In four years as quarterback at Brigham Young, Jim McMahon set 56 NCAA records. He produced records for total offense (29) and passing (27) at sprinter's speed, adding 24 in 1981 to the 32 he had established previously.

As he sat in his hotel room one day last week before BYU's Holiday Bowl victory over Washington State, McMahon was aware that he had passed for 9,536 yards in his regular-season career, that he once had passed for 300 yards or more for 12 games in a row and that he had completed 44 of 65 passes for seven touchdowns and 538 yards in a game this year against Colorado State.

"Yeah, I know about all the records," he said.

He knows about the records that he did get, but he also knows about the votes that he did not get.

The Heisman Trophy belongs to Marcus Allen, a fact that has not ceased to bother McMahon, who finished third behind Southern California's Allen and Georgia's Herschel Walker in the voting.

"Going into this year, I thought I had a good chance to win it. Herschel Walker was the only returning guy who had finished ahead of me in the voting the year before. The problem is that we don't get much exposure in Utah.

"Marcus Allen had a good year," said McMahon. Then, in a voice as blunt as his passing is sharp, he added, "I don't know whether he deserved the Heisman, though."

Last Friday night, in BYU's 38-36 win over Washington State, McMahon completed 27 of 43 passes for 342 yards and three touchdowns and was named the game's most valuable player on offense. It was Brigham Young's fourth trip to the bowl.

It also was the last game McMahon will play for the Cougars.

"To a lot of people, it doesn't matter what I have done," said the man of 87 touchdown passes, 34 interceptions and a 62 percent completion rate in his college career. "They say I have all of the records because we don't play anybody."

As the sunlight reflected off his tinted glasses, McMahon admitted everything hasn't been so shiny for him in Provo, Utah.

For one thing, he is a Catholic playing at a Mormon school. He admits now -- five years (one as a redshirt) and oodles of records later -- "I wanted to go to Notre Dame, but they didn't recruit me.

"There has been an adjustment for me (at Brigham Young). Let's face it, I don't have their beliefs. It hasn't been too much of a problem, though. My family had moved to Utah for my last two years of high school, so I knew about everything. The only problem, really, has been classes. I hate classes and I hate books."

He has been a classy player, leading BYU to three Western Athletic Conference titles and two top-20 rankings. For the second year in a row, he led the NCAA in passing and total offense. So many records.

"And remember," said BYU Coach LaVell Edwards, "we took him out of a lot of our games early because we were so far ahead. He is as good as any we've had."

McMahon is the successor to BYU's most successful position. Before him there were Gifford Nielsen and Marc Wilson, two players graduated from the calm of Provo to the fury of the NFL. McMahon is but one draft day away from rejoining them.

Said Gil Brandt, vice president in charge of personnel for the Dallas Cowboys, "Jim McMahon is the most amazing college player I can ever remember seeing. I would love to own a rent-a-car agency in Salt Lake City when all of those scouts and coaches go down I-15 to see him after this season."

Everyone has different comparisons for McMahon. Said Brandt: "He's like Fran Tarkenton. He can scramble and roll right or left. But his arm is stronger."

Said Edwards, his coach: "He's like Tommy Kramer."

Said Steve Young, the second-string quarterback of the Cougars and the fourth great-grandson of Brigham Young, "Because of his size, he's like Pat Haden or Tarkenton. When he's in the flow of the game, he's like Joe Namath."

McMahon is bothered when his 6-foot, 185-pound frame is classified "small" on the NFL scale. "I saw Sonny Jurgensen not too long ago and I was taller than him. It seems to me that he did pretty well in the NFL," McMahon said.

McMahon, who said he would prefer to stay on the West Coast if he has a choice, doesn't mind hearing that Ohio State quarterback Art Schlichter probably will be drafted before him. Said McMahon, "That's good. Then he'll end up in Baltimore."