Bowl-Game Refs Save Face, But Cornhuskers Still Lose

AMID the craziness that ended college football's rush of major-college bowl games, one decision rescued what might have caused an uproar that would be raging still.

The act occurred in the last seconds of the Orange Bowl, when officials very nearly placed Nebraska five yards farther from the goal posts than they deserved to be. And since that could have made all the difference in a potential game-winning field goal for the so-called national championship, the error would have been terribly costly.

As it turned out, the officials apparently got help from the press box in re-spotting the ball from the Florida State 33 yard-line to the 28. Even from closer range, Nebraska placekicker Byron Bennett still was wide of the mark, allowing Florida State to hang on for an 18-16 victory and its first national title - an honor that Notre Dame disputes, since it beat the Seminoles during the regular season.

That debate aside, however, imagine how unsatisfying it might have been if Nebraska - which very nearly sprung an upset and dispelled its image as a perennial big-game loser - had been unintentionally cheated of five critical yards in its moment of need.

Touching other bases

* Of all the numbers that surround Super Bowl XXVIII - from football statistics to economic-impact figures - the most eye-catching may be the cost of a single second of commercial air time: $30,000 on NBC, which has sold almost every bit of it.

* At times this season, the Boston Celtics have played well, but clearly the aura that once surrounded this franchise has all but disappeared. The New Jersey Nets handed the Celtics their fourth straight home defeat Sunday, something that hasn't happened since 1978.

Key personnel losses have taken their collective toll. Larry Bird and Kevin McHale have retired, and Robert Parish, the National Basketball Association's most senior player, will soon follow. Len Bias and Reggie Lewis, players once counted on to maintain the franchise's winning traditions, have died - Bias before what would have been his rookie season in 1986, and Lewis last summer.

* Contrary to popular opinion, the New Year's bowl games did not bring the curtain down on the college football season. There's still at least one more game to play: the Snow Bowl in Fargo, N.D., Jan. 6. The all-star contest is the first ever held for players at the National Collegiate Athletic Association's Division II level, where schools such as Mankato State and North Carolina Central play. The game, mercifully, will be held inside the Fargodome.

* For some, the most anticipated event of next summer's US-based World Cup soccer tournament may not be the final game in Los Angeles but the concert that precedes it. Opera stars Jose Carreras, Placido Domingo, and Luciano Pavarotti, will perform at Dodger Stadium July 16 on the eve of the final, which will be played in the Rose Bowl. ``Encore - the Three Tenors'' will reunite the stars who successfully shared the stage in Rome in 1990, when Italy hosted the last World Cup.

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