Dick Harmon: Penn State and Miami games catapulted Ty Detmer into the national spotlight

Published: Saturday, May 19 2012 8:04 p.m. MDT

Said Paterno at the time, "Dan Marino never had that kind of night against us. Detmer is a great one. He smells of confidence. He has a great feel for the field and was not confused at anything we threw at him. We threw a lot of things at Detmer that a lot of good quarterbacks have not handled well over the years and were confused with; he wasn't."

Paterno's All-American linebacker Andre Collins told reporters that night in San Diego, "He had me running around like a chicken with my head cut off. We didn't play that bad, Detmer was just that good. He knows all the options, all the outs. I used up everything I had but we did not stop him."

That performance, albeit in a losing effort to Penn State, coupled with the night Marci Larson can never forget against Miami, catapulted Detmer to the forefront of college football and the cover of Sports Illustrated — not to mention the Heisman race.

This past week, in a conversation with Detmer, I asked him if he ever wondered what he could have done with NFL caliber receivers around him, but he'd have none of that discussion. The game is played with what you have — not what you don't have.

Detmer's targets were primarily a scatback out of the backfield, Matt Bellini, and a big, fast tight end, All-American Chris Smith. "When they covered them, they had to leave somebody else open and we then went to them," said Detmer.

He praised and gave credit to those other guys — receivers like Andy Boyce, Eric Drage, Jeff Frandsen and Brent Nyberg, whom Detmer said "was pretty fast and could get downfield."

I asked Detmer, of all the things he accomplished in his career, what was he most proud of? He said the career records. But he also said "I never missed a start. That shows you are ready to play."

There was a time, however, he probably shouldn't have started — a 1990 game at Oregon (32-16 loss), according to Hale. "Ty hurt his hand, didn't practice that week, threw the ball around left-handed a little and his injury was top secret. We kept it from everyone in the media, including CBS sportscaster Brent Musburger, who came to town to do some preliminary work leading up to kickoff.

"Musburger came to practice one day and asked, 'Hey, where's Detmer? And why isn't he practicing?' I can't remember what we told him, but we kept the injury a secret," said Hale. Detmer did connnect with Micah Matsuzaki for a 69-yard TD in that game, but the Cougars ultimately lost to the Ducks.

In December, Detmer will officially be inducted to the Hall of Fame during a ceremony in New York City.

Marc ought to get Marci a ticket.

email: dharmon@desnews.com

TWITTER: Harmonwrites

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