This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Penn State stole the ball from him and scored a clinching touchdown. Texas A&M separated both of his shoulders. Iowa intercepted the last pass of his college football career.
Holiday Bowls never ended well for Ty Detmer as BYU's quarterback. Next week, he'll return to San Diego in the Poinsettia Bowl, concluding his adventurous first season of college coaching as the Cougars' offensive coordinator at age 49.
He'll do so with a new quarterback, as Tanner Mangum replaces the injured Taysom Hill. Detmer's game plan is unlikely to change much, though. It will include a lot of handoffs.
Never mind his BYU history as a Heisman Trophy-winning passer. Detmer promised the Cougars would run the ball, and he was not kidding. Even with running back Jamaal Williams missing three games due to injury, rushing yardage has accounted for 49.2 percent of BYU's offensive production in 2016.
That's a Utah-style division of labor for an offense and it was orchestrated by a play-caller who passed for more than 15,000 yards in his BYU career. In Detmer's Heisman season of 1990, only 20.7 percent of BYU's offense came on the ground.
"Year to year, you're always going to tweak [the offense] and match with personnel," Detmer said Monday.
That could mean more passing in 2017 with Mangum and without Williams, the school's career rushing leader. For now, the No. 1 entry on Detmer's college coaching bio is Williams' BYU-record 286 yards vs. Toledo.
Such numbers suggest Detmer was smart enough to maximize Williams' talent, while working around Hill's limitations as a passer. BYU also lacked receivers who consistently could get open downfield, or tight ends who were natural receivers. The Cougars rank 69th in the country in total offense, partly attributable to their run-oriented, clock-using approach. BYU wore down Michigan State and Cincinnati, among other opponents, in second halves.
"You always hope as a coordinator that when you're running the ball, you have a lead or you're in the game, so you're not having to abandon that plan," Detmer said Monday.
The Cougars lost three of their first four games, and six of the first eight contests were decided on their last offensive possession.
"You'd love to go back knowing what we know now in some of those first games and have some do-overs," Detmer said, "but that's not the way it goes. … We did a good job of hanging in there and not panicking."
Only occasionally did BYU's offense appear overwhelmed. UCLA stuffed the running game and pressured Hill, holding the Cougars to 14 points including a late touchdown. BYU produced only 13 offensive points at Boise State, with the Broncos blocking a field-goal try to preserve a one-point win after BYU moved down the field on its last possession.
In the process, Detmer has earned the further endorsement of former BYU star Steve Young, his teammate with the San Francisco 49ers in 1998. During last December's coaching transition from Bronco Mendenhall to Kalani Sitake, BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe asked Young about Detmer, then a high school coach in Texas, as a potential coordinator.
"I was a big proponent of Tom hiring Ty. … I didn't authorize it, I'm just saying I loved being a part of it," Young said recently.
Reviewing his first season on the job, Detmer said, "I had the expectation coming in, you're going to be under the microscope. The scrutiny will be there if you lose a game. So I was well prepared for that part of it."
As Young said, "He knew, 'If I'm going to do this, I've got to do really well.'"
In a backup quarterback role with the 49ers, Detmer "coached me when I was in my 14th year," Young said. "I'd come off the field and he'd be like, 'Why didn't you track the safety?' It bugged me that he could see the field better than I did. I knew I'd want him to be my coach and call the plays."
Now, in the Poinsettia Bowl, comes Wyoming. In his first college game in 1988, sharing time with starter Sean Covey, Detmer was intercepted four times and sacked five times in a 24-14 loss to the Cowboys in Laramie. His quarterbacking career got a lot better after that. We'll see how the Cowboys' No. 112th-ranked defense treats him in San Diego, to end his first season of college coaching.
"I always look forward to redeeming myself against Wyoming," Detmer said.
First-year Report Card
Notable successes and failures for Ty Detmer's BYU offense in 2016:
• Drive to game-winning field goal vs. Arizona
• Drive to last-minute TD vs. Utah
• Drive to game-winning field goal vs. Toledo
• Four touchdowns in four second-half drives vs. Michigan State
• Go-ahead TD pass in double-overtime vs. Mississippi State
• Failed two-point conversion attempt vs. Utah
• 23 rushing yards vs. UCLA
• Interception on edge of field-goal range vs. West Virginia
• 13 offensive points vs. Boise State