A ferocious Penn State pass rush played a role in the Heisman Trophy race here Saturday - sacking BYU quarterback Ty Detmer's chances of repeating as winner of college football's most coveted award.

It was, perhaps, appropriate that what was billed as a killer road trip ended the way it started, with BYU getting killed, 33-7. It marked the first time since 1986, including bowl games, that BYU has scored in single digits."We didn't play well. We didn't execute. We got an old-fashioned butt-kickin' here tonight," Detmer summed up. "That's about it."

This wasn't, however, an end-to-end blowout. The Cougs (0-3) trailed the No. 12 Nittany Lions (3-1) just 10-7 at halftime and looked capable of winning, but as in their previous two losses, they were unable to play four quarters of good football.

"We did a decent job in the first half," coach LaVell Edwards said. "We just never really got into sync."

One thing that kept them from getting into sync was Penn State's ball-control offense. Sustained drives by the Lions kept the Cougar offense off the field, by design.

"Our objective was to keep our offense on the field as long as possible," said center Greg Huntington. "We tried to give Detmer as little time as possible on the field."

A fumbled kickoff by freshman Jamal Willis to start the second half led to a quick Penn State score and an apparent loss of confidence by the Cougars. A fumbled punt by Micah Matsuzaki just minutes later eventually led to another Nittany Lion score, and from that point the Cougar offense never again even crossed into Penn State territory.

"The last couple of games we've done better in the second half, so we felt good coming out of the locker room," said offensive guard Bryan May. "To our surprise, it wasn't a very good team that showed up."

If there was a bright note to all this, it's that the BYU defense probably played its best game of the season. It easily outplayed the offense, anyway.

Safety Derwin Gray put on a spectacular one-man defensive show, making 13 solo tackles, assisting on nine others, and grabbing an interception. Of course, when a safety makes that many tackles, it is usually because someone up front isn't making tackles, which too often seemed to be the case. And when you say that a defense which has given up 33 points and 479 yards has outplayed its offense, that means the offense must have been pretty bad.

And it was bad. Detmer suffered through the worst passing night of his career, completing just eight of 26 passes (30.7 percent) for 158 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He was sacked six times, and frequently when he wasn't sacked he was creamed after releasing the ball. And while receivers did drop several of his passes, something that is beginning to be commonplace with this year's team, Detmer threw a few uncharacteristically bad passes even when he didn't have a defender in his face.

May said Detmer may be starting to hear footsteps.

"When a quarterback is getting that kind of pressure, it eventually makes him nervous," May said.

"Nobody likes to have to scramble," Detmer acknowledged.

Penn State's defenders were also aware of the effect they were having on Detmer. "As the game wore on, I could tell we were getting to him," said linebacker Mark D'Onofrio. "In the thid quarter (tackle Lou) Benfatti and I put a hit on him and I knew it was over."

Detmer said Penn State's intensity level was a lot higher than BYU's, but the Cougs have said that after every game dating back to the Hawaii debacle last December. What really happened, and what has happened in all three of BYU's games this season, is that the Cougars encountered a better team.

"We haven't played any slouches," Detmer admitted.

As he has done after each game this season, Edwards emphasized how much his team needs to balance its offense. "We just have to develop more of a running attack," he said. The fact is, though, BYU didn't try to run the ball that much in the first half, when the game was fairly even and it would have helped control the tempo. Of the Cougs' 23 offensive plays, eight were carries by running backs, on which they gained 31 yards. That's nearly a four-yard-per-carry average, better than the 3.4 yard average of Penn State's backs in the first half.

By the time BYU got behind in the second half they had to throw the ball, and the Lions just weren't letting that work.

But despite the 0-3 record, Edwards thinks his team is continuing to improve. "We are making progress," he said. "We are getting better."

And the players say they aren't despondent, either.

"We fought, we played hard," Gray said. "Believe it or not, the attitude on this team is good."

They next get to test their attitude, and their ability, against Air Force in Saturday's home opener, and the Falcons are already 3-0 in the WAC. Edwards always says that nonconference games are really preparation for the WAC race, and Saturday should show if this team has been prepared.

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GAME NOTES: Receiver Bryce Doman suffered a broken right collarbone making a touchdown catch in the second quarter. A broken left collarbone in his freshman season kept him out for just five games, but this one is worse and he is expected to miss the rest of the season.

Detmer surpassed Doug Flutie's NCAA career total offense record on the pass to Doman, then lost it again when he was sacked on BYU's next possession. His next completion, to Matsuzaki, nailed the record down for good.

The game was televised by ABC to approximately 53 percent of the nation.

The Beaver Stadium crowd of 96,304 was a stadium record and the largest crowd BYU has ever played in front of.

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