What makes Thomas Lott so bad?
"He's Thomas Lott, that's why," said Oklahoma fullback Kenny King. "The man was born to run the wishbone. He is the best, ain't he?"
That question was answered on Owen Field and before a national television audience today as Lott completely befuddled Nebraska while the Sooners waltzed to a 38-7 victory.
Oklahoma, 10-1, also won the Big-Eight championship and a trip to the Orange Bowl to play Arkansas.
Countless football people may be down on the wishbone these days because it is limited, but with Lott at the controls and with the runners like the Sonners have, it fits Oklahoma just fine. There is no better offense around better show off Lott's marvelous ball handling and running ability.
Lott ran for 1143 years on 22 carries and scored one touchdown and had Nebraska off balance all game.
Once the ball was snapped, the Cornhuskers seemed to have no idea where it was going. Lott was that slick.
"In defensing the wishbone, you have to decide who you want to stop," Lott said. "My job is to make sure they stop the wrong one."
He did today.
The basic wishbone plays begin with the quarterback putting the ball in the fullback's stomach. If the defense doesn't react, he leaves it there and the fullback runs. If the defense decides to stop the fullback, the quarterback pulls the ball away and options at the corner, keeping the ball or pitching it to a trailing halfback.
"We knew from the films that Nebraska would try to stop the fullback first," said King. "So that opened up the other stuff."
It certainly did. Halfback Elvis Peacock, with perfectly timed pitches from Lott time after time, ran for 123 yards on 20 carries and scored twice.
Neither team scored in the first period, but Oklahoma settled down and scored on all three times it had the ball in the second quarter.
Lott had 119 yards by the half and Nebraska was in disarray.
The Sooners recovered a Nebraska fumble and drove 65-yards for their first score. After Nebraska missed a field goal, Lott led the Sooners 80 yards for a 140-lead.
Nebraska's score ended an 80-yard drive. Quarterback Tom Sorley completed three of three passes for 57 yards on the drive.
Then Lott showed his stuff.
After the kickoff, the Sooners got the ball at their 20 with 2:50 left in the half.
On first down, Lott went back to pass but saw an opening and took off for a 30-yard gain.
"If you give me a crack, I'm gone," he said.
Two plays later, with third and eight at the Nebraska 48, Lott called a draw to Peacock for 11 yards.
Two plays later, from the 35, Lott gave the ball to King for a change and he rambled 17 yards to the 18. Lott ran seven yards to the 11 and the final 11 after faking to King up the middle to keep the linebackers busy, and faking a pitch to Peacock to entertain everyone else.
In the second half Schamann kicked a 45-yard field goal and the Sooners scored two touchdowns but Nebraska did virtually nothing.
I. M. Hipp, who came into the game with 1,268 yards rushing and a seven-yard-a-carry average, gained only 33 yards in 15 tries today. With him bottled up, the Nebraska offense went nowhere.
Defensive back Terry Peters was especially aware of Hipp's reputation and thinks he put a dent in it.
"I. M. may be hip, but today he was ht," said the senior. "I put a hit on him and I looked down at him and said. "I am hip, too."
Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer said he thought Nebraska would score "in the 20s, but our offense controlled the ball so much that the Nebraska defense had to play all of the time."
A stunned Nebraska coach Tom Osborne said Oklahoma "right now is about as good as I've ever seen them. We missed a lot of tackles, but a lot of that was due to good running backs. We tried everything we had, but they just ran right at us. They didn't have to resort to any tricks."
Jim Pillen, Nebraska's monster back, had a particularly frustrating afternoon.
"Their speed is their greatest asset," he said. "They really killed us with Lott. He ran all over the field and when we'd catch him, those other guys would run all over us. Their speed in running the wishbone is the difference between them and the rest of the teams we played. We felt we could stop the fullback, make the quarterback go for the pitch, but we couldn't keep up with them. That shows what speed can go."
Nebraska finished its regular season with an 8-3 record and will play North Carolina int he Liberty Bowl.