Close games were common for Oklahoma throughout the course of the 1975 season.
The closest one that it played all season however, came on this day 45 years ago. Missouri was in the midst of completing an unthinkable comeback against the Sooners, but Joe Washington saved the day late.
Missouri had scored 27 unanswered points, but Washington’s late touchdown and 2-point conversion was the difference as Oklahoma escaped, 28-27.
Setting the Stage
Oklahoma was coming off its only loss of the season at it made arrived in Columbia on Nov. 15, 1975. The Sooners had started 8-0 before being stunned at home by Kansas, 23-3. Oklahoma had fallen from No. 1 to No. 6.
Missouri was 6-3 and ranked No. 18. The Tigers were 2-3 against ranked teams, but looked to be evening their record with a huge comeback.
Washington Saves the Day
What was once a 20-0 lead for Oklahoma had completely evaporated as time ticked away at Faurot Field. Missouri had scored 27 straight points, including 20 in the fourth quarter and led 27-20 with less than five minutes remaining.
The Tigers had just scored to extend the lead to seven, but a missed extra point left the door open for Oklahoma. The Sooners faced 4th-and-1 as time ticked away. Head coach Barry Switzer saw no choice, but to keep the offense on the field.
Washington had been slowed to the outside for most of the second half, but on the pivotal play, made a cut toward the middle. Missouri defenders were unable to corral Washington, who went 71 yards for the score. With 4:27 to play, Switzer kept the offense on the field.
On the 2-point try, Washington went right. The senior running back and all-team leading rusher for Oklahoma was forced to leap, but managed to hurdle a defender and touch the goal line to give Oklahoma a 28-27 lead.
Missouri’s offense wasn’t done. The Tigers reached the red zone thanks to a 45-yard screen pass to Tony Galbreath, but consecutive plays for losses forced kicker Tim Gibbons to try a 40-yard field goal. After missing the extra point on his previous kick, Gibbons’ try was well short.
Oklahoma was unable to run out the clock and Gibbons would get one more shot — this one from 54 yards away. It wasn’t close as Oklahoma survived.
Oklahoma scored the game’s first 20 points. Elvis Peacock scored from 31 yards out to give the Sooners a 6-0 lead.
Washington and quarterback Steve Davis added rushing touchdowns before the first half was over. The Tigers broke up the shutout early in the third quarter when Galbreath scored from three yards out following a long pass play.
After Curtis Brown’s 23-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter made it 20-14, Missouri took its first lead on Galbreath’s second touchdown. Brown was on his way to an end zone for a 41-yard touchdown later in the half, but fumbled into the end zone. Fortunately for Brown, Tigers’ receiver Randy Grossart fell on it for the touchdown. Gibbons’ missed PAT with less than six minutes remaining served as the first of three critical misses.
The thrilling win for the Sooners would begin a 3-game winning streak to end the season. After beating Nebraska to clinch the Big 8 a week later, the Sooners ascended to No. 3 in the polls. Oklahoma claimed the national championship by beating No. 5 Michigan in the Orange Bowl and having No. 1 Ohio State and No. 2 Texas A&M suffer losses to close the year.
As for Missouri, it would cap the year by losing to Kansas. The Tigers finished just 6-5.
The loss to the Sooners would be the sixth straight. That streak would reach 11 before the Tigers finally broke through in 1981 with a 19-14 win. Of those 11 straight losses, four were decided by seven points or less. Arguably the most heartbreaking took place on this day 45 years ago.