The Tom Cruise of college football, as ESPN's Gary Danielson dubbed him, is recovering nicely from a hand injury that hampered his play against the Oregon Ducks.

Heisman Trophy candidate Ty Detmer first injured the hand in the Washington State game, reinjured it against San Diego State and was unable to practice the week before the Oregon game.But he should be able to return to action against Colorado State next week and be able to perform at near peak efficiency.

That's the assessment of George Curtis. It's an important assessment since Curtis is BYU's head athletic trainer. In a sense, Detmer's injured right hand is in Curtis' hands, and Curtis likes what he sees.

"Last night after therapy we did a pretty vigorous exercise of fingers and hand. Almost all of the pain, 85 percent of it, is gone. There's soreness in one little spot," Curtis said Thursday.

Detmer is expected to return to practice Monday or Tuesday - assuming one of the elk he's hunting this weekend doesn't blitz him.

The injury - a second metacarpal sprain - made it difficult for Detmer to grip the ball against the Ducks, Curtis said. "With that injury it's hard to bring the index finger and middle finger down hard on the ball." Without the support of those two fingers it's hard to make the ball spiral, Curtis said. And Detmer has been known to throw a few wobbly passes when he's in the best of health.

The play that best illustrated the injury, Curtis said, was on Detmer's next-to-last interception when he had Andy Boyce running deep near the end zone. "He had his man beat by 10 yards." But the ball didn't come off in a spiral, sort of fluttered and went right to the defensive back who was out of position, Curtis said.

So, why play him at all then?

One, it's the type of injury that will not cause permanent damage, so playing in pain was basically up to Ty, Curtis said.

Two, "Even on his worst day he still threw for more than 440 yards," Curtis said.

And three, his leadership was irreplaceable, Curtis added.


WHY NO SHOTGUN? That's what I'd ask if I ever called the BYU call-in show. When your QB's getting sacked, slips when he backpedals, the running game isn't working anyway, and you're three touchdowns behind, why not go to the shotgun formation and buy the QB some time? It's the same question that came to mind when Detmer was sacked 10 times last year against Hawaii. UCLA used the formation much of the second half last week against Mike Price's Washington State Cougars and quarterback Tommy Maddox riddled the Cougar secondary to bring the Bruins from behind to a 30-20 victory.


COTTON BOWL BLUES: The Cotton Bowl, which has been playing second or third fiddle to the Orange, Sugar and Fiesta bowls the last few years, looks like it will be doing the same again this year. The highest-ranked team in the Southwest Conference - not counting 3-0 Houston which is ranked 13th by AP but is ineligible to go to a bowl - is Texas A&M, which dropped to 19th after losing to LSU last week. The SWC champ automatically gets one of the berths.


LOCAL FORECASTS: It's off to Fort Collins for Utah to go up against Earle Bruce and the smash-mouth football he's brought to Colorado State. And Chuck Shelton's Utah State Aggies have an opportunity to do something BYU couldn't do last week - beat Oregon. Meanwhile, Dave Arslanian and his Weber State Wildcats are on the road at Eastern Washington.

Colorado State 27, Utah 14

Nothing fancy here. Bruce is trying to make Colorado State the Ohio State of the West. So far he's done a pretty good job of it. Surprisingly, Utah has played better on the road than at home and may be able to snap out of its offensive doldrums at CSU. But CSU figures to be too balanced to lose.

Oregon 28, Utah State 14

There would be bigger surprises than the heretofore punchless Aggies beating the Quackers - even in Eugene. Oregon is so heavily favored that there's no line on the game, but the Aggies are catching the Ducks at an opportune time. Oregon is coming of its emotional 32-16 win over BYU and must play Washington next Saturday in Seattle. Do you think the Ducks might possibly be looking past the Aggies?

Eastern Washington 31, Weber State 28

Another one of those evenly matched Big Sky Conference games. When that occurs, go with the home team. The home team this week is Eastern Washington.