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.
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.