COLUMBUS, Ohio — On Lane Avenue, just west of the Ohio State University campus, not far from where he could only bear witness to one of college football’s truly seminal moments, Vlade Janakievski makes sandwiches.
They are in high demand, and they are divine. The Ohio State fencing team has an order on the way. So do the men’s and women’s hockey teams. The University of Tulsa equipment crew’s sandwiches are being rushed out the door right now as the Golden Hurricane sets up for their game at Ohio Stadium the next day. And a steady flow of customers, from Ohio State athletic administrators to eight football players from nearby Upper Arlington High School to former Buckeye greats to local plumbers and real estate agents, keeps Janakievski and his crew hustling.
The Urban Meyer Special — corned beef, pastrami and pepper cheese on an Everything bagel — isn’t on the menu at Janakievski’s Easy Living Deli, but it may be the highlight in a cozy dining room filled with autographed Buckeyes memorabilia. There are two goal-post covers signed by every Buckeye player and coach to come into the shop since it opened some 30 years ago — several generations of scarlet and gray celebrities. There are posters, jerseys, old schedules, framed newspaper pages, photographs, custom artwork and more.
Tucked away in the back corner, next to a photo of him with Brent Musberger, sits a display of portraits from all four of Janakievski’s years when he was an Ohio State kicker, plus one when he was on the soccer team.
“Yep,” he says, “that’s me.”
The one on the bottom left is from Janakievski’s freshman season, 39 years ago. It was 1977. That’s when he witnessed college football history, right there in Ohio Stadium.
“I remember that game,” he says, “just like yesterday.”
Just so confident
In another small shop, more than 900 miles away in Norman, Oklahoma, Uwe von Schamann also recounts the day he and Janakievski met — the day von Schamann became a legend in Oklahoma Sooner football lore.
Over coffee, Von Schamann is taping a Sooner Sports TV program called “The Kick and The King.” He sits with Barry Switzer, assistant coaches Jerry Pettibone and Bobby Proctor and holder/safety Bud Hebert. Among the highlights from the segment:
Von Schamann is depicted, alone, crouching at midfield, his head down. He has described it as a moment of meditation, but he now recalls a quick prayer: “Good Lord, let me make this field goal. I don’t want to go back to Germany.”
Von Schamann is next shown walking around the field as both the Sooners and Buckeyes called back-to-back timeouts. As the Buckeye faithful starts chanting, “Block that kick! Block that kick!” von Schamann begins to lead them, like a conductor. “Two minutes with nothing to do,” von Schamann says. “Kind of ticked me off a little bit.”
While von Schamann is relaxed and confident, the tension of the moment peaks when Switzer is shown in an unusual pose. “I was on my knees on the sideline,” Switzer says. “Probably smoking a cigarette.”
Now von Schamann, 60, is in communications and development at The Children’s Center Rehabilitation Hospital in Bethany, a private, non-profit hospital that offers 24-hour medical care, rehabilitative therapy, respiratory care, and special education to children from birth to age 18. It’s Oklahoma’s only inpatient pediatric rehabilitation hospital, and being Uwe von Schamann — being the affable German immigrant who came to OU from Fort Worth and beat Ohio State almost 40 years ago with a moment of supreme confidence — has helped him raise countless funds for the hospital.
“We just completed a $22 million campaign to add onto the hospital, to add more beds,” von Schamann told The Franchise last week. “That’s been my passion for many, many years.”
At least since he retired from professional football. Von Schamann had six very good years with the Miami Dolphins, connecting on 67 percent of his field goals and 94 percent of his extra points. But until he started raising money for disabled children, his star had never shined brighter than that gray day at The Horseshoe.
“I was just so confident,” von Schamann said. “I mean, I really was. I knew I was gonna get a good snap, good hold. All I had to do was kick it.”
A fast start
Everyone remembers von Schamann conducting the hostile crowd. Almost everyone remembers him actually making the kick, a 41-yard field goal with three seconds left that gave the Sooners a pulsating 29-28 victory.
Often, however, the game itself — No. 3 OU versus No. 4 Ohio State, Barry Switzer versus Woody Hayes, Billy Sims versus Tom Cousineau — can be forgotten.
“Well, it was a big game,” Switzer told The Franchise this week. “But Uwe and I were talking about that today: 39 years and everyone still remembers that one play.”
That’s almost too bad. The first 59 minutes and 57 seconds was unbelievably competitive, almost as dramatic as the finish.
The Sooners rushed out to a 20-0 lead and seemed headed for an epic blowout, but couldn’t sustain it. A hamstring injury to quarterback Thomas Lott disrupted the offense. An ankle injury to Sims also slowed OU’s momentum. Cousineau, Ohio State’s All-American linebacker, also left the game with a shoulder injury.
When Lott went down, Switzer got nervous. Behind Lott was fast freshman Jay Jimerson and steady senior Dean Blevins. Lott tried to return, but couldn’t. Jimerson and Blevins combined for six turnovers.
“I know that!” Switzer said. “That’s why if we’d had Thomas, we’d have hung half a hundred on ‘em. We were fixing to.”
The Buckeyes rally
On the Sooners’ first touchdown, Lott fumbled but the ball bounced into Elvis Peacock’s hands and he scored from 27 yards out. The Buckeyes’ ensuing drive ended when Daryl Hunt forced a fumble and George Cumby recovered. Two plays later, Sims scored on a 15-yard touchdown run to make it 14-0. Two field goals from von Schamann put the Sooners ahead 20-0 early in the second quarter.
But with instability at quarterback, Switzer’s wishbone offense fell on hard times. After Ohio State drove for a touchdown to make it 20-7 — the Buckeyes hadn’t even gotten beyond their own 29-yard line on their first three possessions — Lott tried to return but fumbled an exchange with Peacock. OSU quarterback Rod Gerald ran in on the next play to make it 20-14.
Jimerson fumbled two more times in the first half and again to start the second, but the Sooner defense didn’t buckle until midway through the third quarter, when a pass interference penalty by Darrol Ray set up fullback James Payton’s short TD plunge. That — and Janakievski’s third extra point — gave Ohio State a 21-20 lead.
As a steady rain began to fall, Blevins entered the game. On third down, Blevins threw for Steve Rhodes, but Rhodes slipped on the wet turf and the ball was intercepted.
The Buckeyes quickly cashed in. Gerald suffered a wrist injury on a keeper, but backup Greg Castignola came on and threw a pass over the middle. His throw was so far off the mark, it deflected off Hebert playing free safety and into the hands of tight end Jimmy Moore in the end zone. Janakievski’s PAT made it 28-20.
“They run the post pattern and I cut right in front of the wide receiver, and the flippin’ quarterback leads him too much,” Hebert told The Franchise. “So I have to kind of stop in my tracks and put my left arm back and it tips off my hand just enough so the receiver can catch up to it and he catches it for a touchdown. That’s what made it 28-20. If I don’t touch that ball, it’s an incomplete pass. If he leads the receiver correctly, I intercept it.
“I was thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, I just gave up seven points to put us down by that eight-point deficit.”
Blevins was intercepted again on OU’s next drive, and it seemed the Sooners had had it. The offense was lifeless, the defense couldn’t withstand all the turnovers.
But Oklahoma still had its special teams — and just enough Sooner Magic.
In the rain, neither offense could do more than punt.
But with 6:23 left, OU’s defense made a play. David Hudgens smothered Castignola on an option, Phil Tabor ripped the ball out and Reggie Kinlaw recovered at the Ohio State 43.
With David Overstreet, Kenny King and Elvis Peacock running and Blevins throwing to Rhodes, OU faced a fourth-and-4 from the 12. But Buckeyes tackle Aaron Brown jumped offside, giving the Sooners a first-and-goal from the 7. Ohio State’s defense stiffened again and forced a fourth down, but Oklahoma, trailing by eight, went for it again. This time, Peacock took a pitch around the right side and into the end zone to make it 28-26 with 1:29 left.
Peacock, however, was stopped on the 2-point conversion, setting off an Ohio State celebration.
OU’s last chance — a von Schamann onside kick — was rewarded when Mike Babb dove into a pile and recovered the ball at midfield.
“If they didn’t recover that kickoff,” Janakievski said, “they wouldn’t have won that game.”
Blevins hit Rhodes for 17 yards, then King and Overstreet moved the ball to the Ohio State 23. At six seconds, Switzer called timeout. Then, as von Schamann, Hebert and the Sooner field goal unit took the field again, Hayes called timeout.
While Switzer knelt down, on the opposite sideline, Janakievski — who had immigrated to the United States at 10 years old from Yugoslavia (now Macedonia) and went to Ohio State to play soccer — took measure of his four extra points and realized a hard truth: it wasn’t going to be enough.
He wishes Hayes had not called that last timeout.
“When somebody tries to ice you, I liked it because you have more time just to relax and think about it,” Janakievski said. “A lot of people think it hurts you to call timeout to ice the kicker, but really, I think it helps the kickers. Instead of hurrying and trying to get the kick off in just a few seconds, it helps calm you down a little bit.”
It certainly helped von Schamann, who used the spare time to meditate, and then maestro.
“I wasn’t worried about him making it. I knew he’d make it,” Switzer said. “I was worried about ‘em blocking it. That’s the only thing I’m worried about.”
“Obviously, I thought he was gonna make it — I thought we were gonna make it,” said Hebert. “I thought it’d be a good snap and a good hold and a good kick.
“I don’t remember the crowd. I don’t remember von Schamann doing that. I look back on it and it didn’t surprise me. If nothing else, having those timeouts — we called one, they called one — I think he was just trying to take his mind off of it. Now, I’m not sure I would have led a hostile crowd in ‘Block that kick!’ It just makes everybody get louder. But that was Uwe’s style: pretty confident. And there’s a fine line between confidence and cockiness, and he might have stepped over it there.”
Von Schamann also had time to reassure his holder, who had told him that morning at breakfast that he’d dreamed von Schamann would kick the game-winning field goal.
“I’m gonna make your dreams come true,” von Schamann told Hebert.
Mark Lucky’s snap was perfect. Hebert’s hold was flawless. And von Schamann’s kick sailed right down the middle, high over the uprights, into the seats and into Sooner history.
“He just killed the ball,” Janakievski said. “Right down the middle. Yeah. Clutch.”
Von Schamann leaped into the air, turned around and was creamed by Hebert. That touched off a midfield celebration, with the Sooners and some fans pouring onto the field. There was still three seconds left, but it didn’t matter. This had become a crimson and cream party, OU 29, Ohio State 28.
“He jumped in my arms, I couldn’t hold him, we fell down and next thing you know we’re under the pile of about 30 players,” von Schamann said. “I distinctly remember it. I remember thinking, ‘Oh, I’m gonna get crushed right here in Columbus.’ ”
Switzer tried to shake hands with Hayes, but changed his mind when he saw Hayes push aside an OU equipment manager. David Boren — now OU president; at the time he was Oklahoma’s governor — came to the locker room to celebrate with his young heroes.
“We went from thinking we were gonna score half a hundred on them to, ‘Oh my goodness, we’re in trouble here in the fourth quarter,’ ” Hebert said. “So from that standpoint, it was a huge game for us to just win, not to mention the fact that we were down and had to come back.”
Amid the pandemonium, a senior placekicker from Germany sought out his freshman counterpart from Macedonia and shook his hand.
“I was amazed,” Janakievski said. “He came looking for me. I thought that was very nice.”
It’s 2016 now. Woody Hayes is gone. So are Mark Lucky, the snapper, and Mike Babb, the hero who recovered the onside kick. Offenses move a hundred miles an hour now. Stadiums are bigger and better than ever. So are the players.
But one thing that hasn’t changed: OU and Ohio State still view college football from an elite perch. This past summer, the Associated Press announced its all-time Top 25, and the Buckeyes and Sooners stood Nos. 1 and 2. Then CBS Sports took the AP’s data, added emphasis for where teams finished, and determined the Sooners were No. 1 and the Buckeyes No. 2.
Remember, Ohio State returned the favor in Norman in 1983 with a 24-14 victory. The Sooners were ranked No. 2, the Buckeyes No. 6.
Switzer knows that the first two of his three national championships — 1974 and 1975 — only happened because of Ohio State losses. The ’74 Buckeyes were ranked No. 1 when they were upset 16-13 at Michigan State on Nov. 9. The ’75 Buckeyes were ranked No. 1 when they lost 23-10 to UCLA in the Rose Bowl. Both defeats cleared the way for Switzer’s Sooners to seize the No. 1 spot.
Those turnabouts didn’t influence the ’77 outcome. But they most certainly heightened it.
“I just knew it was a big game because of who we were playing,” Switzer said. “You had great respect for all those players and their program and Woody Hayes and all, what it meant.”
So really, when the teams get together again on Saturday at OU’s Memorial Stadium, not much will have changed. Urban Meyer’s Ohio State team (2-0) is ranked No. 3, while Bob Stoops’ OU squad (1-1) is No. 14. This season’s national championship may very well come into play for both teams.
“I’ve never been to Norman,” said Janakievski, who will attend Saturday’s game with a few friends and former teammates. “I always wanted to go there and play or watch a game. The tradition, they’re the same, I think, as Ohio State. They have great players, great coaches, great tradition, great university. It’s what it’s all about.”
“(The 1977 game) is a moment I’ll obviously never forget,” Hebert said. “I’m sorry Mark Lucky’s not here to be able to be part of the game this week and next year. I’m sorry Mike Babb can’t be there. Because if he doesn’t get that onside kick, you and I are not talking.”
Sticking with OU’s long-standing scheduling philosophy, the Sooners return to Columbus next year — the 40th anniversary of The Kick (though Hebert kiddingly prefers to call it The Hold).
“I can’t wait for that game. It’s gonna be amazing,” von Schamann said. “In fact, Bob Stoops told me he’s gonna take me with him on the team plane for next year.”
“Next year,” Stoops said this week, “Uwe goes with us, no doubt. If he’ll behave. We’ll see.”
“Yeah,” von Schamann said, “maybe I can get in the middle of the field and lead the crowd again.”
OK, maybe not. Maybe the Buckeyes will simply be gracious enough to introduce him before the game.
“I don’t know. I don’t think they will,” von Schamann said. “I think my nickname in Columbus is von Satan.”
Columnist John E. Hoover is co-host of “Further Review with Hoover & Rew” and can be heard on The Franchise Tulsa from noon to 3 p.m. every weekday with co-host Lauren Rew and most mornings on The Franchise in Oklahoma City. Listen on fm107.9, am1270 on the 107.7 Franchise app, or click the “Listen” tab on The Franchise home page.