Displaying roughly the same penchant for good theatre as the recent Holyfield-Douglas fight, Saturday's BYU-Wyoming WAC championship showdown was over only shortly after Tysman Detmer awoke in his bed Saturday morning at the Laramie Inn and discovered he still had his right arm.
The BYU quarterback threw 50 passes, completed 35 of them, gained 484 yards, threw two touchdown passes, moved into No. 5 on the alltime NCAA career passing yardage list, into No. 1 on the alltime BYU career passing yardage list, and back into the thick of the Heisman Trophy race as BYU dismantled Wyoming 45-14. The Tysman for Heisman campaign is as alive as it ever was.Detmer could have hired a high-powered P.R. firm in Manhattan to improve his image, or he could have come here to the high plains of Wyoming. Either way, his Heisman stock was going to soar. If he wins the trophy in December, it won't be any surprise if he begins his acceptance speech with, "First of all I'd like to thank the Cowboys out in Wyoming for helping make all this possible."
Wyoming came into the BYU game nationally ranked (25th), almost undefeated (9-1), bowl-bound (the Copper Bowl), and with a 35,500-seat stadium completely sold out (in a town with a population of 25,000).
Because of all this, ESPN, the cable giant, decided to truck in its portable lighting system and put the game on national TV - giving Detmer and the 6th-ranked Cougars their fourth appearance of the season on TV (two on ESPN, two on ABC), and, most importantly for Detmer, a chance for redemption after his last TV showing, a 32-16 loss to Oregon on ABC a month ago.
The theory, of course, is that TV exposure is the only way to effectively say hello to the approximately 1,200 Heisman voters and earn either their disdain or respect, depending on how many interceptions and touchdowns you throw.
"Hi, my name is Ty Detmer and I'm running for the Heisman . . ."
Never mind that this theory isn't correct. It isn't correct because the approximately 1,200 Heisman voters, all of whom are either sports writers or sports casters, are not watching TV on Saturday. They are either at work at a game, eating free food in a press box, or they have the weekend off, in which case they are fishing or eating or sleeping or playing golf.
But that's not to say Detmer's showing against the Cowboys wasn't destined to raise eyebrows just the same. Because it was a game between two nationally-ranked, bowl-bound teams, and because it was in a place where teams have been known to come and die (this WAC loss, believe it or not, was the first-ever in Laramie for Wyoming Coach Paul Roach), it meant, when the 45-14 smoke had cleared, that the BYU quarterback had beaten a Somebody Somewhere.
"I would hope it's helped his (Heisman) chances," said BYU Coach LaVell Edwards in the Cougars' postgame locker room. "I would think so, wouldn't you?"
Over in the Cowboys' locker room, Wyoming defensive end Mitch Donahue, who is a frontrunner for the Outland Trophy, certainly agreed.
"I feel we played our best today," said Donahue, who sacked Detmer three times and was still impressed. "He's (Detmer) just better than I ever thought he was."
As for Detmer himself, he low-keyed what he'd just done, and what it might mean.
"I really don't think about it (the Heisman)," he said. "I don't know how the voters will react. If they want to go on TV performances, then fine. If they want to watch the games on tape later, then fine too."
He didn't add, "If they want to throw darts at the ballot, hey, that's OK also," but you got the impression he might have.
Detmer increased his career passing yardage total to 9,670, moving past Jim McMahon into No. 1 on BYU's alltime list and past Duke's Ben Bennett into No. 5 on the alltime NCAA list.
If McMahon and Bennett were Heisman voters, they would no doubt vote for Detmer. So would Mark Herrmann, Chuck Long, John Elway, Erik Wilheim and Todd Ellis - other quarterbacks of the past whom he also passed on the NCAA yardage list with his 484 yards against Wyoming.
And so would Wyoming Coach Paul Roach, who was in shock that he'd coached his only WAC loss in Laramie in four seasons, but not in enough shock not to offer a Heisman nomination speech for Detmer.
"I think he should win it," said Roach. "I think he deserves it. He does more for a football team than anyone I've seen in a long time."
And Roach has been around for 62 years.
And so it went for Tysman Detmer on a good Saturday in the Laramie Basin. Whatever momentum he lost in Oregon, he picked back up here. He impressed his own team. He impressed the other team. He impressed everyone in America with coaxial cable. Not that any of them are Heisman voters. But they might know someone who is.