COMMENTARY : Now This Is Real Heisman Jinx


Ty Detmer can find the cardboard box behind the neighborhood Wal-Mart, the brown paper at the campus bookstore, the address in the New York City directory.

Pack it up today, Ty. Return to sender. Ship it third class, but that goes without saying. Third class has been a theme at Brigham Young ever since Detmer won the Heisman Trophy.

How bad have the post-Heisman blues hit BYU?

Let us count the ways:

Hawaii 59, BYU 28.

Texas A&M; 65, BYU 14.

Florida State 44, BYU 28.

Break out a calculator and that breaks down to BYU 70, Opponents 168.


Fifty-five Heisman Trophies have been cast in bronze. Detmer’s is the first to be made of toxic waste. A limited edition, a limited tradition. BYU hasn’t won since last November and may not win until late September, not with Touchdown Tommy Maddox and UCLA next on the schedule, followed by Five-Touchdown Tony Sacca and Penn State.

Suddenly, things look so grim at Provo, Utah, opposing coaches are bowing their heads and shaking them over the plight facing LaVell Edwards. The day before Thursday night’s Disneyland Pigskin Classic, Florida State’s Bobby Bowden looked at the steep on-ramp staring at BYU this season and declared, “I can’t believe what LaVell is doin’. . . . You can’t play a tough one every week. Do that and you’re gonna be lookin’ for a job. And it takes you an average of three years to find a new job. I looked it up.”

The worst came first, with the Cougars opening against the consensus preseason No. 1. Nothing that transpired at Anaheim Stadium did anything to deny the hype. After 10 minutes, Florida State led, 13-0. At halftime, it was 28-14. It got as bad as 44-14 when Seminole defensive end Dan Footman sacked Detmer in the end zone for a safety with 10 minutes left. Detmer recovered long enough to assemble a pair of cosmetic-purposes-only scoring drives.

This would be no Miami Twice, a repeat of the upset that sent Detmer to the top of the Heisman derby early last season. Bowden had seen to that, making sure his players had seen the 1990 BYU-Miami film about a thousand times or so. “They knocked off a great Miami team last year. Those are the signs that keep you awake,” Bowden said.

So Florida State rushed Detmer hard and rotated coverages, forcing him to throw on the run and to throw into crowds. Early on, Detmer looked completely dazed and confused, misfiring three passes on BYU’s first possession and fumbling the ball away on the second when he was tackled from behind by Reggie Freeman.

Florida State turned the turnover into an Edgar Bennett touchdown, his second of three, and clamped down again the next time Detmer got the ball, intercepting him when he threw into triple coverage.

Detmer was playing for the first time since that triple blowout in the Holiday Bowl--BYU, Detmer’s right shoulder, Detmer’s left shoulder. In the third quarter, there was a nervous moment when Detmer, scrambling as always, was hauled down and crunched into the turf, left shoulder first.

Detmer didn’t rise for a long time. When he did, he staggered slowly off the field, requiring nearly a full minute to reach his final destination.

“I never knew it felt so good to breathe again,” Detmer said, once his lungs returned to normal functioning mode.

The final gun was half an hour old, and Detmer was still fuzzy about the details. “It’s kind of hard for me to rate my own performance,” he said, possibly because he had to recall it first.

“We learned a lot of things as a team,” he continued. “We’ve got to get better as team next year. . . . I mean, next week.

Against the Seminole reserves, Detmer rallied his final statistical line, throwing two touchdown passes in the final eight minutes. That left him with 19 completions in 32 attempts for 229 yards--basically a decent half’s work during his Heisman run.

The Seminoles also avoided footnote-to-history status, since Detmer entered the game needing 426 yards to set the NCAA’s career passing-yardage record.

Still, Florida State came away disappointed.

“I feel bad,” Footman said, “because I had him cornered three other times and I missed him.

“Our main concern was that we didn’t want to let him break the record on us. . . . We’ve got the defense to contain him. We checked him from the outside, but it was hard to get at him from the inside. Our coaches said we were giving him too much time to throw. It’s something we need to work on.”

Detmer has work ahead as well.

The Downtown Athletic Club of New York reportedly accepts shipments C.O.D.