Coaches won't flip coin if game goes to overtime Both want other to have ball first in new tiebreaker

Fiesta Bowl notebook

January 02, 1996|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

TEMPE, Ariz. -- The newly installed tiebreaker system has come into play only once in this season's bowl games, but Nebraska's Tom Osborne and Florida's Steve Spurrier know what they'll do if tonight's Fiesta Bowl is tied after 60 minutes.

They hope their respective teams win the toss, and give the other team first crack. According to the tiebreaker, each team will have a chance from the opposing 25-yard line. They'll go back and forth until one team has either scored, or outscored the other.

"If you get it second, you kind of know what you have to do," Spurrier said yesterday.

"If you have the ball first, you won't know if you need a field goal or a touchdown," said Osborne.

There is a school of thought that says running teams have the advantage, given a smaller field on which to operate. The Cornhuskers are nearly automatic in what is commonly called "the red zone," converting 58 of 71 chances into touchdowns (46) or field goals (12).

But it could have to do with which team has the momentum at the end. Had there been this system in 1984, when he opted to go for the win with a two-point conversion against Miami in the Orange Bowl, Osborne would have settled for the tie in regulation.

"I think we would have been in good shape because the momentum was in our favor," said Osborne, recalling how Nebraska had come from a 17-0 deficit to trail 31-30. "But this is now and that was then."

Passing game more rusty?

Spurrier did his best to defuse the theory that passing teams have a disadvantage to running teams coming back from a month off to play in a bowl. "Arkansas athletic director [and former coach] Frank Broyles told me he thinks the opposite is true," said Spurrier.

But Spurrier's teams have not fared well in recent bowl games. The Gators have lost two of the three they've gone to with Spurrier as coach.

Sod shirt

Osborne came into yesterday's news conference carrying a new blue sweat shirt in a plastic bag. It was a gift from George Toma, the famed Kansas City groundskeeper who helps the NFL get its game field and practice fields ready for the Super Bowl.

"We've left the NFL some grass," Osborne said of the reported $70,000 worth of damage his team made at Scottsdale Community College, the practice site for this season's AFC representative to Super Bowl XXX. "We made up. We're the best of friends."

Speaking of chewed-up fields, the turf at Sun Devil Stadium didn't appear to be in the best of shape last week. But less grass could be better for the Cornhuskers, who have played all their games this season on artificial surfaces.

"I don't know who's the favorite, but this is the type of surface Florida plays on all the time and we haven't played on it at all," said Osborne.

For his part, Osborne is just happy to be playing outside the state of Florida. As the Big Eight's representative to the Orange Bowl the past few years, Nebraska fans were usually in the minority against teams such as Florida State and Miami. About 30,000 Cornhuskers fans are expected for the game against the Gators.

"The difference is we're playing in a neutral setting," said Osborne.

Second in a series

This game marks only the second time these schools have met, the first being a 13-10 victory for Nebraska in the 1974 Sugar Bowl.

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