COLUMBUS – Thirty-nine years later, Uwe von Schamann is still a folk hero in Oklahoma.
He is less fondly remembered in Ohio.
Von Schamann, who immigrated to Fort Worth, Tex., from West Germany as a teenager, is remembered across Oklahoma and in Ohio for kicking the game-winning field goal in the final seconds of Oklahoma’s 29-28 win over Ohio State in an epic match-up of legendary football programs in 1977.
He says not a month goes by without someone coming up to him and reminiscing about that game. Somewhere, Woody Hayes is probably seething about it more often than that.
The 1977 game between OSU and Oklahoma is one of the most talked about, most remembered games in Buckeyes football history for those who were around to see it.
It was very similar to when Notre Dame returned to Ohio State schedule for the first time in 59 years in 1995.
Oklahoma and Ohio State had never faced each other in a football game before. The Sooners and Barry Switzer were at the height of their powers.
The Sooners came into the game in the third week of the season with two national championships in Switzer’s first four years as its coach and was unbeaten and ranked No. 3.
They had incredible talent and incredible speed. They had so much speed they could out-run the numerous turnovers that came with the wishbone offense they used. And it would still be years before Oklahoma could no longer out-run the NCAA.
Over on Ohio State’s sideline, Hayes was in his 27th season as OSU’s coach, unaware time was running out on his stay in Columbus faster than he or anyone else could have imagined.
He would coach only 21 more games. But at the kickoff of No. 4 Ohio State’s game against Oklahoma he was still one of the iconic figures among college football coaches in charge of one of its most historic programs.
Oklahoma jumped out to a 20-0 lead when it scored on its first four possessions. Just when looked like the eagerly anticipated match-up was going to be a dud, two things happened. First, Ohio State woke up. And second, Oklahoma lost its starting quarterback, Thomas Lott, and one of its best running backs, Billy Sims, to injuries.
Ohio State ran off 28 unanswered points before Oklahoma scored twice in the final minute and a half and Von Schamann became a legend.
The Sooners got a touchdown with 1:29 to play but missed a two-point conversion that would have tied the game.
Von Schamann got off a nearly perfect onside kick and Oklahoma recovered the ball. With three seconds left, he booted a 41-yard game-winning field goal for a 29-28 win.
Will people still be talking about this year’s Ohio State-Oklahoma game in almost 40 years, like they do about the 1977 game?
That might depend on what happens the rest of the season. If it is a stepping stone toward a national championship for either team, or the reason one of them didn’t get a chance to play for a title, it might be.
Another thing the 1977 game had going for it that this year’s game doesn’t is that it was rare for college football teams to play on national television back then.
If the internet can be believed, only three of Ohio State’s games were nationally televised in 1977 and Oklahoma played four games in front of a national audience. Having a classic game like Ohio State-Oklahoma, unlike most other games, play out in front of a nationwide audience made it stand out even more.
We’ll find out in the future how the 2016 game is remembered. For tonight, it’s must see football.
So, what will happen tonight?
If Ohio State wins, its defense will be very good. Maybe not as dominant as it was in holding Bowling Green and Tulsa without an offensive touchdown, though, because Oklahoma is an entirely different level of talent than OSU’s first two opponents.
If Ohio State wins, J.T. Barrett will have a productive night throwing the ball and on the ground. Oklahoma has struggled with dual threat quarterbacks and he is one of the best.
If Ohio State wins, it will contain either Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield or its two-pronged running game with Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon. OSU can’t afford to let the Sooners get comfortable with moving the ball in front of a loud home crowd.
If Oklahoma wins, its defense might force Ohio State into a slow start, like when the Buckeyes did not get an offensive touchdown in the first half against Tulsa last week, and maybe put some doubt into the minds of some inexperienced OSU players.
If Oklahoma wins, it will win the quarterback battle. If Oklahoma wins, it will force Barrett to run more than he wants to run. If Oklahoma wins, it will turn the desperation of possibly starting the season with two losses in three games into something positive.
It should be a good game. It should be a close game. It might be a game Ohio State remembers more fondly than Oklahoma.
The prediction: Ohio State 35, Oklahoma 31.