Jake Heaps Will Not Break Ty Detmer’s Records

The two biggest and most important Brigham Young Cougars passing records are owned by Ty Detmer. Most career passing yards: 15,031; and most career touchdown passes: 121. Current BYU quarterback Jake Heaps has gotten off to a better start than Detmer did. As freshmen, Heaps out gained Detmer by 1,064 passing yards (2,316 to 1,252). Heaps also threw two more touchdown passes than Detmer did (15 to 13). Although Heaps is ahead after year one, he will not break Detmer’s career records, even if he plays all four years.

What will it take?
As it stands now, Heaps needs 12,716 yards passing to reach 15,032. Heaps needs to throw 107 touchdown passes to reach 122. Assuming a 13 game schedule the next three seasons, he would need to average 326.1 yards passing and 2.74 touchdown passes per game.

These required per game averages may not appear daunting. They are much more favorable than what Detmer did from his sophomore to senior seasons to reach his totals (382.75 yards passing and 3 touchdown passes per game). The truth is the averages for Heaps present a huge challenge.

The 2.74 touchdowns per game become 36 touchdowns every year for the next three years. In BYU football history, only two quarterbacks have thrown for 36 touchdowns in a single season. Neither of them did it more than once.

The 326.1 yards passing per game becomes 4,239 yards every year for the next three years. Passing for 4,000 yards in a single season has not happened at BYU since Steve Sarkisian did it with 4,027 yards in 1996, and it took him 14 games. The last time a BYU quarterback passed for more than 4,239 yards was Detmer, and he only did it twice.

The only way Heaps will break Detmer’s records is if he has one monster season, meaning he passes for, a minimum of, 5,000 yards and 40 touchdowns. A year like that would adjust the required averages the other two seasons to 297 yards per game (3,858 yards per season) and 2.58 TD passes per game (33.5 TDs per year). These figures are still hard to reach, but much more achievable. While the three year averages indicate that Heaps can break the records without a monster season, the law of averages says it is not realistic that he will have three consecutive seasons of 4,239 yards passing and 36 touchdown passes.

The other reality is that Heaps will not have a monster season.

Why not?
Why won’t Heaps break these records? He has all the tools and supporting cast required to make a serious run at these records. However, the answer to this question is simple: Bronco Mendenhall, for two reasons.

First, winning comes first for Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall, and breaking records is secondary. Heaps won’t throw the ball 562 times to chase the Heisman Trophy, like Detmer did in 1990. Heaps won’t even throw it 500 times in a season, like Robbie Bosco did in 1985, which enabled Bosco to pass for 4,273 yards.

Shortly after Detmer graduated, BYU realized that a more balanced offense with a solid/good run game to compliment a great passing game would result in more wins. The quest for better offensive balance has not jeopardized passing for 3,000 yards in a season, but passing for 4,000 yards has become very rare.

With Joshua Quezada, Drew Phillips, and Adam Hine in the backfield, the BYU running game won’t be hurting while Heaps is on campus.

Second, Bronco Mendenhall has brought a better defense to BYU. The Heisman Trophy wasn’t the only reason Detmer threw the ball so much in 1990. The Cougar defense was suspect. Half of the team’s 10 wins that year were by 24 points or less. The defense allowed over 30 points in three of the victories.

With Mendenhall running the show, the defense is much improved than the unit 20 years ago. A better defense leads to better field position, which leads to shorter scoring drives. Heaps won’t throw a lot of 60 yard passes if the offense only needs 55 yards to score. He will also spend more time on the bench at the end of games if the score is 42-7, as opposed to 42-21, after three quarters.

Want some evidence that the running game and the Bronco defense will limit the number of passing yards for Heaps? Look no further than the 2010 season. Even when BYU scored 55, 49, and 52 points in a game last season, Heaps did not pass for more than 294 yards in a single game.

While Heaps won’t break the biggest passing records, no one’s spirits should be dampened. The rest of the Heaps era promises to be exciting and crammed with success. Watching great football should be the primary concern. Watching record breaking football should be secondary.

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


  1. BYU maintained a pass-first offense throughout John Walsh's career and the first year of Sarkisian's time at BYU.

    In 1996, Brian McKenzie and Ronnie Jenkins dominated on the ground to the point that against Utah that year, Sark threw only 13 or 14 times while both running backs ran for over 100 yards (the numbers are from memory but they are close).

    That was the first time I ever saw a balanced attack at BYU. And Brandon Doman's "I'm going to take the offense back to BYU's roots" worries me a bit. If you don't run, you don't get the top recruits like Drew Phillips and Adam Hines. I'd much rather see Heaps throw for 275 yards and Quezada (or whoever the featured back is) run for 120. It takes time off the clock and allows the team to go after the opponent's weakness.

    I remember too many times in the "old days" when BYU went up against a top-five pass defensive team and couldn't throw the ball, yet couldn't run the ball either because they just didn't have the backfield talent to do it.

    Good article.

  2. Farid,

    I don't think Doman plans to abandon the rush, or weaken BYU's ability to do it.

    My understanding/hope is that Doman is talking about a more vertical passing game, as opposed to the short passing game that Anae brought with him.

    Hall and Beck threw the ball just as much as Nielsen, Wilson, McMahon, Young, Bosco, Detmer, Walsh, and Sarkisian. The differenece was completion percentage. Beck and Hall were completing more passes, but only getting the same amount of yards.

    I fully expect to see 1,000 yard rushers and a viable ground game under Doman.

    Thanks for the comment.

  3. I read in the beginning of 2011 when Doman was giving interviews after being named the OC that he planned a balanced attack. The fact that he plans to line up in a more pro-style offense with Heaps under center is central to his balanced approach because it suits a running game better.

    They plan play-action passes and like the previous commenter stated, a more vertical attack in the passing game (and with the receivers we have in the stable right now, that seems entirely reasonable!).


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