In a game full of bizarre incidents, the most unusual of all the oddball occurences in the Orange Bowl tonight happened in the fourth quarter with Oklahoma and Washington tied, 14-14.
Oklahoma's Tim Lashar kicked a field goal from 22 yards that gave the Sooners an apparent 17-14 lead. But an illegal procedure penalty nullified the three points and sent Oklahoma's offense back five yards.
Thinking that their team had just scored and unaware of the penalty flag, the Sooner Schooner -- the covered wagon drawn by two ponies that serves as the team's mascot -- came on the field for a triumphant pirouette down by the goal line.
Game officials immediately dropped another penalty flag and charged the schooner with a kind of illegal procedure as well. This penalty, for unsportsmanlike conduct, cost the Oklahoma team an additional 15 yards and effectively turned what had been a 22-yard field goal attempt into a 42-yarder.
That attempt was blocked, and Washington, which eventually won the game, 28-17, took over. On the sidelines, Oklahoma student Rex Harris, the driver of the cart, and Doug Madden, president of the club that has brought the schooner to all home and bowl games since 1965, were chagrined at the turn of events.
"We'd been okayed by the Orange Bowl officials to go on to the field after touchdowns and field goals," Madden said. "What caused the problem was that because of the penalty, time was still active. We didn't know that. And once we had the schooner on the field, it takes a while to get it off."
Said Harris: "We've never had a problem like this before. All I know is, I get the ponies out there and all of the sudden the ref looks at me and says, 'Son, you just cost your team 15.' "
Washington Coach Don James laughed about the incident. "Our kids jumped up and down and called for the penalty," he said. "They didn't belong on the field but I wouldn't have penalized them."
As scores of reporters came to the sidelines to pursue this odd story rather than concentrate on the game, Madden was heard to say over and over, "I just hope this doesn't cost us the game."
It didn't, because Lashar later kicked a 35-yard field goal for a 17-14 Oklahoma lead.
Washington turned the game around later in the fourth period when quarterback Hugh Millen threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to his roommate and former Seattle high school teammate, Mark Pattison, culminating a seven-play, 74-yard drive with 5:52 left in the game.
Millen entered the game early in the fourth quarter. He had been Washington's starter for the first eight games, but was benched at halftime after five first-half turnovers by the Huskies in the Arizona game. James said he put him in tonight because the Huskies were going into the wind in the final period and Millen had a stronger arm than starter Paul Sicuro.
"I anticipated each game I'd get a chance," Millen said. "I always felt it was a week-to-week thing. You have to prepare yourself. The night I lost the job, I knew why Ronald Reagan wanted to run for president and I knew why Lee Iacocca wanted to leave Ford. Once you are in a situation where you are kind of down, you want to get back up on top."
Millen said his touchdown pass to his friend, Pattison, was not his favorite pattern to throw. "I'd say of the five times I've thrown it, I've probably completed about two. But it's a good play for third and long (five)."
Pattison said, "I was really worried about that play. He (Millen) tends to drill that pass on the line. For once in his life, he just laid it up there nice and soft.
"I was glad I beat their guy, No. 21 (Brian Hall), because he was doing a lot of talking out there. They kinda stopped talking after that."
Washington's players were talking about the possibility of moving into the No. 1 spot in the polls, waving their index fingers.
"We'll get my vote," said James, adding that he felt going into the game that a Huskies' victory would propel them to No. 1 in either the Associated Press media poll or United Press International coaches poll.
"I really can't say where we should be," said Millen. "I just know I feel real good right now, real proud. And we play Brigham Young in our second game next season. We'll just have to wait until then to find out who is best."