Exactly 20 years ago, today, the Brigham Young Cougars opened the season taking on the UTEP Miners in El Paso, Texas.
Not only was it the first game of the 1992 season, it was BYU’s first game without three-year starter and Heisman Trophy winner Ty Detmer. Replacing the NCAA record holder for career passing yards and touchdown passes was sophomore John Walsh.
UTEP was the prefect foe for making such a transition. The Cougars had beaten the Miners in 14 of their last 15 meetings.
In the first quarter, Walsh showed he had picked up a thing or two watching Detmer the year before, like who to throw the ball to close to the end zone. The Torrance, California native connected twice with wide receiver Eric Drage, Detmer’s favorite target in 1991, for touchdowns before the game was 15 minutes old.
Drage led BYU with 6 receptions for 99 yards. He was well on his way to another 1,000 yard receiving season. Besides the two touchdown grabs, Drage also had a 42-yard catch.
Walsh’s longest pass of the night was a 48-yard connection to Otis Sterling. A 60-yard touchdown pass to speedy wide out Tyler Anderson was called back on a penalty.
By halftime, Walsh had thrown a third touchdown pass. This one was 24 yards to tight end Byron Rex. It gave BYU a 28-14 lead, with Jamal Willis accounting for the other score on a two-yard run.
UTEP wouldn’t go away quietly in the second half. The Miners closed the gap to 28-21 in the third quarter. BYU pushed the lead back to 14 on a 25-yard run by Kalin Hall before the quarter ended.
Hall, a junior college transfer from Dixie State College, made a dazzling debut as a Cougar. He led all rushers with 114 yards on just 15 carries.
A 34-yard field goal by David Lauder provided BYU’s only three points of the fourth quarter. UTEP added a late touchdown to make the final score 38-28.
Walsh finished the night completing 17 of 28 passes for 302 yards, 3 touchdowns and 2 interceptions.
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