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Neither does Hayes rip out the headphones any more when George Chaump, his offensive coordinator, calls a pass from the press box, because even Woody thinks Gerald can throw. There is still no power word in Hayes' book for "often," however, and while a dozen passes were called, only six were actually launched by Gerald and his backup, Greg Castignola. The first four (by Gerald) were incomplete; the last two, by Castignola, were caught, one for a touchdown. There is no telling how much more success (if you want to call it that) Ohio State would have had throwing had it dared to be so radical. Oklahoma, under Lacewell, plays a stunting gambling style of defense, and Lacewell virtually conceded the Buckeyes the forward pass. "If Ohio State wants to pass, let them," he said. "Maybe they'll throw it in the ground."
One still got the impression the ball was flying around all afternoon. It was. Only it wasn't being passed. Mainly it was being fumbled by Oklahoma. "We need a new category for statistics," says Lacewell. "Pitchouts attempted and pitchouts completed."
Even Switzer jokes about it because, though they don't always hold on to the ball, the Sooners have, in Quarterback Thomas Lott and Running Backs Billy Sims, Elvis Peacock and Kenny King, perhaps the fastest backfield that ever lined up. "But 24 fumbles in three games, and we lose 17 of 'em," says Switzer. "And still we're 3-0. It's unbelievable."
What makes it even more astonishing is that Lacewell's—not to say Oklahoma's—pride and joy, the Sooner defense, lost its blood scent. Or, more accurately, its bloodlines. Suddenly last season Lacewell had to learn to live without the Selmons and the Shoates and the Jimbo Elrods and the other All-Americas of past championship teams. The Sooner defense went limp. In a game with Colorado, Switzer got on the headphones to Lacewell. "He'd never called me before," Lacewell recalls. "He always left me alone. But Colorado was marching up and down the field. He said, 'Lacewell, can't we do something to slow them down?' I said, 'No.' He said, 'Oh.' "
Things haven't gotten much better this season. Before the game in Columbus, Lacewell speculated that Ohio State coaches seeing films of Oklahoma's first two games with Vanderbilt (a 23-point yield) and Utah (24) would have been hard put to find an area they wouldn't want to attack.
Having established Oklahoma as a team that a) fumbles, b) passes poorly and c) plays defense with a kind of creeping neurosis, but d) wins, one is required to add to the assessment the effect that Switzer's personality has had on the team. After successive big-score losses to Oklahoma State and Colorado last year, Lacewell was stunned to hear Switzer tell the squad, "We got 'em right where we want 'em." Which proved to be the case. The Sooners whipped Kansas State, then Missouri and the following week they dumped Nebraska 20-17.
Against Ohio State, much as they did in beating Nebraska with last-minute thunderbolts in 1976, the Sooners experienced a transformation. Trailing 28-20 with six minutes-plus to play, when fumbling could no longer be tolerated, Oklahoma did not fumble. When crucial passing was called for, the Sooners passed adeptly. And when the defense positively had no choice, it rose up.
The game in Columbus was played virtually on one end—the downwind end—of the field. Going up to his press-box seat beforehand, Ohio State's Chaump watched the 20-mph gusts whip trash upfield from the south end zone. "I'd rather it rain," he said soberly.
What Chaump meant was that Ohio State no longer has the strong kicking game that becomes essential in bad weather. Oklahoma, on the other hand, had Von Foot, who also punts. Oklahoma won the toss and chose to kick off with the wind. Von Foot put the ball out of the end zone. His first four kicks landed in the same general area. Ohio State never got to run one of them back.
The Buckeyes did not get beyond their 29-yard line in the first quarter, and by the time the teams changed goals Oklahoma, striking swiftly, had accumulated 17 points largely as a result of the spectacular, hurdling runs of Sims and Lott's counters to the strong side. For the next two periods Ohio State played with the wind at its back. Von Foot had scored the only points that were to be made in the south end zone early in the second quarter on a 33-yard field goal to make it 20-0. Then it was the Buckeyes' turn. An 80-yard drive and the deficit dropped to 20-7. A fumble recovery on the Oklahoma 19, and a Gerald option run inside right end, and it was 20-14.