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When Punts Rained From the Sky

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ONE of football's most unassailable records has been trotted out for college football's 125th anniversary season for all to gawk at. The NCAA News, the official publication of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, carried an entire story on the 1939 game that produced an amazing 77 punts - 39 by Texas Tech and 38 by Centenary of Louisiana.

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Steve Boda, now a retired associate director of NCAA statistics, discovered the record in 1987 while doing research. Incredulous at a brief wire-service report of the game, he dug up a play-by-play account to confirm the details.

The game was played during a downpour in Shreveport, La. Slippery conditions made it difficult to advance the ball either running or passing, so both teams began to resort to punting, including 67 times on first down, in hopes of recovering a fumble at the other end of the field.

Six of 14 fumbles were lost, but none of the turnovers led to a score. The game ended in a 0-0 tie, with Centenary owning a statistical edge with 31 yards of total offense compared with a one-yard loss for Texas Tech.

Boda says three factors in modern football guard against a repeat of the 1939 puntfest: 1) natural and artificial fields with better wet-weather footing; 2) a tackier, more streamlined football that is easier to handle; and 3) advances in footwear technology and glove materials.

LPGA Hall of Fame may be too exclusive

THE Ladies Professional Golf Association may have to revise its requirements for Hall of Fame membership: Too few players are getting in. Since 1980, only four - JoAnne Carner, Nancy Lopez, Pat Bradley, and Patty Sheehan - have earned the honor, which is based on a formula of 30 to 40 tournament victories, depending on how many major titles are included.

This worked when there were more dominant players like Kathy Whitworth and Sandra Haynie, but it may be too lofty given the tour's increased competitiveness. To date, after 31 stops on the 1994 tour, 21 players have tournament victories, and no player has more than three wins.

Three players are knocking for Hall of Fame entry: Betsy King, Amy Alcott, and Beth Daniel are just one win away.

The retirements of these players could mark the end of the line for golfers with Hall of Fame potential, given existing requirements. The next-closest candidate is Ayako Okamoto, with 17 LPGA wins.

The tour could lower the number of wins required for Hall of Fame qualification, but there may be more appealing options. One might be to increase the value of major titles. Another might be to factor in Player of the Year selections and credit Vare Trophy winners, who finish the year with the tour's lowest scoring average. Touching other bases

* Say what you will about Michael Jordan, baseball player, but don't knock the guy's persistence. He not only surprised a lot of people by completing an entire season in the minors, now he's working overtime in the Arizona Fall League, learning to hit the breaking pitch and polishing other skills.

* Pop quiz: Which in-season women's sport compiles statistics for digs, blocks, and kills? (See answer below.)

* When asked by PBS talk-show host Charlie Rose for an opinion on the future of women in organized baseball, filmmaker Ken Burns of ``Baseball'' documentary fame forecast that a woman would make the majors in his lifetime. Furthermore, he predicted the pioneering female will be a pitcher with a good breaking ball. He'll get no argument here. It stands to reason that pitcher is a good entry position for women. To be effective, one doesn't have to be physically overpowering. A hurler with ``good stuff'' - an assortment of pitches delivered at varying speeds - can win games. And as many knuckleballers have shown, mastery of that slow but elusive pitch can be the ticket to a long and fruitful major-league career.

* The National Football League startled people last week when it announced the league might build a new stadium for Los Angeles in partnership with the city and state. A new facility might be necessary to keep a team in L.A., which is in danger of losing the Rams or the Raiders or both. Besides serving as a regular-season home field for someone, the stadium might be a frequent Super Bowl site. There's even talk of creating a theme park near the stadium.

* National Football League stars have been transformed, for the second year, into ``Monsters of the Gridiron.'' Twenty-eight pro players sat through long makeup sessions to take part in the Coca-Cola promotion, which posed them for collector cards available with selected products during the Halloween season. A personal favorite is New England Patriots tackle Bruce Armstrong, whose makeover as The Piledriver makes him look like a gladiatorial Tin Man.

* Quiz answer: Volleyball.