Flashback: Shutdown Corners (1996)

The preview yesterday of the 2011 Brigham Young Cougars defensive backs pointed out that Corby Eason and Preston Hadley would be the starting cornerbacks. Both Eason and Hadley are junior college transfers. Eason has playing experience at BYU, but Hadley has none. This scenario sounds familiar.

In 1996, BYU returned second-team All-WAC cornerback Tim McTyer. He had made a splash his first year with the Cougars after playing two years at Los Angeles Southwest College. In 1995, McTyer accounted for 65 tackles and intercepted four passes; he even returned one for a touchdown.

BYU also welcomed another JC transfer 15 years ago. Omarr Morgan was one of many players BYU had mined from El Camino Junior College in California. Morgan was nicknamed “The Blanket.” He lived up to his name.

BYU had struggled in the early 1990s with pass defense. The years 1993 and 1994 were particularly bad. Just look at these stats.

Yards passing allowed per game: 248
Opponent’s pass efficiency rating: 143.3
Passes intercepted: 5
Touchdown passes allowed: 26

Yards passing allowed per game: 262.2
Opponent’s pass efficiency rating: 140.1
Passes intercepted: 9
Touchdown passes allowed: 24

With McTyer and Morgan manning the corners, the numbers improved dramatically in 1996.

Yards passing allowed per game: 191.7
Opponent’s pass efficiency rating: 109
Passes intercepted: 16
Touchdown passes allowed: 19

Morgan and McTyer accounted for nearly half of the interceptions with 4 and 3 respectively. McTyer was credited with 17 passes defended, and Morgan had 9.5.

They both were named first team All-WAC Mountain Division. Each player was named WAC defensive player of the week once. Morgan was also named WAC special teams player of the week once after blocking a field goal against New Mexico to help preserve a 3 point lead, and a win.

As valuable as this duo had been game in, game out during the season, they both made big plays during the season’s biggest moment: the Cotton Bowl.

BYU had taken a 19-15 lead with less than four minutes to play. Kansas State would have one last chance to score. The Wildcats were able to drive into scoring position. Needing a touchdown, Kansas State threw a high pass to the back of the end zone. McTyer was in coverage. He couldn’t jump high enough to contest the catch, but he stood ready and pushed the Wildcat receiver out of the end zone before he could come down with the ball. Incomplete pass.

The clock ticked down to one minute. Kansas State’s quarterback called an audible. BYU defensive end Ed Kehl warned Morgan that a slant was coming. Morgan heeded that warning and positioned himself to deflect the pass before intercepting it at the 4-yard line, and securing the Cotton Bowl victory.

Tim McTyer and Omarr Morgan were two shutdown corners. Their pass coverage ability was a big reason why 1996 was a special year. This year, BYU is counting on Eason and Hadley to be shutdown corners to give the possibility that 2011could be another special year.

More flashbacks can be found on the Flashbacks page.

The Editor appreciates all feedback. He can be reached via email at bluecougarfootball@gmail.com