Not sure why OU at Ohio State on September 24th, 1977 still stands as my biggest memory as a kid growing up following the Sooners, but I think I know now.
It was perfect.
And it gave birth to something Oklahoma fans consider a big part of the program. More on that later…
A little background first.
Growing up about a mile away from Owen Field, I remember hearing roars coming from somewhere as a kid playing in the front yard. I asked my dad what it was and he replied “that’s the Sooners.”
A few years later, went to my first OU game (a 1970 home loss to Kansas State) and was hooked.
Seven years later, when the first Star Wars was a box office phenomenon and bell bottoms were still in fashion, I sat in my living room awaiting a huge matchup, OU was going to play Ohio State!
This was big. I knew it because we got pizza for the game, and we were even allowed to drink an extra bottle of Coca-Cola while watching what turned out to be an all-time classic.
The legendary Keith Jackson called the ABC telecast, that featured a brash young Barry Switzer facing the old school coach of the Buckeyes, Woody Hayes.
Oklahoma dominated early. The Buckeyes had no clue how to stop the Sooners vaunted wishbone attack, with Billy Sims and Thomas Lott running wild, OU built a 20-0 lead.
This was going to be easy, but then it wasn’t.
Lott and Sims got hurt, the offense wasn’t the same, and the Buckeyes came back with 28 unanswered points to lead late in the game. It looked like it was over.
With a nervous looking Switzer kneeling on the sideline, probably concealing a cigarette, things started to break the Sooners way.
OU got a Reggie Kinlaw fumble recovery, leading to an Elvis Peacock TD (the 2pt conversion failed) with 1:30 left to draw the Sooners within 28-26. There was hope in the “horseshoe.”
Mike Babb then remarkably recovered Uwe von Schamman’s onside kick. Moments later, Dean Blevins (in for Lott) made a timely throw to Steve Rhodes for 20 yards, setting the stage for the most memorable moment in Sooner football history…
It was 41 yards. And “von foot” put it straight through the uprights. It would’ve been good from fifty.
Ballgame. Sooners 29, Ohio State 28.
So many elements made that game special. Two blue blood programs. National television. A young Switzer. An aging Woody Hayes. The supremely confident von Schamman conducting the chorus of Buckeye fans chanting “block that kick!”
It was tremendous.
Still, there are wins with bigger implications in the history of Oklahoma football. Switzer already had two titles on his resume when he got the historic victory that fall Saturday in Columbus. Surely every bowl win that cliched a national championship was more meaningful.
So why was this one so special?
Simple. It was the beginning of “Sooner Magic.”