Top 10 Ty Detmer Moments: #3-Joining the BYU Quarterback Club

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It is one thing to win the starting quarterback job for the Brigham Young Cougars. It is another to earn your way into the exalted BYU Quarterback Club. Entering the quarterback club is the ultimate validation for a Cougar signal caller. Quarterbacks can throw for 3,000 yards in a season, take BYU to a bowl game, and even win a conference championship, but fail to be admitted to the club.

When Ty Detmer took over the starting spot at BYU (1989), Robbie Bosco (1984-85) was the last quarterback to join. Three subsequent quarterbacks had tried and failed. Detmer got off to a good start, but at one pivotal moment in the 1989 season it looked like he might fall off to the wayside and become casualty number four.

As this list has already documented, Demter was phenomenal in his first start as a freshman in 1988. Later that year he led a come-from-behind win in the Freedom Bowl that, in effect, gave Detmer the starting QB job over a senior incumbent. He had thrown for over 300 yards in each of the first 8 games of the 1989 season. His pass efficiency rating was tops in the nation at 167.6, and he had eclipsed the 3,000 yard passing mark in game eight at Hawaii.

Despite that milestone, the Hawaii game derailed Detmer’s fast ascent into the quarterback club. He only passed for one touchdown and was sacked 10 times. Under Detmer’s leadership the offense only scored 14 points as BYU was humiliated 56-14. One week later, BYU was getting blown out again, and two Detmer interceptions in the first half had a lot to do with it. This time BYU was at home playing a good, but not great, Oregon team. Down 19 points, 33-14, in the third quarter, questions about Detmer’s legacy started creeping up.

He had posted huge numbers earlier in the year against Washington State, but the fact that BYU lost the game began to carry more weight than those stats. Was Detmer just a nice act, or could he win difficult games?

The remaining three games on the schedule were all must-win conference games if BYU was to win the WAC for the first time since 1985. Air Force was undefeated in the conference, and Utah and San Diego State had both beaten BYU the year before. Did this team, with Detmer at the helm, have enough character to win these three games?

With time running out in the third quarter, Detmer answered these questions by erasing Oregon’s 19-point lead.

A 60-yard kick off return gave BYU great field position at the Oregon 34-yard line. Detmer wasted no time. He threw for 25 yards on the first play to Jeff Frandsen. Two plays later, Detmer escaped a heavy rush and made a nice throw to the end zone for his first touchdown of the game.

After an Oregon punt, BYU took over near midfield. Not known to be much of a runner, Detmer started making plays with his feet. He scrambled for 11 yards on the first play of the drive. On 3rd down and 4, Detmer converted with a 14-yard pass that put BYU in field goal range. Following a run play, Oregon sacked Detmer for a huge loss, bringing up 3rd and 23. It was time for Detmer to rise to the challenge. BYU had to come away with at least a field goal. Otherwise, Oregon would have all the momentum back. Detmer rolled left, pulled up and threw a deep out back across the field for 24 yards. It was now first and goal.

The drive stalled and BYU only got three points, but Oregon’s lead was now single digits, 33-24.

The Cougar defense immediately stopped Oregon with an interception, but BYU gave the ball right back on a fumble. The defense held again, and Oregon punted the ball back to BYU.

Field position was progressively getting worse, but it was still manageable. Detmer had to drive the offense 62 yards for a touchdown. A false start penalty turned 3rd down and 10 into 3rd and 15. Detmer dropped back to pass. Finding no open receivers, he tucked the ball and scampered for 19 yards. Four more plays and BYU had moved the ball to the Oregon Ducks’ 26-yard line, but it was third down again. Detmer threw a pass looking for a first down, but got a touchdown instead. It was now a two point game, 33-31.

The BYU defense then let Oregon drive the ball, but an Oregon fumble at the BYU 22-yard line gave the ball back to BYU with the score still 33-31. Surprisingly, Detmer made another big run, this time for 10 yards, on the second play of the drive. An Oregon personal foul penalty moved the ball out to midfield. Detmer followed up two nice run plays with a 26-yard bomb that set up first and goal at the 6-yard line. Eric Mortensen ran in for the touchdown on the very next play.

Detmer had led BYU to 24 consecutive points to take the lead, 38-33, but there was still six minutes to play. Oregon converted a 4th and 11 play to set up first and goal at the three-yard line. A subsequent touchdown and 2 point conversion gave the Ducks a 41-38 lead with 3:05 to play. Detmer was forced to lead a second comeback.

That degenerating field position problem would not make this easy. A clipping penalty on the kickoff resulted in BYU starting at the 10-yard line. A holding penalty on the first play pushed BYU back to the five. Detmer completed a 14-yard pass to get BYU out of the hole. With Oregon expecting pass, BYU was able to run for the first down and run for 15 more yards on the next play. Running the ball presented a problem: it took too much time. BYU needed a big pass play. Detmer delivered. He connected with Frandsen again, this time for 36 yards. BYU was now in field goal range and could tie the game. For Detmer, that was never an option. BYU moved the ball to the 15-yard line on three straight runs. Then, Detmer dropped back and floated a pass to the corner. Frandsen caught the ball just as he crossed the goal line with 1:01 to play. The extra point was good, and the final score was 45-41.

When their backs were against the wall, Detmer took the team on his back and carried them to victory. He turned into a dual threat with his big runs to go with several big throws. He converted crucial third downs, including two that were 15 yards or more. He drove the team the length of the field, with time running out, to secure the win.

Detmer’s heroics did more than erase BYU’s 19-point deficit, they erased all doubts that he did belong in the BYU quarterback club. BYU gained its 7th win of the season, and Detmer gained admittance into the BYU quarterback club. Not only did his statistics stand side by side his peers’, but so did his toughness, heart, leadership, and character. Detmer had proven he was a winner, and worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as Gary Sheide, Gifford Nielsen, Marc Wilson, Jim McMahon, Steve Young, and Robbie Bosco.

Ty’s Take
Oregon had a great team that year. Bill Musgrave was quarterback. On defense, they had an All-American cornerback. That was going to be a tough game for us. We had lost to Washington State, a Pac-10 team, and here comes Oregon—probably better than Washington State. I think that experience we had against Washington State helped.

Oregon had a good team and they jumped out on us. Then here we came. We got things going, put some drives together there late. I think Jeff Frandsen had a huge game against their All-American corner. It was kind of like, nobody had heard of Jeff Frandsen before that game, and here he was picking on an All-American corner. You knew you had to be on time with the ball because that guy could make you look bad if you weren’t.

It was one of those games where things fell into place. We got going. The defense made some stops, kind of like the other comebacks. You are just waiting to get the ball back because you got them on their heels a little bit.

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 know this much my Aggie boss hated Detmer... I thought it was the funniest thing ever when he would say they are gonna lose to Oregon. then on Monday, When I came to work I hung a brand new BYU banner in his office... Drove him nuts cause he'd lost the bet. Yes he had the Aggie banner ready to hang but it never did...

  2. That is a great story, and a huge part of why I am doing this countdown. These great moments by Detmer on the field penetrated the lives of so many and will stay with us our whole lives.


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