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The celebration no one saw after BYU beat mighty Miami 32 years ago this weekend

Ty Detmer guided the Cougars past the Hurricanes, we know, but it’s what happened after the game that is surprising.

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BYU quarterback Ty Detmer escapes from Miami’s Shane Curry to throw the first Cougar touchdown against Miami in 1990.

Deseret News archives

Table for one.

That is how BYU quarterback Ty Detmer celebrated his greatest conquest on a football field 32 years ago this weekend — but it wasn’t by design.

The spirited junior took the game’s final snap and buried his right knee into the turf to finish a 28-21 upset of No. 1 Miami — capping a night when his “low and humble” demeanor beat down the “high and mighty.”

A soldout and frenzied Cougar Stadium crowd stormed the field to celebrate with the team. Detmer, running on fumes after the four-quarter gridiron brawl, literally ran to the locker room.

“I did. I didn’t want to miss coach Edward’s postgame speech,” he said. When he arrived, there was no coach Edwards, no teammates, there was nobody at all, and there was no turning back. “I was the first one in and I’m by myself. I get in here and realize I can’t go back out because of the crowd.”

Just as improbable as BYU’s victory, and with celebratory chaos just outside of the locker room door, Detmer, still in uniform with a bandage taped over his chin, was given a few moments of quiet isolation to think things over — like a child taking a timeout.

“It was a chance to reflect a little bit on what had just happened because it set the tone for the rest of the year, individually and as a team,” he said.

Detmer thought about his night where he threw for 406 yards and three touchdowns against a defense that was as cocky as they were deep with NFL talent. He marveled at the gutsy second-half performance of his teammates. He also knew that he had proved himself as a quarterback who many considered to be too small coming out of his San Antonio high school.

What he didn’t spend time on was thinking about the Heisman Trophy that he won that night, even though the Cougars still had 10 more games to go before it was announced.

The quiet time didn’t last very long. Soon his teammates began pouring into the locker room surprised to see the hero of the night waiting at the door with a smile as big as Texas.

“I was kind of the greeter as everybody came in, so that was cool,” he said. “It was pretty exciting, electric.”

Four decades later, Detmer can still see those two Miami defenders crash into each other as he dodged them before throwing the game-winning touchdown pass to Mike Salido late in the third quarter.

“Every time you come into the stadium those memories come flooding back of the times you had and the guys you played with,” he said. “It’s always great to be back in the stadium.”

Detmer won the Heisman Trophy that year and, as with the Miami memories, the staying power of college football’s greatest individual award has never weakened.

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Ty Detmer is shown posing with the 1990 Heisman Trophy.

Associated Press

“The one thing (former Heisman winner) Earl Campbell told me the night they presented the award was ‘the Heisman will do more for you than you’ll ever be able to do for it,’” Detmer said. “That’s been the case. Everywhere you go, you are not announced as a 14-year NFL veteran, it’s the ‘Heisman Trophy winner’ so it’s been something I’ve been proud to be a part of.”

BYU quarterbacks Jim McMahon and Steve Young won Super Bowls in the NFL, and Robbie Bosco won a national championship, but only Detmer has a Heisman Trophy.

“Those guys set the table for me. They finished second and third and were always up in the (Heisman) voting,” Detmer said. “Obviously the Miami win gave us credibility that year, but those guys allowed BYU football to be in the spotlight. I will always be appreciative of what they did to make it easier for me. I just had to win a few games while I was here.”

Detmer won more than a few games, but none bigger than the 28-21 triumph against No. 1 Miami 32 years ago this weekend when he created pandemonium on the field and celebrated alone in the locker room.      

You can see Dave McCann’s interview with Ty Detmer Saturday at 6 p.m. on “BYU Sports Nation GameDay” on BYUtv.

Dave McCann is a contributor to the Deseret News and is the studio host for “BYU Sports Nation Game Day,” “The Post Game Show,” “After Further Review,” and play-by-play announcer for BYUtv. He is also co-host of “Y’s Guys” at ysguys.com. 

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BYU quarterback Ty Detmer near the end of the Miami game on Jan. 1, 1992.

Ravell Call, Deseret News