The Oklahoma dressing room was strangely subdued after the second-ranked Sooners came in with a 37-0 win over Missouri following Ohio State's loss to Michigan State (page 28). No ranting, no raving, no index fingers pointed upward in the universal sign of No. 1. "Logically, we will be voted first," said Coach Barry Switzer, "but it presents a challenge to hold it."
Against Missouri the Sooners seemed ready for any challenge as they notched their third shutout of the year and 17th consecutive victory. Grant Burget carried only six times, but he scored two touchdowns. Steve Davis attempted five passes, and one of them produced another TD. The leading ground-gainers were Fullback Jim Littrell, with 155 yards and Joe Washington with 143.
The biggest stumbling block between Oklahoma and an undefeated season seems to be Nebraska, which hosts the Sooners on Nov. 23. The Cornhuskers started slowly against Iowa State but still managed a rain-soaked 23-13 victory. "We tried to pull the guards and tackles in the first half," explained Quarterback David Humm, "but it just wouldn't work on a slick field. In the second half we took it right at them and it worked."
Nebraska's lead was 23-0 in the third quarter when Coach Tom Osborne started running in the substitutes. But in the fourth period an Iowa State touchdown and a recovered fumble brought the regulars back in. "I know their crowd booed," Osborne said, "but our object is to win."
Kansas built a 13-0 lead against Colorado, but just before halftime Quarterback Scott McMichael suffered a concussion. He did not play in the second half, and neither did his teammates, really, as the Buffaloes stampeded to a 17-16 victory. Kansas' offensive problems without McMichael were obvious in the fourth quarter, following a fumble recovery at the Colorado 14. All the Jayhawks could manage was a 23-yard field goal, which made the score 16-7. Then Melvin Johnson returned the ensuing kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown.
Colorado marched to victory following a Kansas fumble at its 40. Terry Kunz, who had scored the Buffaloes' first touchdown, picked up 22 yards in a drive to the seven with 5:03 remaining. That set up a 24-yard field goal by Tom MacKenzie.
Oklahoma State turned Kansas State errors into a 29-5 victory. One blocked punt set up a touchdown and another was converted into a safety. The crushing blow was Bob Shephard's 83-yard touchdown return of an intercepted pass.
Michigan defeated Illinois 14-6 to assume Big Ten leadership, but the Wolverines were not too impressive in the process. Both their touchdowns came after long drives in the first 18 minutes, Gordon Bell going over from the nine and Dennis Franklin from the one.
Illinois' touchdown came with 2:10 left in the game on a 45-yard punt return by Mike Gow. The Illini then recovered an onside kick and moved to the 16-yard line before running out of downs. "When you are on the road and let the home team off the hook," said the Wolverines' Bo Schembechler, "this is what happens. We're happy to get out of here with a win."
The solemn quiet in the Illinois dressing room after the game had nothing to do with the narrow loss. It concerned the death of Defensive End Greg Williams, who was shot by party-crashers who raided his fraternity house at 2:20 a.m. the morning of the game. Williams was not staying with the team because an ankle injury had put him out of action. "I can't remember a game in all of my years of coaching that meant less when it was over," said Bob Blackman afterward.