#3 Oklahoma 38
#11 Nebraska 7

Nov. 25, 1977 • Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, Norman, Oklahoma

1 2 3 4 T
Nebraska 0 7 0 0 7
Oklahoma 0 21 3 14 38

Liberty Bell Tolls for N.U.

Nebraska's Ted Harvey spears Oklahoma's Thomas Lott in the first quarter. Harvey reinjured his shoulder in the first quarter and did not return to the game. ROBERT PASKACH/THE WORLD-HERALD

NORMAN, Okla. — Oklahoma dispensed with the preliminaries and went into its fourth-quarter act early Friday.

No more of that waiting around until the final quarter or the final minute to saddle Nebraska with its habitual season-ending frustration.

The Sooners were in a hurry to confirm all those Orange Bowl reservations and a date with Arkansas and send the Huskers down the river to Memphis and a meeting with North Carolina in the Liberty Bowl.

The Sooners established their undisputed superiority with three devastating touchdown drives in three tries in the first and second quarters and built their final 38-7 margin halfway through the fourth while 71,184 delirious rooters — minus 5,000 Nebraskans — chanted, “Orange Bowl, Orange Bowl, Orange Bowl,” and the electric scoreboard flashed, “Beat Arkansas.”

While handing the Huskers their worst shellacking since the 1968 Sooners won 47-0, Oklahoma finished its 10-1 season with the undisputed Big Eight Conference Championship for the fourth time in six years. Oklahoma tied for the other two.

2nd-Place Tie

The Huskers concluded an 8-3 season to finish in a second-place tie with Iowa State in the conference.

It wasn’t so much that the Sooners won — they were ranked second by UPI and third by AP and were favored by nine points — it was how they won.

They took a Husker defense that had been gaining in stature each outing the past month and dissected it with brutal swiftness. Quarterback Thomas Lott ran options with blackboard precision and improvised and muscled for 143 yards. Halfback Elvis Peacock bolted up the middle and around the flanks for 123.

With fullback Kenny King kicking in 60 yards and halfback Billy Sims 53, the Sooners worked over the Blackshirts for 417 rushing yards. And just to show they could do other tricks, they scored their final touchdown on a 24-yard pass from sub quarterback Dean Blevins to tight end Victor Hicks.

The Oklahoma defense, meanwhile, was dismantling the nation’s No. 3 rushing team. The Husker offense, averaging 313 yards rushing, managed but 190 yards — 149 the first half — on the ground.

The difference in total yardage was 453-322. Three Nebraska quarterbacks completed 11 of 23 passes for 132 yards after they were forced out of their ball-control plans.

While losing a sixth straight game to their main rivals, the HUskers also extended their scoreless string in fourth quarters against O.U. to six years while the Sooners added two more touchdowns to their 80-0 fourth-period dominance during that stretch.

But those last two touchdowns mattered little this time. There wasn’t an excuse to be heard in the somber losers’ quarters afterward.

“We tried everything we had, both offensively and defensively. A lot of it boiled down to the people involved,” Husker Coach Tom Osborne said.

Thoroughly Kicked

Monster back Jim Pillen said, “They didn’t do anything we didn’t expect. We just got thoroughly kicked. The coaches had us in a fantastic scheme, and everybody tried their rears off, but one thing just led to another.”

“They’re awesome,” said cornerback Ted Harvey, who did not play again after reinjuring a shoulder in the first quarter. “We just plum got beat. They’re gonna be tough to beat. I don’t think Arkansas can stop them.”

Husker linebacker Lee Kunz, who was involved in 23 tackles, said, “Terry Miller (Oklahoma State All-American) was an excellent back, but they only have one of him. Oklahoma has four of them.”

Were these Sooners the best ever?

“The offensive team is the best I’ve ever coached,” Sooner Coach Barry Switzer said. His five Oklahoma teams have included two national championships.

Hipp Contained

“On defense, we don’t have the Selmons (Sooner all-Americans Lucious, Leroy and Dewey) or anyone like that, but as a team, we probably play better. And our defense can run well enough to control people,” Switzer said.

It controlled Nebraska’s touted sophomore I-back I.M. Hipp well enough to limit him to 33 yards on 15 carries. Hipp is No. 7 on the national rushing charts and needed 74 yards to become the school’s all-time rushing leader for one season.

“The record’s no big deal. On our pitch plays the tackles were flowing real fast, and the linebacker would always be sitting there when I tried to cut back up,” Hipp said.

With alternate I-back Rick Berns held to 36 yards on seven carries, the Huskers got their greatest rushing production from wingback Curtis Craig, who ran reverses and counters six times for 73 yards.

“The reason those plays worked so well was because Oklahoma was so aggressive,” Craig said. “We could come back the other direction on them.”

Osborne said he thought before the game that the Huskers could win “If we hung in there and got a turnover or two, but we had to play error-free.”

But as happens so often in this series, the Huskers contributed to their own misfortunes with mistakes while the Sooners refused to be charitable.

3 Interceptions

Nebraska fumbled twice and lost both and lost the ball on three interceptions. Oklahoma fumbled five times but recovered four of its own.

The Huskers offense stuttered from the start while the Blackshirts enjoyed their greatest success by halting the first two Sooner drives.

On Nebraska’s first possession, an apparent first down carry by Hipp resulted in a 15-yard holding penalty. A punt followed. An interception on Tom Sorley’s first pass killed the second drive and a fumble by Craig halted the third.

On its third try, Oklahoma cut loose. Lott’s 21-yard scramble and 13-yard keeper set up the first of two Peacock touchdowns seconds into the second quarter. The 65-yard drive took nine plays.

Following a missed 50-yard field goal attempt by Billy Todd, the Sooners made it 14-0 with an 80-yard hike on 14 plays. Peacock again scoring from in close.

It was during that second touchdown drive that the Sooners demonstrated their disdain for the Husker defense, or maybe it was confidence in its offense, or both.

It was fourth and four at the Husker 30-yard line, a field goal situation for most teams, and the Sooners have one of the best in the business in Uwe Von Schamann. He set Oklahoma records for consecutive extra points with 62 and 14 field goals in a season with a 45-yarder in the third quarter.

And Switzer showed his confidence in Von Schamann’s range when he let him attempt two 57-yarders Friday.

But on fourth and four, he went with Lott on a keeper. Lott made the first down by a yard, then followed up with two plays that were pure wishbone artistry.

80-Yarder for N.U.

On the first, he deftly pitched off to Peacock at the last possible moment for 12 yards and kept the ball for 12 more yards to set up Peacock’s second touchdown.

Despite their lack of results in the first four offensive opportunities, the Huskers drew some encouragement because they had outyarded their opponents to that point. And they received a much-needed lift with an 80-yard drive in eight plays that was as impressive as anything the Sooners sprung.

Sorley, who completed seven of nine passes for 91 yards, hit Berns for 10 yards, tight end Ken Spaeth for 11 and wingback Kenny BRown, who was amazingly free of opposition, for 36 yards. Berns scored the lone Husker touchdown from the 2.

The Cornhuskers had started their drive with one eye on the clock. It showed 5:47 before the half. As it turned out, they scored too quickly.

Whipped in Every Phase

They left the Sooners with 2:50 in which to cover 80 yards following the kickoff. They used 2:21. Lott scrambled for 30 yards on the first play and skipped the final 11 on a keeper right.

That made it 21-7 at intermission and the Sooners owned the second half on Von Schamann’s fielder, an eight-play, 55-yard drive that ended in a 19-yard scamper by freshman David Overstreet and Blevins’ touchdown pass.

“We couldn’t afford those kind of mistakes in our first three possessions, and that last drive of theirs just before the half hurt us bad. We had just got back some momentum,” Osborne said.

“After we got down 14-0, we were driven out of our basic approach. In order to beat Oklahoma, we had to do everything right and then some. They just whipped us in every phase of the game.

“They controlled the line of scrimmage on offense, but we moved the ball at times. We figured we had to score four of five times to win. But their defense played well, and their offense played exceptionally well,” Osborne said.

Same Play

Nebraska played a daring game in its catch-up effort. In the third quarter, Sorley sneaked for a first down on fourth and one from the Husker 48. But on the next play Hipp fumbled a pitch before he could hand it back to Sorley for a pass. “I just took my eyes off it,” Hipp said.

On the next series, the Huskers tried the same play with Berns in the middle of the backfield trickery, and Sorley fired across the field to Craig. But a great play by fleet Sooner linebacker George Cumby held the gain to 7 yards.

That drive reached the Oklahoma 39 before it died when linebacker Daryl Hunt sacked Sorley.

The Huskers were set to try again on fourth and one from their 47 in the fourth quarter, but they were forced to punt when they were flagged with a delay penalty.

“That was my fault. It was a stupid play on my part,” Sorley said. “The run was to the right, but I felt they were overloaded on the right.” Time ran out as he was calling an audible for another play.

It’s Been Worse

Oklahoma’s final touchdown followed free safety Zac Henderson’s second interception of the game and seventh in five games and a personal foul penalty. Following a penalty, Blevins fired over the middle for the touchdown.

“Naturally, we hated to see them score again. I’m not going to say anything about it. They can operate how they want to,” he said.

Despite the onesided score, Osborne said his team wasn’t beaten as badly as it was here four years ago. That sooner team won, 27-0, and did not allow the Huskers to initiate a play on the OU side of the field.

“But this one was pretty bad. We just have to do the best we can in the next game. I’m glad we’ve got a chance to go to the Liberty Bowl,” Osborne said.


More coverage

World-Herald post-game coverage (PDF)

Game stats

Opp NU
Penalties-Yards 4-47
Rush yards 417 190
Rush attempts 68 47
Yards per carry 6.1 4.0
Pass yards 36 132
Comp.-Att.-Int. 3-6-0 11-23-2
Yards/Att. 6.0 5.7
Yards/Comp. 12.0 12.0
Fumbles 1 2

Series history

Nebraska is 38-45 all-time against Oklahoma.

See all games »

1977 season (9-3)

Washington State Sept. 10
Alabama Sept. 17
Baylor Sept. 24
Indiana Oct. 1
Kansas State Oct. 8
Iowa State Oct. 15
Colorado Oct. 22
Oklahoma State Oct. 29
Missouri Nov. 5
Kansas Nov. 12
Oklahoma Nov. 25
North Carolina Dec. 19

This day in history

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