When the going gets tough, the tough get, well, let's admit it, desperate. Having exhausted almost all its X's and O's and a lot of its muscle, Oklahoma still trailed 17-13 with 3:30 left in its Big Eight finale at Nebraska. So, with a 30-mph wind at their back and the ball on their own 15-yard line, the Sooners abandoned the running game they take so much pride in and resorted to a couple of sandlot plays. Passes is what they were. Oklahoma had thrown only two of them in its previous two games and had not completed a pass in nearly a month.
The razzle-dazzle began when sophomore reserve Halfback Woodie Shepard took a pitchout and heaved the first pass of his college career far downfield to Split End Steve Rhodes for a 47-yard gain. With a third-and-20 at the Cornhuskers' 34-yard line and 44 seconds remaining, the Sooners again went to the air, substitute Quarterback Dean Blevins winging a 10-yarder to Rhodes. That, though, was not the end of the play, for Rhodes lateraled the ball to Halfback Elvis Peacock, who ran it 22 yards downfield. That put the ball on the Nebraska two-yard stripe. Six seconds later Peacock, who had earlier scored on runs of one and 50 yards, dashed across for the decisive touchdown. After the 20-17 win, Rhodes said of his two catches, "We put those plays in two weeks ago and I didn't think we'd ever use them. When the plays were called it just made my heart jump out of my shirt." By defeating Nebraska for the fifth straight year, the Sooners knocked the Huskers out of an Orange Bowl berth and into the Astro-Bluebonnet Bowl, where they will face Texas Tech. Oklahoma, which wound up in a three-way tie with Oklahoma State and Colorado for the Big Eight title, will meet Wyoming in the Fiesta Bowl. The Cowboys will go to the Tangerine Bowl, where they will face Brigham Young. Representing the Big Eight Conference in the Orange Bowl against Ohio State will be Colorado, which had wins over Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.
"It was an emotional scene," said Cincinnati Coach Tony Mason who, after being hospitalized four days with a stomach infection, showed up for a team meeting before his squad took on Louisville. "When the players saw me, they applauded and grabbed me." Throughout the first half, Mason shakily walked the sidelines. Then, with his Bearcats holding a solid 17-6 halftime advantage, he spent the rest of the game in the locker room, resting and listening to the play-by-play on radio. Senior Quarterback Henry Miller ran for one touchdown and teamed up with Split End Harold Lee on a 54-yard pass play that was good for another six points. Cincinnati won 20-6 to finish the season with a 9-2 record.
Another senior who concluded his collegiate career with a flourish was Fullback Art Best of Kent State. Best carried the ball 18 times for 168 yards and had touchdown runs of 14, 32,45 and 44 yards as the Golden Flashes drubbed Northern Illinois 42-0 in a MidAmerican game. During his first three seasons, Best did his running for Notre Dame, using his 9.7 speed and 200 pounds to average 5.9 yards a carry. Best became known as a big-play man for the Irish but also earned a reputation as a blithe spirit and, after having his share of troubles, was asked to leave Notre Dame in the summer of 1975. It was not until this fall that Best suited up again, after sitting out last year at Kent State.
Akron advanced to the Division II championship with a 27-6 victory over Nevada-Las Vegas. St. John's of Minnesota took a Division III playoff by demolishing Buena Vista 61-0.
1. MICHIGAN (10-1)
2. OHIO ST. (8-2-1)
3. OKLA. (8-2-1)
Pittsburgh (page 36) and Rutgers remained unbeaten, Navy and Boston College powered their way to victories in traditional season-ending contests and Northern Michigan prevailed by resorting to an effective aerial attack and a neat bit of deception.
Twenty-one years after Halfback Joe Gattuso was named the most valuable player of the 1955 Sugar Bowl, his son Joe earned a similar honor in this year's Army-Navy game. Young Joe, a junior tailback, scored three touchdowns and ran for 128 yards in 29 carries as the Midshipmen won 38-10. Directing the Middies, who piled up 428 yards, was sophomore Quarterback Bob Leszczynski, who hit on 10 of 14 passes for 145 yards and two touchdowns. Army's Leamon Hall completed only 13 of 31, and threw three interceptions. By winning, Navy cut Army's edge in the series to 36-35, with six games having ended in ties.