Top 10 Ty Detmer Moments: #10-The Essence of Ty Detmer

It is that time of the year again. Time for the annual Top 10 list. With this year marking the 20th Anniversay of Ty Detmer's senior season, it is only fitting that we countdown the Top 10 Ty Detmer moments. Anybody who knows BYU football, knows that Detmer had a phenomenal career. He was the Jimmer Fredette of BYU sports 20 years ago. The countdown will continue each day, Monday-Friday, for the next two weeks until we reach number one. Each moment has two parts: 1)'s breakdown and analysis, and 2) Ty's Take--Ty Detmer, the legend himself, was gracious enough to weigh in on each of these moments with his memories.

One other note before revealing moment number 10. is pleased to annouce that a special Collectors Edition of this countdown will soon be available. You can pre-order your copy here. In addition to the content being provided now, the collectors edition will have over 60 minutes of audio commentary from Ty getting into the details of all 10 moments. There will also be several bonus features: Honorable Mention moments, Ty's game-by-game stats, Ty Trivia, and a unique look at Ty and the NCAA record book. For full details on how to purchase your copy, click here.

On with the countdown!

Ty Detmer had already passed for 841 yards and 6 touchdowns, while completing 69% of his passes, in two starts against San Diego State. BYU had scored 110 points in those two games combined. It should not have come as a surprise that Detmer put on a clinic and set several records in 1991. What no one expected, however, was the second half heroics.

The game started well enough. BYU received the opening kickoff, and Detmer led BYU on a 5-play, 77-yard scoring drive to take a 6-0 lead on a 31-yard touchdown pass to Jamal Willis. On the touchdown, Detmer rolled right, pulled up and threw a beautiful pass all the way across the field that landed in Willis’ belly at the goal line.

On the third play of the drive, Detmer broke former San Diego State quarterback Todd Santos’ NCAA record for most completions in a career. It was the first of three NCAA records held by Santos that Detmer would break during the game (most attempts in a career and most plays in a career were the others).

Early in the first quarter, Detmer sustained a cut above his left eye. Before the opening quarter was over, Detmer’s left cheek was also bleeding.

BYU’s second scoring drive started at its own 3-yard line. Six plays later, BYU was in the end zone. On the drive, Detmer completed 3 of 4 passes for 97 yards.

Detmer completed a 39-yard bomb to Tyler Anderson on BYU’s next drive, and the Cougars were threatening again. What would have been Detmer’s third touchdown pass was dropped, and BYU had to settle on a field goal.

With 11 minutes left in the first half, Detmer already had 255 yards passing. He finished the half with 333, but with 6:06 to play in the third quarter BYU trailed 45-17.

That is when Detmer started a historic rally. He threw a 23-yard strike to Eric Drage, which moved the ball just past midfield. On the very next play, he found Willis for a 49-yard touchdown.

On the next drive, Detmer completed another 23-yard pass on the first play. Play number two was an 11-yard completion. After running the ball on a draw, Detmer found the end zone for the fourth time. When the third quarter ended, BYU had cut the deficit in half, 45-31.

The first time BYU had the ball in the fourth quarter, they were 83 yards away from the end zone. Jamal Willis ran the ball out to the 40-yard line on the first play. Facing a 3rd and 10 three plays later, Detmer converted with a 17-yard pass over the middle of the field. The drive finished when Detmer found Peter Tuipulotu all alone for a 20-yard touchdown. Detmer was 3-3 passing for 45 yards on the drive.

Following another San Diego State touchdown, the lead was back to 14, with only 8:28 remaining.

Detmer threw a 23-yard completion on the first play of the next drive. On 3rd and 5 from the San Diego State 46-yard line, Detmer found Willis for 20 yards. After BYU moved the ball to the 4-yard line, Detmer threw touchdown pass number 6, for a new career high. That gave him 30 TD passes on the season, making him the first player in NCAA history with three seasons of 30 touchdown passes.

Detmer had played a fabulous game, but with time running out BYU still trailed by seven. Detmer had only 2:46 to drive BYU 77 yards. He found Drage for 42 yards to get to the Sand Diego State 35-yard line. Three runs moved the ball to the 10-yard line. On third down, with less than one minute remaining, Detmer kept the drive alive with a modest 4-yard completion. He now had 599 yards passing, and 603 yards of total offense. Both were BYU single-game records. Then, Detmer proved he was truly an unselfish leader who put team above himself.

The greatest quarterback in BYU history only needed one more yard passing to crack 600. He only needed one more touchdown pass to tie the school record for most TD passes in one game. There was only 34 seconds left in the game, too. Running the ball would be playing with fire. Nevertheless, Detmer took the next snap and handed to ball to Jamal Willis, who ran untouched into the end zone. The extra point was good.

Detmer had engineered a 28-point comeback to tie the game 52-52. The tie kept BYU on track for its third consecutive WAC championship. His total offense totals gave Detmer two more NCAA records (most yards vs. one opponent, 1483, and most yards per game vs. one opponent, 370.8).

This game captured the essence of Ty Detmer. He was gutsy. He played with fire and passion. He never gave up, and he always believed anything was possible. He was unselfish. These attributes are what made Detmer so successful, and they are the reason why something spectacular happened November 16, 1991.

Ty’s Take
We knew it would be a lot of offense with San Diego State—Darney Scott, Marshall Faulk, Patrick Rowe and those guys. We got down, we got behind. I think they got a little bit conservative. Our defense really stepped up and started getting the ball back for us.

I remember at one point we scored and got the ball back, and I think I threw an interception and I thought, "Ah man, you know, that might have been our chance right there." I think we ended up getting it back again and just went into that 2-minute offense early in the second half, and got going and they couldn’t stop up. We started getting some stops.

I remember after we scored the last touchdown the decision had to be made whether to go for two and the win or the tie. I think if we tied and won the next week against Utah we would win the WAC championship, so LaVell made the decision to go for the tie and play for the championship the next week against Utah. It was probably the only game you are ever excited about a tie. Everyone was pretty fired up that we were able to comeback and settle for a tie, but that gave us the chance to win the WAC championship the next week against Utah. It was a good feeling coming back and having that opportunity.

10. The Essence of Ty Detmer
9. BYU Retires Ty Detmer's Jersey
8. Down, But Never Out
7. Unstoppable and Unprecedented
6. First Career Start
5. Final Home Game
4. Winning The Starting Quarterback Job
3. Joining the BYU Quarterback Club
2. Beating the Best--#1 Miami
1. Winning the Heisman Trophy

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  1. I remember this game like it was yesterday. The real key was when Rowe got injured. We couldn't stop him and once he went out, we started getting stops. The shame of it was we beat San Diego State up before their game against Miami the next week. Miami crushed them and made us look like chumps by having a shootout with them. The game against Miami would have been very different with a healthy Rowe in the lineup. We ended up with three ties that year, the last one against 7th ranked Iowa in the Holiday bowl.

  2. Amazing game. My grandmother was at a retirement community in Provo and an avid BYU fan. End of the game brought huge cheers throughout the community causing some of the nurses to become very nervous, even though it was very, very late....


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