Here's a measure of how good the 4th-ranked BYU football team is:
Quarterback Ty Detmer threw five interceptions and fumbled away the ball once Saturday, and still the team racked up 732 yards total offense while demolishing Utah State, 45-10.Teams aren't supposed to do that.
When you throw five interceptions (Remember Oregon?), you are supposed to lose.
Of course, it helps when the team you are playing also throws five interceptions and fumbles the ball away once. Those totals could have been worse, too, if BYU cornerback Brian Mitchell had hung on to about four Aggie passes, all or part of which were in his hands.
"Somebody must have hexed me or something," Mitchell said. "It must have been voodoo."
If you sense that this was a sloppy game, score one for you.
Detmer, however, is getting impatient with those who expect perfection from the BYU offense - and him.
"I get tired of talking about interceptions," the Heisman Trophy candidate said. "They bother me, but I've thrown enough of them to know I can come back and be effective."
No kidding. All he did this time was break the NCAA record for most passing yards in a season, finishing with 4,869 and passing last year's Heisman winner, Andre Ware of Houston, who got to hold the record a whole year; tie the NCAA record for most consecutive games throwing a TD pass, 22; tie the NCAA record for most games with 300 or more yards total offense, 11; and tie the NCAA record for most consecutive games gaining 300 yards total offense in a season, 11.
With one game left in the season, at Hawaii next week, those tied records appear to be in serious jeopardy.
For the game, Detmer completed 32 of 50 passes (64 percent) for 560 yards and five touchdowns. His passing efficiency for the day was 171.08, raising his season mark one point to 159.7.
And he did it while acknowledging that the Heisman pressure is getting to him. This was BYU's last game before ballots must be cast, and Detmer had heard all the talk about this being the last chance for him to impress undecided voters.
BYU Coach LaVell Edwards said (surprise!) that Detmer would get his vote, if he had a vote. "The thing that separates Ty from anybody else is that when he makes a mistake he just gets tougher. He's a marvel."
This was Detmer's biggest passing-yardage output of the season, and three BYU receivers - Chris Smith, Micah Matsuzaki and Andy Boyce - benefited to the tune of 100-plus yard receiving totals each.
The Cougar running game was also effective, as twin fullbacks Peter Tuipulotu and Mike Salido averaged better than six yards per carry while combining for 115 yards.
All that yardage output was more than enough to ultimately propel the Cougars past an undermanned Aggie squad, but the offense should thank the BYU defense for holding the Aggies at bay long enough for them to get their act together.
The Aggies actually outscored BYU, 3-0, in the first quarter, as both teams bumbled around. Utah State's first drive ended in an interception by safety Derwin Gray, but five plays later Detmer tossed one to diving Aggie cornerback Ron Edwards. USU punted to close their next drive, and then Detmer was picked-off again by Edwards, this time on a wobbly toss into the end zone.
If Detmer had been a baseball pitcher, somebody would have been sent to the bullpen to warm up at this point.
After another USU punt, Detmer broke his interception string by fumbling the ball at the BYU 41-yard line. The Aggies marched to the three-yard line, where they had first and goal. USU halfback Roger Grant had two yards on first down and lost a yard on second down. A third-down pass was incomplete, and USU settled for a 19-yard field goal.
BYU had one more possession in the quarter, but it ended in a punt. The Aggies not only led as the second quarter started, but they also had the most impressive looking quarterback on the field in Ron Lopez. For the game, Lopez completed 21 of 43 passes for 269 yards.
On BYU's first drive of the second period Detmer completed six straight passes, the last one a 35-yard touchdown toss to halfback Eric Drage. Besides putting BYU ahead 7-3, the pass vaulted Detmer past Brian McClure of Bowling Green and into fourth place on the all-time NCAA passing list. More on that later.
Utah State then mounted a 64-yard drive down to the BYU nine-yard line. On fourth and two, USU Coach Chuck Shelton sent his field-goal unit onto the field, then called a timeout. After the timeout Shelton sent his offense back in to try for the first down - or touchdown. Lopez took the snap, faked a handoff to Grant, and tripped over Grant's foot.
The teams swapped interceptions on the next couple of possessions, but then BYU added a 27-yard Earl Kauffman field goal and, another interception later, a four-play, 35-yard drive capped by a TD pass to Scott Charlton. BYU's next drive also ended with a touchdown, to make it 24-3.
USU added a touchdown late in the second quarter, but all that did was upset the BYU defense. "We were pretty disappointed when they got that seven points on us," said defensive tackle Rich Kaufusi. "We got together and decided that was all."
The second half started slowly, with both offenses trying to remember how to execute, until BYU safety Josh Arnold woke things up. On third and nine at the Cougar 26, Lopez lobbed a pass over the line, intended for a crossing receiver, but Arnold picked it off and ran it back for the TD. BYU also scored on its next possession, this time on a 53-yard pass to Matsuzaki, and it was 38-10 and all but over.
The biggest suspense of that second half was over when Detmer would pass several milestones. A 16-yard toss to Boyce put him past Ware's single-season record; the TD to Matsuzaki lifted Detmer past Doug Flutie and into third place on the NCAA all-time list; and a 21-yarder to Smith put Detmer in second place, past Kevin Sweeney of Fresno State. To pass Todd Santos of San Diego State and become the all-time NCAA passing leader, Detmer needs 744 yards. Don't expect him to get that many against Hawaii.
Other than that, the fourth-quarter highlights consisted of a 13-yard touchdown pass to Smith and an interception by backup cornerback David Henderson, made while he was lying on his back.
BYU players, while content just to win this thing, are aware that it will take a sharper effort to beat Hawaii.
"We can't play like this against many teams," Detmer said. "Utah State had a slow start, too, which helped us out. But Hawaii is already fired-up and ready to play us."