State ran one play, getting nothing done, and Oklahoma, once ahead, 20-0, had supplied the last piece of drama on a gray, windy day of shifting fortunes. For the No. 3-ranked Sooners, it was a third victory without defeat. Ohio State, ranked fourth, is now 2-1.
It began as a rout.
With quarterback Thomas Lott a dazzling magician performing sleight-of-hand in the intricate wishbone offense, Oklahoma befuddled the mightly Ohio State defense early.
The Sooners scored the first four times they had the ball - on Elvis Peacock's 32-yard run with a fumble that fate sent into his unsuspecting hands; on Billy Sim's ballet-pretty 15-yard run set up by an Ohio State fumble, and on 23- and 33-yard field goals by von Schamann.
On Oklahoma's next possession, however, Lott's left knee was sprained and he didn't play again. Without him, Oklahoma seemed helpless against an Ohio State defense that had given up only seven points in its two victories this fall.
At 20-0 two minutes into the second quarter, Ohio State did not have a first down. It had moved no further than its 29-yard line. At this rate, Oklahoma would win 70-0 and Wayne Woodrow Hayes would throw Ohio Stadium into the nearby Clentangy River.
But the next three quarters - saved the last 89 seconds - belonged to Hayes' legions. They need only 46 seconds, in fact, to score two touchdowns in the second quarter. Ron Springs went 30 yards around left end with a pitchout from quarterback Rod Gerald for the first score, ending a drive in which Gerald did a pass-scramble routine three times for 26 yards.
When Lott fumbled two players later on his last play of the game, Ohio State recovered on the Oklahoma 19-yard line. Gerald promptly skittered 19 yards around right end, dodging everybody, and suddenly it was a ball game, Oklahoma leading, 20-14.
At game's end, Barry Switzer, the Oklahoma coach, would say, "Football games are 60 minutes, aren't they?" He would sigh. "This game had more tension, more drama, than any game I've ever been associated with."
And his opposite number, Hayes, when asked if he'd ever seen a more exciting game, would say, "I'd rather have it dull and win."
The tension, the drama, began in the third quarter. Brutal collisons by then had taken away the Oklahoma magician, had robbed Ohio State of its best linebacker, Tom Cousineau, who separated a shoulder in the game's first series of plays. And it was certain that only the fit would survive the war of attrition.
Though Switzer would be able to say later, "Our kids fought their guts out for 60 minutes," Ohio State seemed the probable victor. Forcing Oklahoma into a quick kick on third down early in the third quarter, Ohio State took the ball on the Sooners' 43 and marched in methodically for the go-ahead touchdown, a one-yard dive by freshman Joel Payton.
Kelton Dansler, a linebacker, set up the next Ohio State touchdown by intercepting a pass underthrown by Oklahoma's third-string quarterback, Dean Belvins. Though Gerald was knocked woozy three plays later and didn't get back into the game, reserve quarterback Greg Castignola seemed up to the chore. On third and four at the Oklahoma 16, the sophomore threw a pass that was deflected at the goal line - directly into the hands of Buckeye Johnny Moore for a touchdown and a 28-20 lead.
Castignola later fumbled, though the ball popping loose under a crushing tackle by Oklahoma's junior nose guard, Reggie Kinlaw. That gave Oklahoma the ball 43 yards from a possible tying touchdown with 6-24 to go.
Oklahoma moved in for that touchdown in 13 plays, the last a two-yard run around right end by Peacock, who said he had a simple plan: "I just tried to plow my way in."
The big play was an offside penalty against Ohio State on fourth and five at its 12-yard line. Oklahoma ran a simple dive play into the right side, indicating it somehow had coaxed Ohio State into the costly penalty.
"No, they just made a mistake," Switzer said. "We didn't do anything."
Peacock was stopped on a run for two points, however, and with 1-29 to go, the 80,000-odd Ohio crazies sent up a thunderous roar.
Oklahoma's only chance was to try an on-side kick, hoping to get possession. Astonishingly, it worked - "a miracle," Switzer said - as an Ohio State player fumbled the ball, letting Oklahoma's Mike Babb have it. A Belvins pass moved the ball 18 yards to the Ohio State 32. Fours plays later, with six seconds to go, Uwe von Schamann came onto the field.