The Brigham Young Cougars have one of the richest quarterback traditions in the nation. The list of great quarterbacks is long, and it usually takes multiple seasons of play to earn an enduring place in the hearts of Cougar fans. One quarterback has defied the odds, and in one season built a unique legacy.
One season is, actually, an overstatement. It was more like two-thirds of a season.
In 1992, the BYU coaching staff faced the daunting task of replacing the most prolific quarterback in the history of college football: Ty Detmer. Five sophomores were vying for the position. One was Ryan Hancock who hailed from Cupertino, California, and he also played on the BYU baseball team. With a 93 mile per hour fastball, who could blame him for being a dual sport athlete?
Playing two sports put Hancock at a disadvantage. He only practiced two days per week with the football team in the spring of 1992 when the QB competition to replace Detmer began. Coming out of spring, Hancock wasn't one of the top two quarterbacks. After fall, he was third on the depth chart. The third string quarterback hadn't seen quality game reps in 17 years. When Walsh got off to a strong start against UTEP, it didn't appear that this streak would be broken.
One by one, BYU quarterbacks were being broken (Walsh--knee, Clements--shoulder), and by game four, Hancock was given the reigns to the Cougar offense. Game four was in Hawaii. Early in the fourth quarter it didn't look like Hancock was the answer.
Hawaii returned a Hancock interception 48-yards for a touchdown and a 23-10 lead. The Rainbow Warriors quickly made it 29-10 after another BYU turnover. With 8:40 left in the game, Hancock gave BYU new life.
He connected with Otis Sterling for a 55-yard touchdown. Less than four minutes later, BYU had a 32-29 lead with 5:01 to play.
BYU eventually lost the game to fall to 1-3 on the season, but Hancock had given BYU new hope. He was 20 of 33 passing for 383 yards, and 2 touchdowns with one interception.
After the long trip home, and with a short week to prepare, Hancock got his first career start Friday night against Utah State. His passing gave BYU a 14-6 lead in the second quarter, before the Cougar defense took control of the game. A 65-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter to Eric Drage put a dagger in the heart of the Aggies. It was Hancock's second touchdown pass of 65 yards or longer in the game. With 385 yards passing, Hancock now had the top two passing games of the season for BYU.
In his second career start, Hancock (16 of 25, 272, 1 TD, 1 Int.) outplayed Trent Dilfer (17 of 38, 288 yards, 1 TD, 2 Int.), who the Tampa Bay Buccaneers would take with the sixth overall pick in the 1994 NFL Draft. BYU leaned on the running back tandem of Kalin Hall and Jamal Willis, so Hancock has his first sub-300 yard passing game. However, his 77-yard touchdown pass to Eric Drage in the final moments of the first half gave BYU a 27-16 lead going into the break.
In another showdown with a prolific passing attack, Hancock again game out on top. Wyoming's Ryan Yarborough was, arguably, the nation's top wide receiver, and Cowboys quarterback Joe Hughes knew how to get him the ball. Hancock ended up with more passing yards (408 to 399) on 11 fewer pass attempts, more touchdowns (3 to 2), fewer interceptions (0 to 2), and a much better pass efficiency rating (170.4 to 137.5) than Hughes. The 408 yards would be a season high for Hancock. His 67-yard touchdown pass to Sterling in the third quarter gave BYU its first lead of the game, 24-21.
BYU went on to win, 31-21, and now had a winning record for the first time since beating UTEP in the season opener.
The next week, BYU traveled to South Bend, Indiana to play Notre Dame for the first time in school history. BYU would lose the game, but it was Hancock's only loss as a starter this season.
BYU had little time to bemoan the loss to nationally ranked Notre Dame because nationally ranked Penn State came to Provo the very next week. While Kalin Hall provided support on the ground with 117 yards, it was three Hancock touchdown passes in the second quarter that blew the game wide open. The final one was an 80-yard bomb to Tyler Anderson that gave the Cougars a commanding 27-3 lead. Hancock finished the day with a 207.3 pass efficiency rating.
In the final home game of the season, Hancock had 43 and 47-yard passes to Drage and Terence Saluone and BYU crushed New Mexico 35-0. Hancock's 11.1 yards per pass attempt was the fifth time in seven games he was over 10.0. (He also has 9.6 against Utah State.)
Hancock's production dropped in the final two games of the regular season as Jamal Willis made some big runs and the coaches made a concerted effort to get him 1,000 yards on the season. Even though, Hancock's numbers in the nine games he played were on par with the BYU greats of the past. Hancock averaged 292.8 yard passing per game. If he had played all 12 regular season games, that would equal 3,514 yards.
Hancock had a 7-1 record as a starter.
Hancock's season and BYU career had a tragic end. In the end of an easy win against Utah, Hancock suffered a knee injury running out of bounds on a play in the waning moments of the game. Had he not gotten hurt, BYU probably wins the Aloha Bowl (lost 23-20 vs. Kansas), and maybe he returns to play another season. As it was, the California Angels were hot after Hancock to be one of their pitchers. He ended up taking the major league baseball money and never took another snap at BYU.
1992 stats: 165 of 288 (57%), 2,635 yards, 17 TD, 13 Int., 144.8 pass efficiency
Top 10 One Hit Wonders
10. Ray Crandall (1971), Jon Kormylo (1978)
9. Shane Hunter (2010)
8. Reynaldo Brathwaite (2003)
7. Ezekiel Ansah (2012)
6. Ben Cahoon (1997)
5. Ryan Hancock (1992)
4. Ethan Pochman (1996)
3. Ted Nelson (1970)
2. David Mills (1984)
1. Jay Miller (1973)
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