It was not a good week for that exclusive uptown establishment known as the Brothers of the Top 20. Hungry outcasts from Kansas, North Carolina State, Stanford, Georgia and West Virginia upset the solid-gold applecarts of, respectively, Oklahoma, Penn State, Southern Cal, Florida and Pittsburgh. In the process, an awful lot of New Year's plans were changed, too.
The biggest shocker was Kansas beating Oklahoma 23-3 in Norman. Jayhawk Coach Bud Moore went slightly bonkers in calling it "the greatest victory there has ever been in the history of college football." Ditto Tackle Dave Scott, who suggested that the game ranked just behind "the coming of Christ." But the upset win certainly justified the dancing and hollering that went on in the team bus after the game, and the whooping, beer-burbling group that greeted the Jayhawks back home in Lawrence.
The loss ended Oklahoma's unbeaten streak at 37, fourth longest in college football history. It was Kansas' first win over the Sooners since 1964, Oklahoma's first loss at home since 1971 and Barry Switzer's first defeat as a head coach. "It ain't much fun," he said.
Last spring, realizing the inevitability of such an unhappy event, Switzer had said he hoped it would be "a good team that beats us, that we don't beat ourselves." Unfortunately, it was more the latter than the former. The Sooners committed turnovers in eight consecutive possessions. "We lost it ourselves," Switzer concluded. "We've played this way before against inferior teams, but we always got away with it. If you play a good team and make mistakes, you lose."
November 17, 1975
With a 5-3 record including a loss to Washington State, Kansas' chances seemed minimal before the game. The Jayhawks were hurting, and the Sooners were hoping to embarrass Moore. Last December, just after he moved his belongings from Bear Bryant's staff quarters to the head coach's office at Kansas, Moore had been quoted as saying that the Alabama wishbone was the best in the country.
So Oklahoma came out testy, but after the Jayhawks had held the Sooners to just a field goal in their first three possessions, Kansas Strong Safety Kurt Knoff began entertaining the heretical notion that "we might win."
The Oklahoma three-pointer—a 52-yard kick by Tony DiRienzo—was the game's first score. DiRienzo had shorter opportunities on the next two possessions, but one was blocked and the other, a 37-yarder, was wide to the left.
Through most of the first half, meanwhile, Kansas gains had been modest. But strange things began to happen when Eddie Lewis broke through to block a punt, which Mark Boyer recovered at the Sooner seven. Three plays later Quarterback Nolan Cromwell, the Big Eight's leading rusher, scored from the five, escaping several defenders on the way. Kansas suddenly was ahead 7-3—and Oklahoma's troubles had only begun.
On the Sooners' second play in the second half, a bad pitchout gave Kansas the ball and set up a 32-yard field goal by Bob Swift. That made it 10-3. Next possession, the Sooners ran twice and lost the ball again, at the OU 40. Here the Jayhawks got tricky. Facing a fourth and one at the 21, Moore passed up a field-goal attempt and sent Halfback Laverne Smith around right end. Smith turned the corner, juked Zac Henderson and went all the way for a touchdown. Now it was 16-3. After two more Sooner fumbles and a goal-line interception, Oklahoma Assistant Coach Larry Lacewell realized "it was obvious we were going to lose." On the other side of Owen Field, Cromwell was ecstatic. "As we got going in the third quarter we realized we would win," he said later. "We weren't in awe of Oklahoma anymore."
Certainly, Halfback Smith wasn't. He swept to the right again in the fourth quarter, scoring from 18 yards out to complete a drive that began at the Sooner 32. Overall, Smith had 88 yards on 18 carries while Cromwell, who did not throw a pass, had 69 on 23.
Oklahoma still had a few more errors to go, but the game was over. Sooner backs fumbled so many times, four in all, that Kansas Linebacker Rick Kovatch said later the surest place to find the ball was "on the ground." The turnovers, of course, presented considerable problems for the Sooner defense. "They had to take their toll on our minds," Guard Dewey Selmon said, trying not to be too critical. "I mean, we're human."
Oklahoma's Horace Ivory gained 139 yards, but Joe Washington was held to an all-too-human 63. "We laid our ears back and started sticking them," said Kansas Tackle Mike Butler, who played very well despite an injured leg.
What does it all mean? "I don't know how it will affect the Big Eight," Moore said, "but it sure helped the University of Kansas."
And did not help the University of Oklahoma. The Sooners probably have lost the national championship, although they can salvage at least a tie for the Big Eight title and go to the Orange Bowl by defeating Missouri and Nebraska.
This won't be easy. Though it won its first eight games, Oklahoma looked vulnerable. Now, the deed having been done, the Sooners may be headed for still more trouble. But despite the defeat, last Saturday afternoon was not a total loss for Switzer. His 6-year-old daughter Kathy came up to him after the game and whispered very daughterly into his ear, "Even though you lost, Daddy, I still love you."