Tiny Vanderbilt was supposed to be one of those punching bags Oklahoma whips 68-0 with a mile or two of rushing yardage en route to a national championship. But 11 fumbles, a Sooner record, 104 yards in penalties and enough bad performances to rival The Gong Show almost kayoed Oklahoma.
Behind 15-0 in the second quarter, Oklahoma rallied to beat Vanderbilt 25-23. The result embarrassed the Sooners' Barry Switzer and infuriated Vandy's Fred Pancoast. "Mistakes, fumbles, bad execution, fumbles, mistakes," Switzer grumbled. "The worst exhibition of Oklahoma football I've ever seen." Pancoast directed his remarks to the officiating. "You understand I'm not criticizing the officials at this point," he said, "but if I see the things on film that I think I saw out there today, I'm going to do some complaining like you never heard before."
Bad calls or not, Vandy might have pulled off the upset but for two blocked field-goal attempts. The first, a 36-yarder by Greg Martin, was blocked by Cornerback Bud Hebert. Defensive End Barry Burget picked up the loose ball and took off on a 64-yard touchdown run to give Oklahoma a 25-15 lead. In the closing 1:18 Vandy narrowed the deficit to two points and successfully executed an on-side kick, but Martin's 53-yard try on the game's final play was blocked by End Reggie Mathis.
September 18, 1977
Oklahoma's offense, which lost fumbles on its first four possessions, sputtered to 11 points under the directon of Dean Blevins before Switzer, with first-string Quarterback Thomas Lott ineffective because of an ailing leg, called upon freshman Jay Jimerson in the fourth quarter.
The son of OU's assistant athletic director, Jimerson directed the Sooners on their first error-free march, capping a 55-yard drive with a 20-yard touchdown run that gave Oklahoma the lead for the first time.
Performance ran truer to form in Columbia, Mo., where USC, the nation's fourth-ranked team, socked it to Missouri, 27-10, to extend its winning streak to 12 games. Even though Quarterback Pete Woods was lost to a knee injury in the second quarter, the Tigers gave USC a tough time. With six minutes to go, Missouri was on the USC nine-yard line, trailing by 10 but threatening to cut the deficit to three points. At that juncture, freshman Quarterback Phil Bradley, Woods' 18-year-old understudy, fumbled a center snap. USC recovered and used all the remaining time in a 90-yard march to its last touchdown.
Quarterback Rob Hertel, who scored it on a 10-yard run with 17 seconds left, passed for two other touchdowns to make up for three lost fumbles. Tailback Charles White was the Trojans' top ballcarrier with 155 yards on 35 carries and a touchdown.
Terry Miller ran for 189 yards in 25 carries and scored on runs of 16 and 13 yards as Oklahoma State dumped Tulsa 34-17. Linebacker John Corker, with three goal-line tackles, was the Cowboys' stopper on defense.
Second-ranked Michigan clobbered Illinois 37-9 to ruin the coaching debut of Gary Moeller, the Wolverines' defensive coordinator last season. Bo Schembechler's former aide got an early break when Harlan Huckleby fumbled to set up an Illini field goal and a short-lived lead. Huckleby atoned by rushing for 128 yards and two touchdowns, Russell Davis ran for 98 yards and a touchdown and Rick Leach threw two scoring passes.
Woody Hayes spent much of the spring and summer talking about his new speed backfield or two-tailback attack, and for a while against Miami it seemed that the Buckeyes' offense might indeed be more exciting than in the past. But after Tailback/Fullback Jeff Logan and his replacement, sophomore Ricky Johnson, were sidelined with injuries, Ohio State reverted to the cloud-of-dust fullback stuff that sends Hayes into ecstasy and fans into a coma. The Buckeyes parlayed tough defense with Ron Springs' 21-yard touchdown run for a 10-0 victory.
At East Lansing, Michigan State weathered an aerial blitz from Purdue's 18-year-old freshman quarterback, Mark Herrmann, for a 19-14 win. Herrmann, 6'5" and 180 pounds, completed 20 of 32 passes for both Purdue touchdowns and 282 yards. The Spartans intercepted Purdue four times, however, and got the same number of field goals from Hans Nielsen, a Danish import who has kicked 31 three-pointers for MSU.
In other Big Ten openers, Iowa blanked Northwestern 24-0 and Wisconsin beat Indiana 30-14. Minnesota eked out a 10-7 triumph over Western Michigan. In Boulder, Colorado withstood a late rally by Stanford for a 27-21 victory.
1. MICHIGAN (1-0)
2. OKLAHOMA (1-0)
3. OHIO STATE (1-0)
A record Neyland Stadium crowd of 84,421 came to Johnny Majors' coaching debut in Knoxville Saturday night. Unfortunately for most of them, so did California, which ruined the party with a 27-17 conquest of Tennessee. Errors of the sort Majors rarely experienced last season at Pittsburgh (four lost fumbles, an interception) plagued his alma mater and led to 10 of the 17 points Cal scored in the third quarter. In contrast, the Golden Bears didn't fumble and were intercepted but once.
Cal Quarterback Charlie Young, who ran for two touchdowns and passed for another, broke a 10-10 tie in the third period with a 58-yard touchdown pass to Flanker Floyd Eddings. Young's Volunteer counterpart, sophomore Jimmy Streater, scored on an 80-yard run and gained 141 yards on 12 carries before sitting out most of the second half because of dizziness.
Ninth-ranked Maryland was an 11-point favorite to beat Clemson, but long odds get short shrift in the Tigers' Memorial Stadium, also known as "Death Valley." Indeed, the Terps escaped with a 21-14 victory after substitute Quarterback Larry Dick, replacing hobbled starter Mark Manges in the third quarter, tossed two touchdown passes to overcome a 14-7 deficit.
Bear Bryant says he has quit counting birthdays, but Alabama gave him a gratifying 64th birthday present in Birmingham when the Crimson Tide ended a two-year opening-game slump by routing Mississippi 34-13. Quarterback Jeff Rutledge, who passed for 215 yards and ran for a touchdown, helped avenge last season's 10-7 loss to the Rebels.
South Carolina had played 84 games without shutting out an opponent before Saturday night's 17-0 triumph over Georgia Tech, which paid dearly for five turnovers.
In other games, Kentucky edged North Carolina 10-7, Georgia beat Oregon 27-16, East Carolina nipped Duke 17-16, Auburn stung Arizona 21-10 and Grambling routed Alcorn State 42-17.
1. ALABAMA (1-0)
2. GEORGIA (1-0)
3. MARYLAND (1-0)
Darrell Royal is gone and Texas just isn't the same. New Coach Fred Akers has replaced the wishbone with the veer and, wonder of wonders, has his Longhorns throwing the ball.
In overwhelming Boston College 44-0, Texas scored three touchdowns on passes of the sort Royal consistently avoided during his 20 years as the Longhorns' coach. The most spectacular was an 88-yard heave from Jon Aune, a second-string sophomore quarterback who completed six of seven for 168 yards, to End Alfred Jackson. The play came with less than two minutes gone in the fourth quarter and shattered the school record of 80 yards set by Bobby Layne 31 years ago.
Earlier, starting Quarterback Mark McBath connected on a 13-yarder to Ronnie Miksch for Texas' first touchdown and a 29-yard scoring pass to Johnny (Lam) Jones.
Texas fans also got their kicks from Russ Erxleben, who led the nation in punting last season, and from the Texas defense. Erxleben tied his school record with a 57-yard field goal and booted others from 45 and 38 yards. The defense held BC, which upset Texas 14-13 last year, to a total of 104 yards.
A year ago in Lubbock, Texas Tech Quarterback Rodney Allison ran 77 yards for a touchdown the first time he carried the ball against Baylor. Last Saturday at Waco, where the temperature on the field was 112°, Allison waited until his second carry to sprint 54 yards for the score that sent the Red Raiders on their way to a 17-7 victory.
Baylor tied the score at 7-7 on an 80-yard run by Fullback Greg Hawthorne before Allison directed a 75-yard drive that he climaxed with a four-yard touchdown pass to Halfback Jimmy Williams.
Texas A&M unleashed the double punishment of its aggressive defense and 270-pound Fullback George Woodard in a 28-14 conquest of Kansas. The Aggies recovered two Jayhawk fumbles, which were followed by two of Woodard's three touchdown runs.
In other games SMU handed TCU its 12th consecutive loss, 45-21; Texas A&I won its 40th straight by beating Livingston State 21-13; Rice ripped Idaho 31-10; and Lou Holt?, late of the New York Jets, guided Arkansas to a 53-10 rout of New Mexico State.
1. TEXAS TECH (1-0)
2. TEXAS (1-0)
3. TEXAS A&M (1-0)
Frank Burns of Rutgers, a school with large athletic ambitions, labeled the Colgate game "must win" after his Scarlet Knights were routed by Penn State in an early season opener. But Colgate, whose incentive had smoldered since last Thanksgiving, made the Knights look like turkeys in a 23-0 rout.
Colgate's revenge motive stemmed from last season's 17-9 loss to the Knights, whose 18-game win streak remained intact with the help of an official's error, later admitted.
Rutgers got no assistance this time and its gaffes were its own. Colgate's defense forced four fumbles and recovered three in handing the Knights their first shutout in 35 games.
"We're good but not great," West Virginia Coach Frank Cignetti said of his Mountaineers. Spider fans may not agree. The Mountaineers savaged the University of Richmond 36-0, with 406 yards total offense. Senior Quarterback Dan Kendra passed for two touchdowns and 149 yards and scored himself on a four-yard keeper.
Temple Coach Wayne Hardin also was hoping for better after a rash of bonehead plays led to a 24-20 defeat by Southern Illinois. Leading 20-15 in the first minute of the final quarter, Temple gave up a touchdown on a pass interception and a safety on the ensuing kickoff when Zachary Dixon, who earlier raced 90 yards on a scoring kickoff return, caught the ball at the two and downed it in the end zone.
Temple also lost three of four fumbles and incurred a delay-of-game penalty when Duke Joyner tried to run back a punt after signaling for a fair catch. And the Owls' NCAA record of 106 consecutive extra-point kicks ended when a 15-yard pushing penalty forced Wes Sornisky to attempt his PAT 25 yards from the crossbar.
Army opened its 88th football season by hammering Massachusetts 34-10 for its 500th victory as Quarterback Leamon Hall threw five touchdown passes.
In other games, Navy sank Citadel 21-2, Eastern Kentucky beat Delaware 24-7 and New Hampshire stunned Holy Cross 27-14.
1. PENN STATE (1-0)
2. ARMY (1-0)
3. NEW HAMPSHIRE (1-0)
Those who claim the wishbone offense is not as effective as it used to be will get an argument out of Seattle, which is where Mississippi State unleashed its version of the attack at, over and around Washington for a 27-18 victory.
Bulldog Quarterback Bruce Threadgill, a wishbone magician, twice caught the Huskies looking for Fullback Dennis Johnson coming through the line and zonked them with touchdown passes. He connected with Halfback Len Copeland on a 44-yarder and with Johnson, after a fake, for an 81-yard score.
Washington took an early 6-0 lead and added four field goals by Steve Robbins, but the Bulldogs' ball control kept the game out of the Huskies' reach.
A literally pointless contest in Laramie proved to be out of reach of both Air Force and Wyoming, who played to a scoreless tie. Air Force had the best shot at winning, but Mark Noonan's 37-yard field-goal attempt with four seconds left was short after a high snap from center.
In a Big Sky Conference opener at Pocatello, Idaho, Northern Arizona beat Idaho State 28-7. The Lumberjacks scored three touchdowns in less than three minutes late in the fourth quarter to obliterate a 7-6 deficit.
Elsewhere, Oregon State defeated Syracuse 24-14, Brigham Young blasted Kansas State 39-0, Utah State beat San Jose State 22-10 and Montana State beat North Dakota 21-7.
1. USC (1-0)
2. CALIFORNIA (1-0)
3. BYU (1-0)
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
OFFENSE: Army Quarterback Leamon Hall passed for 310 yards and five touchdowns as the Cadets beat Massachusetts 34-10. Hall broke Army's single-game record for touchdown passes as his career record reached 28.
DEFENSE: Linebacker John Corker, a 6'6", 228-pound sophomore, was unblockable in Oklahoma State's 34-17 conquest of Tulsa. His 20 tackles—seven unassisted—included three goal-line stops when the score was close.