'The Kick': Looking back at the last time Ohio State welcomed Oklahoma to Columbus
On Saturday in Columbus, the Ohio State Buckeyes and Oklahoma Sooners will meet for just the fourth time on the football field in their programs' storied histories.
The matchup of top five teams is big enough as it is, and the combined legacies of both Oklahoma and OSU speak for themselves: 83 conference championships, 12 Heisman Trophy winners, and 15 national championships.
Of the three previous meetings, the Buckeyes have won the last two, including last year's 45-24 beat down in Norman.
The only time the Sooners got the better of the Buckeyes came exactly 40 years ago during the teams' first ever meeting on Sept. 24, 1977, the last time Oklahoma played in Ohio Stadium.
Just like 2017, this contest came with a lot of hype: Oklahoma and Ohio State were ranked third and fourth, respectively, with identical 2-0 records. Legendary coaches Barry Switzer and Woody Hayes were also roaming the sidelines. The game would prove to be a classic, especially for Oklahoma fans.
The Sooners came running out of the gate, taking a 20-0 lead on touchdown runs by Elvis Peacock and Billy Sims (who would win the Heisman the next year). The Buckeyes would fight back, however, thanks to two more scoring runs by Ron Springs and quarterback Rod Gerald. OU still led 20-14 at the half.
Ohio State took its first lead of the game on a one-yard run by Joel Payton, then made it 28-20 after Greg Castignola threw a tipped 16-yard TD pass to Jimmy Moore (one of just five completed passes between the two teams). Aided by six Sooner turnovers, the Buckeyes had answered Oklahoma's hot start with 28 unanswered points, but the real drama had yet to begin.
Following an Ohio State fumble, Elvis Peacock ran it in from one yard out to make it 28-26 with just 1:29 left. The Sooners had to go for two to tie the game, but this time Peacock was stopped short of the goal line. It appeared the Buckeyes would hang on for the victory, but Oklahoma recovered the onside kick, and four plays later found themselves at the OSU 27 yard line with just six seconds to go, setting up a 41-yard field goal attempt for kicker Uwe von Schamann.
The German-born von Schamann had already made two kicks on the day, and this one would give the Sooners to win. Knowing this, Woody Hayes called timeout, attempting to "ice" von Schamann under the pressure of the moment. The capacity crowd at the Horseshoe did its best to get into the junior kicker's head: "Block that kick! Block that kick!"
Yet not only was von Schamann undeterred by the pressure, he reveled in it, "conducting" the crowd as it continued to chant. Confident as ever, von Schamann stepped back up and nailed the field goal with just three seconds left, putting Oklahoma ahead by one. The moment lives on in Sooner lore as "The Kick."
Ohio State did have one last chance for a miracle, but Greg Castignola was forced out of bounds as time expired, and Oklahoma came away with a hard-fought 29-28 win.
In the locker room afterward, Woody Hayes was asked how exciting he felt the game had been. True to form, Hayes bluntly answered, "I would rather have it dull and win."
Oklahoma found itself ranked number one after the victory, but lost two weeks later to archrival Texas. The Sooners would finish the regular season 10-1 with a Big 8 championship, but a 31-6 loss to Arkansas in the Orange Bowl cost them a possible national title.
On the other side, the Buckeyes hit their stride after the defeat and won their next seven in a row by wide margins. That set up a showdown with archrival Michigan for a trip to the Rose Bowl, where a late fumble by Rod Gerald gave the Wolverines a 14-6 win (and caused Woody Hayes to punch a camera man live on television).
OSU still won a share of the Big Ten title, but fell in the Sugar Bowl 35-6 to Bear Bryant's Alabama Crimson Tide.
40 years later, the parallels are certainly there for Saturday's matchup: Both teams are in the top five, both are expected to be national title contenders, and the college football world is once again fixated on Columbus. Whether or not the 2017 meeting of Ohio State and Oklahoma will be as memorable as the 1977 version remains to be seen. Let's just hope the Buckeyes can come out on top this time around.