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COUGARS’ FIRST-HALF BLITZ ROUTS MINERS, 49-24
BUT STARTING NEXT WEEK WITH ‘BOWS, GAMES GET TOUGHER

SHARE COUGARS’ FIRST-HALF BLITZ ROUTS MINERS, 49-24
BUT STARTING NEXT WEEK WITH ‘BOWS, GAMES GET TOUGHER

Now that BYU is finished with another of college football's palookas, can we get on with the business of deciding whether the Cougars are really good enough to: 1. win the Western Athletic Conference; 2. climb back into anybody's Top 10; and 3. beat someone with a winning record.

Did you hear the latest? On a dreary homecoming Saturday afternoon in Provo, the Cougars claimed their second rout in eight days by clobbering the University of Texas-El Paso 49-24.Ty Detmer - famous quarterback and avid outdoorsman - played as if he was in a hurry to get the game over with so he could get to bigger matters, such as the deer hunt, which in fact he was. Working against the 100th worst pass defense in the nation, he completed 22 of 28 passes for 426 yards, three touchdowns, two 2 interceptions and no sacks, ran for another touchdown, and then spent the fourth quarter on the sidelines with many of the other starters.

"I was ready to go at halftime," said Detmer, who was last seen Saturday evening driving to the mountains to find a camping site for a quick weekend hunting trip.

If all this weren't good enough news for BYU, there was more. The University of Hawaii, BYU's next opponent (Saturday night in Honolulu), lost to Colorado State Saturday in Fort Collins, thus reducing the WAC race to two teams: BYU and Air Force.

"Hawaii is out of the race," said BYU Coach LaVell Edwards, "but that doesn't make any difference for our game. They've been writing about it over there for three or four weeks."

For their part, the 20th-ranked Cougars have run up records of 6-1 overall and 4-0 in WAC play, but how good are they really? Their victories have come against teams whose combined record is 12-28-1. Things get considerably more difficult in the weeks to come, as BYU faces Hawaii, Oregon, Air Force, Utah and San Diego State.

"I don't know how good we are," says Edwards. "We're going to find out now. The next three weeks will tell us a lot. I really think if we get past this next game and don't get any injuries, we'll be in good shape. It's always such an emotional and physical game."

For that reason, the Cougars were hoping to slide by UTEP Saturday while resting some of their top players. During the week, running backs Fred Whittingham and Matt Bellini practiced little because of injuries. Coaches told them that if and when the Cougars took a comfortable lead against UTEP, they wouldn't play. Bellini was pulled in the second quarter, Whittingham at halftime.

"They're both banged up," says Edwards.

The Miners, 2-6, were no match for the Cougars anyway, but that didn't stop 65,528 fans from sitting through wind and rain to watch the rout. They also contributed $60,301.40 to a stadium fund drive for earthquake victims in San Francisco - this coming just two weeks after they gave $20,000 in a similar drive for the Hurricane Hugo victims of South Carolina.

Detmer put an early end to the contest. First play: a 28-yard pass to tight end Chris Smith. Second play: 26 yards to Bellini. Third play: 22 yards to wideout Andy Boyce. Three plays later he threw a 4-yard TD pass to Whittingham.

On BYU's next possession, Detmer looked right, looked right again, then turned and lofted a pass to wideout Matt Odle coming on the post from the left for a 49-yard gain. That set up the score: a 19-yard TD pass to wideout Brent Nyberg.

"I was thinking about the deer hunt," said Detmer later. "I kept telling myself, you've got to be sharp, you've got to concentrate. You can't be thinking (about the deer hunt)."

After just two possessions, Detmer had completed 6 of 8 passes to six different receivers. And he wasn't finished yet. Dropping back to pass from his own 9-yard line early in the second quarter, Detmer pirouetted out of one tackle, started inside, then sliced outside and down the sideline for a touchdown. Score: 21-3.

The rout was on. For a while, the only real contest was between the BYU offense and the BYU defense. Who would score more touchdowns? Late in the second quarter, linebacker Bob Davis picked off a deflected pass from Howard Gasser and sprinted 31 yards for a touchdown. Eighteen seconds later, safety Norm Dixon did the same, returning an interception 24 yards for a TD to make it 35-10 at halftime.

"Nothing was going to stop me," said Davis, who also had 14 tackles. "My wife called me last night (from Arizona) and told me I was going to get an interception for a touchdown."

The remainder of the game was sloppy _ five interceptions in the final 6:35 of the half, six total turnovers for BYU, five for UTEP.

After his two second-quarter interceptions Detmer seemed due for a big play, and he found it in the third quarter. Dropping back to pass, he looked right and then threw deep to the left to reserve running back Stacey Corley for a 54-yard TD play. Score: 42-10.

"We're a good team," says Davis. "The only problem we have is that when we get a lead we tend to let up."

Indeed, the Miners, led by Gasser, their able quarterback, rolled up most of their 445 yards in the second half. Gasser completed 27 of 50 passes for 301 yards but was intercepted four times. He threw two TD passes _ 33 yards to Clarence Seay and 30 yards to Larry Sims.

The Cougars, meanwhile, emptied the bench. Eight different running backs carried the ball (Eric Mortensen was the leader, with 87 yards on 10 carries); thirteen different receivers caught passes (Boyce had five catches for 124 yards). The Cougars, who finished with 601 yards total offense, rushed for 173 of their 174 yards in the second half.

There's no telling what Detmer might have done if he had continued to play. What's more, if he hadn't thrown the two interceptions, his performance would have been off the chart. As it was, he raised his season pass-efficiency rating nearly 8 points to a whopping 167.4, which is certain to move him from second to first in the national pass-efficiency rankings. With five games still to go, Detmer has thrown for 17 TDs, nine interceptions and 2,644 yards, making him the most prolific sophomore quarterback in BYU history.

Now, for the hard part. "There's no question, the toughest part of our schedule is ahead of us," said Edwards.