The first time Oklahoma and Ohio State played was an all-timer
On Saturday, two of the most storied programs in college football history will go head-to-head when Ohio State visits Oklahoma (7 p.m. ET on FOX).
It’s just the third matchup ever between two schools that have combined for 15 national championships and produced a staggering 12 Heisman Trophy winners. Yet while these two programs have been home to some of the biggest names in the sport, players like Archie Griffin and Adrian Peterson, it was one of the most unlikely guys imaginable who was the hero they played back in 1977.
Uwe von Schamann was an All-American kicker for the Sooners, who was later named the best kicker in Big 8 history. Von Schamann also played in the NFL for six seasons, even making two Super Bowls with the Dolphins.
However, his most memorable moment undoubtedly came in 1977 against the Buckeyes, one of the most chaotic end-of-game scenes in college football history.
Entering that matchup, there might have been even more hype than this weekend’s game between the No. 3 Buckeyes and No. 14 Sooners. The 1977 matchup was the first time the two storied programs had ever played, and it came at a time when there was rarely more than one national college football broadcast every weekend.
It set up for a must-see TV event.
"Oh, it was huge," Von Schamann remembered. "We were ranked third and they were ranked fourth. Plus, Woody Hayes was right at the end of his career, and Coach Switzer was towards the beginning. Everyone wanted to see how that would play out."
Switzer’s ball-club had the edge early, jumping out to a 14-0 lead after the first quarter. By halftime the score was 20-0, and it looked like just another blowout for the Sooners.
"We were fixing to put up half-a-hundred on them," Switzer told FOX Sports, sharing the line he made so famous throughout his career.
Unfortunately, Switzer’s visions of half-a-hundred quickly dissipated for OU. Star running back Billy Sims (who’d win the Heisman a few years later) had a nagging ankle injury, and the team’s starting quarterback hurt his hamstring. All of a sudden, Oklahoma couldn’t move the ball, and the Buckeyes began to capitalize. Just as quickly as the Sooners had taken that 20-0 lead, they fell behind, trailing 28-20 mid-way through the fourth quarter. Even when they scored a touchdown to make it 28-26 with just minutes to go, they missed the two-point conversion, which would have tied it up.
It appeared to spell disaster for the Sooners.
The Sooners weren’t just any other team, though. They were elite. They were also a team that made a habit of pulling out wild wins, in the most unexpected ways, to the point that the term "Sooner Magic" turned into popular lexicon amongst college football fans.
That "magic" extended to the team’s kicker when the team lined up for an onside kick after the missed two-point conversion. Von Shamann didn’t just think he could pull off the maneuver. He knew it.
"I told my special teams coach, ‘I’m going to kick it right off that guy’s chest," von Schamann said, motioning to the player lined up second from the sideline. "And that’s exactly what I did."
Von Schamann nailed the onside kick as planned, and Oklahoma recovered with just enough time to set up a potential game-winning field goal. After a pass got the Sooners in von Schamann’s range, Switzer called back-to-back running plays to set up the ball at mid-field. As the clock ticked down, Switzer called a timeout with just six seconds left.
The kick — made or missed — would be the final play of the game, but just as the Sooners got set to line up, Woody Hayes had something else planned altogether. He called a timeout to hopefully ice von Schamann, who at that point hadn’t missed a field goal all season.
Unfortunately, Hayes didn’t know who exactly he was dealing with. Rather than freeze von Schamann it did the opposite: invigorated him. After hearing fans scream "block that kick," during the timeout von Schamann did the unthinkable. He turned to the crowd and started cheering with them. He raised his arms up and down, imploring them to be louder.
"Honestly, I didn’t know what to do, so I sort of just started waving my arms," von Schamann said. Asked if Switzer was bothered by the act, von Schamann said no. "That’s why guys loved playing for him. He was a player’s coach."
Still, there was the kick at hand, and as Von Schamann lined up, Switzer was in fact nervous. According to von Schamann, Switzer slyly puffed a cigarette on the sideline to try to calm his nerves.
Thankfully, there was nothing to worry about. The ball was snapped, and the kick sailed through the uprights, giving the Sooners a stunning 28-26 come-from-behind win. The entire Sooners bench rushed the field in what turned out to be the only last-second win of Switzer’s career at Oklahoma.
As the madness subsided, the coach had a message for his star kicker.
"He always tells me, ‘If my QB hadn’t been hurt and my running back wouldn’t have been hurt, we wouldn’t have needed your kick,’" von Schamann said, laughing. "And I always say, ‘Yeah, but you were smoking a cigarette on the sideline so you must have been nervous.’"
The kick eventually went down in Sooners’ lore as one of the most memorable plays in Oklahoma history. It’s known simply as "The Kick" and is a play that has lived on long after von Schamann’s career ended.
Now working as a spokesperson for The Children’s Center Rehabilitation Hospital in Bethany, Oklahoma, it’s a play he’ll never forget.
The question now is whether the current Sooners can re-create that Sooner magic when they host Ohio State Saturday.