Raw ability alone does not win national championships. That takes the kind of poise and class Oklahoma showed in a 28-14 victory over Nebraska.
The Cornhuskers were leading 14-7 in the third period when they recovered a fumble at the OU 15. "We needed to get something there," Nebraska Coach Tom Osborne would say later. The Wishbone isn't a come-from-behind offense." Oklahoma stopped the Huskers cold, however, and tied the game later in the period. Then, in the fourth quarter Elvis Peacock and Steve Davis scored on short runs which, with the defense's three pass interceptions, clinched the Big Eight title and extended the Sooners' unbeaten streak to 28 games.
" Nebraska is the best team we've played in that stretch," said Coach Barry Switzer, "but this was the best game our offense has ever had. No one can expect to run for almost 500 yards against Nebraska." It was 482 to be exact, including 147 by Fullback Jim Littrell, 142 by Joe Washington and 112 by Quarterback Steve Davis.
For the Cornhuskers the loss was more painful than most. "I've never seen so much emotion for a game here," said Defensive Coordinator Monte Kiffin.
In other Big Eight games, Missouri ripped Kansas 27-3, Kansas State upset Colorado 33-19 and Oklahoma State held on to defeat Iowa State 14-12. Missouri was led by Tony Galbreath, who scored two touchdowns, passed for another and gained 137 yards in 34 carries. Thus the Tigers finish with a 7-4 record, but no bowl invitation. With its win, Kansas State ended a seven-game losing streak and picked up its first conference victory. Oklahoma State converted two fumbles into touchdown drives and overcame four field goals by the Cyclones' Tom Goedjen. However, the Big Eight's career record holder missed a 35-yarder that would have won the game in the final period.
Michigan State Coach Denny Stolz was saying, "I told you so," after the Spartans won their fifth straight and concluded a 7-3-1 season by walloping Iowa 60-21. "I said at the start of the year we'd be improved and exciting. I guess we took care of that pretty well. We're not bad on offense, are we?" Statistics provide the best answer to that question: eight touchdowns and 660 total yards. Quarterback Charlie Baggett scored three TDs, passed for two more and set a school single-season total-offense record with 1,712 yards. "A great record smashed to smithereens," joked Assistant Coach Jimmy Raye, who set the old mark in 1966. If the line sounds familiar it is only because Woody Hayes said the same thing after Ohio State lost to Michigan State three weeks ago.
Other standouts for the Spartans included Claude Geiger, who scored twice and gained 127 yards in his first college game, and Fullback Levi Jackson, who ran for 156 yards.
After Minnesota's Rick Upchurch returned the opening kickoff 100 yards, Wisconsin turned Bill Marek loose in a 49-14 victory. In driving rain the 5'8", 188-pound tailback splashed to a school-record five TDs (a sixth was called back) to become Big Ten scoring champion. He also tied John Cappelletti's national mark of three consecutive games with more than 200 yards and Red Grange's Big Ten standard of 30 points in a single game. The Gophers made life easier for Wisconsin by losing fumbles at the winner's eight-, three-and 15-yard lines.
Illinois got its first winning season in nine years by whipping Northwestern 28-14 as Jim Phillips scored twice. Mark Vitali passed Purdue to an easy 38-17 victory over Indiana. Vitali fired three touchdown passes, two of them for 46 and 34 yards to Olympic sprinter Larry Burton.