If they had appeared on The Gong Show, several Big Eight teams might well have been gonged into submission. As it was, Missouri pulled a disappearing act and vanished from the Top 20, philanthropic Iowa State repeatedly gave the ball away, and Kansas State simply did not have the troops to spring an upset.
Missouri had a bid to the Sun Bowl in its hip pocket. All the Tigers had to do was beat Kansas, one of the few teams in the Big Eight not tied for first place. But the Tigers, who numbered Southern Cal, Ohio State and Nebraska among their victims, had their pocket picked. Ever since Quarterback Nolan Cromwell was injured halfway through the season, Kansas has had difficulty scoring. Missouri changed all that, playing as if it would be embarrassed to score, while Jayhawk sophomore Quarterback Mark Vicendese ran 23 times for 111 yards and Halfback Laverne Smith zipped and darted for 150 in 20 carries. That left Smith with a career total of 3,192 yards rushing, the third highest in Big Eight history. Mike Butler, a 6'5", 265-pound defensive tackle, was mainly responsible for containing the Missouri offense. Offense? Missouri was as bottled up as 12-year-old whisky during the first three periods, after which the Tigers trailed 34-0. When this 85th game in the oldest series west of the Mississippi was over, the Jayhawks had a 41-14 win.
Oklahoma State earned a share of its first Big Eight title by stopping Iowa State 42-21. Five Cyclone turnovers made it easy for the Cowboys, who converted three of them into touchdowns. Quarterback Charlie Weatherbie came off the bench after Harold Bailey was hurt in the opening period, and on his first play skirted right end for seven yards and a touchdown. Weatherbie later passed for another TD and ran for a third. Halfback Terry Miller had another big day, galloping for 199 yards in 25 tries, including touchdown runs of 33 and 42 yards. The latter came on a fake punt, Shortback Bruce Blankenship taking the snap and then handing the ball between his legs to Miller, who made it to the end zone untouched. Tailback Dexter Green gained 154 yards for the Cyclones. Although a loser, Coach Earle Bruce still had things to smile about: a surprising 8-3 season and a three-year extension on his contract.
Colorado also earned a share of the league championship, its first since 1961, by outlasting Kansas State 35-28. On paper, the game should have been a breeze for the Buffaloes, as State had lost nine of 10 games. But Colorado knew enough to be wary, recalling its 17-14 loss to the Wildcats in 1973 and a 33-19 shocker in 1974. There were three lead changes and two ties before the Buffaloes sealed the victory when, with 49 seconds left, Safety Mike L. Davis intercepted a pass deep in Colorado territory. Tailback Tony Reed romped for 140 yards in 36 carries as the Buffaloes gained 217 yards on the ground. State junior Linebacker Gary Spani did his best to halt the Buffaloes, taking part in 24 tackles. An Orange Bowl berth will be settled by this week's Oklahoma-Nebraska game. If Nebraska wins, it will take on Ohio State in Miami; if the Cornhuskers lose, Colorado will go to the Orange Bowl. But if Nebraska does lose, it can still play in the Bluebonnet Bowl. Oklahoma will meet Wyoming in the Fiesta Bowl.
After stopping Miami 40-27, Notre Dame accepted a Gator Bowl offer. The Irish zipped to a 30-0 lead as Rusty Lisch, filling in for injured Quarterback Rick Slager, ran for two touchdowns and passed for another. But the Hurricanes roared right back with the help of a 93-yard scoring jaunt by reserve Wing-back Tim Morgan on a kickoff return. Miami wound up with minus six yards on the ground, but gained 246 through the air. Halfback Al Hunter ran for 128 yards to break Notre Dame's alltime season rushing mark, his 943 yards surpassing the 927 by Marchy Schwartz in 1930, Knute Rockne's last year as coach.
While Michigan slugged Ohio State, Indiana stunned Purdue 20-14 in another traditional Big Ten game. Mike Harkrader, a 5'7", 185-pound Hoosier tailback, became the fourth freshman in NCAA history to gain 1,000 yards rushing. But shortly after passing that milepost he was injured. Replacing him was Darrick Burnett, who broke loose on a 14-yard scoring run that made Indiana a winner. With fourth and one on the Michigan State 40, Iowa went into punt formation—and then pulled off virtually a duplicate of Oklahoma State's trickery. The ball was snapped to Shortman Tom Grine, who slipped it between the legs of Fullback Jon Lazar. While most of the Spartans chased Grine to the right, Lazar tucked the ball on his hip and sprinted left down the sideline for a touchdown as the Hawkeyes breezed 30-17. Fullback Lawrence Canada broke loose for 153 yards, Tailback Ira Matthews for 99 and Vince Lamia kicked four field goals as Wisconsin topped Minnesota 26-17. Three touchdown passes by Kurt Steger propelled Illinois to a 48-6 conquest of Northwestern.
Steve Schultz kicked four field goals, one from 47 yards out, as Cincinnati bopped Vanderbilt 33-7.
Ball State, in its second season in the league, locked up the Mid-American title by drubbing Eastern Michigan 52-3. Quarterback Art Yaroch threw three touchdown passes, two of them to Flanker Mike Andress, and Tailback Earl Taylor scored three touchdowns. Kent State stopped Toledo 35-19. Tailback Jerome Persell accounted for 26 points and 162 yards as Western Michigan toppled Central Michigan 42-14. Miami of Ohio beat Dayton 28-8 and Ohio University battered Northern Illinois 63-15.
One of the best comebacks of the season was pulled off by Southern Illinois, which was 1-9-1 a year ago. Tailback Andre Herrera scored four touchdowns and raised his season's rushing yardage to 1,588 with a 158-yard effort as the Salukis whipped Marshall 44-16. That gave SIU a 7-4 record.