Nebraska, which spent the 1983 season top-ranked until an Orange Bowl loss to Miami, welcomed a breather from being the nation's most touted football team. It didn't enjoy a very long hiatus, though, moving to the top of the wire service polls this week after first Auburn, then Miami fumbled the honor.
The chain of events saw pre-season No. 1 Auburn lose its opener to Miami, then Miami lose this past Saturday to Michigan, opening the door to the Cornhuskers' quick promotion.
Nebraska hasn't really proved much so far, however, beating Wyoming 42-7 in a soft opener. Still, the Cornhuskers served noticed that Jeff Smith will make a dandy replacement for Heisman Trophy winner Mike Rozier. Smith, who gained 170 yards Saturday, actually previewed his talents in the Orange Bowl defeat, gaining 99 yards when Rozier was injured in the second half.
Turnovers cost Miami, which was playing its third game in 13 days. Michigan intercepted six Bernie Kosar passes and recovered two Hurricane fumbles in halting Miami's run of 13 victories. The nation's longest streak now belongs to Brigham Young, which won its 13th straight with a 47-13 victory over Baylor, the last team to beat BYU.
Bobbles and miscues also were major factors in Purdue's 23-21 upset of Notre Dame, and Iowa's 59-21 romp over Iowa State.Purdue-Notre Dame is traditionally one of the nation's better early-season rivalries, and this edition played to a full house in Indianapolis's new Hoosier Dome. Out in the plains, Iowa kept capitalizing on I-State's turnovers, taking a 35-0 lead despite minus-three yards rushing.
A couple of Boston teams showed a pair of Southern powers that Yankees can play football, too. In a nationally televised game, Doug Flutie led No. 18 Boston College to a 38-31 upset win over No. 9 Alabama, while Boston University handed Grambling a 16-9 defeat in New York at - where else? - Yankee Stadium.
Grambling, a fixture in these Whitney Young Memorial Classics, limited BU All-America Paul Lewis to 6 yards on 17 carries, but allowed Terrier freshman Paul Mancini to complete two touchdown passes.
Boston College ventured to Birmingham, where host Alabama was intent on reversing the outcome of last season's game, which B.C. won in frigid New England. And for awhile, the Crimson Tide was in control, particularly after Kerry Goode returned a kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown to give Alabama a 31-14 lead to begin the second half. Flutie, however, fueled a marvelous comeback with his scrambling play at quarterback, and Tony Thurman sealed the victory with an end zone interception, his third theft of the night.
In an equally shocking result, Oklahoma State crushed Arizona State 45-3. The Sun Devils had been ranked No. 12 before the game. Other highly regarded teams experienced close calls. UCLA, Sports Illustrated's pre-season No. 1 pick , escaped with an 18-15 victory over San Diego State; Ohio State hammered out a 22-14 win over Oregon State; and Penn State edged Rutgers 15-12. Touching other bases
* Saturday's tennis marathon at the US Open makes it clear that a scheduling change is in order. What fans at the National Tennis Center got was more than they ever dreamed, or wanted for that matter. When each of four center court matches went the full distance, or a total of 16 sets, fans tired. In fact, by the time John McEnroe ended his five-set semifinal victory over Jimmy Connors, the stadium was less than half full. This was for a spectacular match between two of the game's greatest stars, but the hour was late (11:13 p.m.) and the crowd had already witnessed a five-set semifinal between Ivan Lendl and Pat Cash , a three-set women's final between Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert Lloyd, and even a men's 35-and-older match that began the day's action at 11 a.m.
In the future, the US Tennis Association might do well to consider spacing out these riches some way. Perhaps one men's semifinal could be played Friday evening after the two women's semis. If the other men's semifinal match were played early enough Saturday, both finalists would still have adequate rest before meeting late Sunday afternoon.
* Over the years, 15 Olympic medalists have made their way into the National Football League, including Ron Brown and Michael Carter from the latest Games. Brown, a member of the gold medal-winning relay team anchored by Carl Lewis, has joined the Los Angeles Rams as a wide receiver, while Carter, a silver medalist in the shot put, has been suiting up as a defensive lineman with the San Francisco 49ers. The only other Olympic champion currently in the league is Johnny (Lam) Jones, a 1976 relay gold medalist and New York Jets receiver.
All but one NFL Olympian (wrestler Pete Mehringer in 1932) came from track and field. Most were sprinters or hurdlers, or in the case of decathlon champions Jim Thorpe (1912), Jim Bausch (1932), or Milt Campbell (1956) a combination of the two. Besides Carter, the strictly field event medalists were high jumper Harold Miller (1932) and long jumper Bo Roberson (1960).
* If boycotting nations are forced to sit out an Olympics, as some have suggested, the Soviet Union could find itself in a bind. The Soviets would almost have to show up in Seoul, South Korea in 1988, or risk missing three straight Olympics - 1984, '88, and 1992. The Soviets don't have diplomatic relations with South Korea, but have until six weeks before the 1988 Games to announce their intentions.
* Who was the greatest base stealer of all time? Lou Brock, Rickey Henderson , and Ty Cobb are the most commonly recognized candidates, but how about Max Carey? Though generally overlooked today, Carey once swiped 51 bases in 53 attempts, a success rate unmatched by anyone with more than 50 thefts in a season. The Pirate outfielder also owns the record for most years as a league-leading base stealer, securing the title 10 times between 1913 and 1925.