Case of the vanishing record; basketball rough stuff; quarterback options

By , Sports writer of The Christian Science Monitor

When is a record not a record? One answer, Freeman McNeil of the New York Jets learned disappointingly, is when game statistics are in error. On Sunday, McNeil had one of those afternoons running backs dream about. He darted and dodged, slivered and slashed, and generally left Cincinnati players in his wake. As the yardage piled up, so did the score, in New York's favor.

With the Jets en route to a 44-17 victory, Coach Walt Michaels was going to rest this season's NFL rushing champ. What Michaels didn't know was that McNeil had 206 yards, an effort that tied a playoff record set by San Diego's Keith Lincoln in 1963.

When team publicists informed Michaels of the situation, he put Freeman back in for one play, which netted five yards. That gave him 211 and a place in history - for a day.

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By Monday, however, an error was discovered in the game summary. At the end of the first half, a nine-yard gain by the Jets' Bruce Harper had been mistakenly credited to McNeil (Harper wears jersey No. 42, McNeil No. 24). Making the correction, of course, nullified the record. Crash-bang basketball

Ralph Smapson and Pat Ewing, the nation's premier big men, quite literally had it rough last weekend. Sampson, Virginia's 7 ft. 4 in. center, complained of being roughed up by Maryland and was assessed two techinical fouls for his outbursts to officials. Meanwhile, Georgetown's Ewing got into two fights with St. John's guard Kevin Williams.

After Georgetown's defeat, Hoya Coach John Thompson said he would encourage his sophomore center to turn pro if college officials permitted defenders to push, hold, and "maul the man in the middle." There may be something to the double standard argument. But any player who plants himself in the pivot, especially one with a considerable height advantage, can expect to face strong counterclaims on his territory. When play turns nasty. the game's Goliaths shouldn't forget that in-your-face dunks perpetrated earlier in the game may have helped to ignite the emotional powderkeg. Option quarterbacks

Though Stanford's John Elway and Penn State's Todd Blackledge have never been option quarterbacks, they may deserve the label now. Both are faced with some serious career options.

The question is not whether to pitch-out or run, but where to head next season. For Elway the post-graduate options include major league baseball as well as pro football. For Blackledge it's a matter of staying in school or turning pro.

Elway spent last summer playing minor league baseball with the New York Yankees' Elmira (N.Y.) farm club. At Stanford, however, he was a superlative passer who, in the opinion of some scouts, is the best quarterback to come out of college since Joe Namath.

It's a cinch Elway will be the first player selected in the National Football League draft. Baltimore owns the first pick, but may be tempted to trade it. If John wants to stay on the West Coast, he can always consider playing for the Oakland Invaders, who chose him in the United States Football League's recent territorial draft.

Blackledge's situation is rather unique. Though an honor student who will graduate this spring, he still retains a year of collegiate eligibility as a result of sitting out his freshman season with an injury. If he decides to suit up again next fall, it would be as a grad student.

There wouldn't seem to be great incentive for doing so. Having just led Penn State to the national championship, he could command a spectacular contract from the pros. Todd hasn't made any decisions yet, and perhaps won't until after the NFL draft. But whenever he sits down to make his future plans, it will be with the help of his father, Ron, an assistant coach with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

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